Selecting Just the Word

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 12, 2019)


John often double-clicks on a word to select it, as most of us do. Doing this selects not only the word he wants, but also the space after the word. He wonders if there is some way to make Word only select a single word, without the space, when he double-clicks.

Apparently, Word considers any trailing spaces to be part of the word that precedes those spaces, and this assumption is hard-coded into the program. When you double-click on a word, the program automatically selects all the spaces along with the word. If there is a punctuation mark of some type after the word, then it is not selected. (A punctuation mark is considered the start of a new word for selection purposes.)

The only way that we've found to unselect the trailing spaces makes use of keyboard shortcuts, and it only works under certain conditions. If you double-click a word you are making a selection. If you then hold down the Shift key and press the Left Arrow key, the selection shrinks from the right side by a single character. This allows you to not select the trailing space originally selected when you double-clicked. This technique works fine until you start selecting multiple words.

If you double-click on a word and drag the mouse over the next word to the right, the default configuration of Word is to select the two (or three or four) words. Again, you've made a selection and you can shrink that selection on the right end by holding down the Shift key and pressing the Left Arrow key.

However, if you double-click on a word and drag the mouse to the left to select the previous word, then the program seems to remember the direction in which you created your selection. Since you made the selection from right to left, holding down the Shift key and pressing the Left Arrow key increases the selection by one character at the left. In other words, you can't use this approach to "unselect" a trailing space if you create the original selection with the mouse going from right to left.

It is possible to create a macro that would ignore any trailing spaces, but that would mean modifying how you select words—you would need to either click a button on the QAT or ribbon or you would need to use a shortcut key associated with the macro. Since such an approach requires modifying how you select text, you might as well ditch the mouse and use the keyboard to select your text. (In other words, don't double-click to select. Use keyboard navigation techniques instead.) It doesn't take much to press Ctrl+Left Arrow to jump to the beginning of the word, Shift+Ctrl+Right Arrow to select to the end of the word, and then Shift+Left Arrow to deselect any trailing spaces.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (5956) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is eight minus 6?

2018-08-28 16:09:11


Thanks for the tips, but "Ctrl+Left Arrow to jump to the beginning of the word, Shift+Ctrl+Right Arrow to select to the end of the word, and then Shift+Left Arrow to deselect any trailing spaces" is a lot of work when you are changing styles on several words in a sentence. I double click the word then shift+left-arrow the select the word. In my work, words are 'objects'. Objects are separated by spaces. When I select an object it is because I am going to change the attributes of that object. I do not want to change the attributes of the separating space too. Makes one wonder where the logic "if followed by a space, select word+space", but " if not followed by a space, select word only", came from.

2016-05-22 08:09:21

Inderjit Singh


Kindly guide me regarding creating equal space between the words in paragraphs.

2016-01-13 00:37:25


I'm a technical writer in the IT industry. I regularly have two or three style changes in a single sentence!

I turn off "Use smart cursoring", zoom my document view to at least 120%, and turn on "Show formatting symbols" (the little paragraph doohicky in the Paragraph section of the ribbon). Then I carefully select bits of text by clicking to the left, and Shift+Clicking at the right end. I may have to do this hundreds of times in a long document.

For example, there are five style changes in this sentence; "The file descriptors stdin, stdout, and stderr are defined in stdio.h."
"file descriptors" becomes a hyperlink pointing to the glossary, "stdin", "stdout", and "stderr" are C language variable names, and "stdio.h" is a file name!

2015-12-02 12:28:19


If you select a word and include the trailing space and then type a new word to replace the selected one Word will insert the space for you (Ensure that Advanced->Editing Options->Typing replaces selected text is checked).

2014-08-31 15:14:22

Bonnie Granat

Also, I was able to select a space + a word, but not the space after a word, to move a word to the end of a sentence.

2014-08-31 15:12:25

Bonnie Granat

I think I found a way to select just a word. I have had this problem and wondered if there was a way around it. I thought I tried before to just drag the mouse pointer over the characters I wanted to select, but it seemed it didn't work. However, just now, it did work. I wanted to move a word and was successful in just pressing the left mouse button and dragging the pointer to the end of the word. Then I used it to drag a word and the spaces around it, using the same method, to another location in the sentence. It worked perfectly.

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