Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Stubborn Highlighting.

Stubborn Highlighting

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 9, 2014)

23

Jim wrote about a problem he was having with some highlighted text he couldn't get rid of. He typed a list of items intending later to format them with numbering. Before formatting the numbering, he highlighted the first word of one item of the list and chose New Comment from the Review tab of the ribbon to add a comment to the document.

After submitting the document for review, Jim removed the comment associated with the list item. The number to the left of the text remained highlighted, as did the period following the number. He backspaced over the number and re-did it. It still returned, highlighted, as did all the numbers for the items above it.

Jim is suffering from a common ailment, believe it or not. The formatting for numbered items in a list is contained within the paragraph marks for the list item in question. Thus, if you have a numbered list and the 2 in the list (with its period) is formatted funny, then formatting for that number and period is contained within the paragraph mark that is at the end of that particular paragraph. You get rid of the formatting by selecting the paragraph mark and then making your highlighting changes.

In Jim's case, the entire paragraph could be selected (including the paragraph mark) and then you could press Ctrl+Q (to reset the paragraph formatting) and Ctrl+Space Bar (to reset the character formatting). That should take care of any stubborn residual formatting. If the stubborn formatting happens to be highlighting, however, it is not removed by either of these shortcuts. In the case of stubborn highlighting, you must make sure the paragraph mark is included in your selection and then choose No Color from the Text Highlight Color tool in the Font group of the Home tab of the ribbon.

It is interesting to note that the effect that Jim describes of all the numbers above the current one becoming affected (after he backspaced, pressed Enter, and redid the item) is consistent with the solution just described. When you position the insertion point at the beginning of a numbered list item, and then backspace, you eventually erase the paragraph mark at the end of the foregoing list item. When you press Enter, Word places a new paragraph mark at the end of the item. On what does it base the new paragraph mark? On the one with the errant formatting at the end of the current list item. Thus, the foregoing list item would then exhibit the faulty number formatting, as well as the current one.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (7753) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Stubborn Highlighting.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Moving Footnote Text into the Document

Need to move the contents of a footnote up into the main body of your document? You can use normal editing techniques to do ...

Discover More

Opening Multiple Documents at Once

Word's Open dialog box provides many of the same file management functions as Windows Explorer does. One of the functions is ...

Discover More

Updating a Field in a Text Box

If you put a field into a text box, you might be surprised to find that it doesn't update when you try to update all your ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Absolutely Getting Rid of Formatting

Need to get rid of the formatting applied to a bunch of text? One of the easiest ways to do this is to use Notepad in ...

Discover More

Turning Off Highlighter Display

You can use the highlighter tool to add all sorts of color to your document. If you want to turn off those colors so that ...

Discover More

Copying Formats

Want to copy a format from one place to another without taking your hands off the keyboard? It's easy to do if you apply the ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 8Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 7 - 2?

2017-04-19 14:20:04

Sean

Thanks Allen! Your tip helped me


2017-02-19 08:41:44

cliene

Thanks! Very detailed and helpful tips, you and this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eQbtVo9Mcg) helped me to solve this stubborn highlighting problem


2017-02-16 22:56:21

Bella

Thank you ,it was very useful


2017-01-21 13:14:05

Ruth Elkins

Thank you for sharing your issues with WORD and your solutions. This helped me greatly. Before your comment I had tried to work through some solutions just the way your described, but still had that stubborn highlighting. Since I applied your solution, I can stop pulling my hair out.


2016-12-19 11:31:23

Nash Popovic

Cntrl+Space very useful. Thank you!


2016-12-02 20:04:49

Belle

Thanks, I c&p an address out of a facebook message, composed a letter and the same thing happened. Your ^Q, ^SB took care of it. Thanks!


2016-11-17 19:21:19

Darren

Crtl+Q did the trick for word 2016. Thanks!


2016-06-08 16:11:51

Cara O\'sullivan

Great tip! Thank you!


2016-06-08 11:56:51

john potenza

I have a common Word problem i.e., suddenly I'm unable to highlight words in my word 10 docs. I've searched for the answer but can't find it. Please help. John


2016-04-05 12:50:12

Joe

I searched all over the 'net including useless Microsoft tips on how to solve this problem. Allen Wyatt's suggestion above (highlight text, control + space bar) is the only thing that worked. Thank you!


2016-03-04 21:58:57

Scott

When I use tabs on word 2013 on tables it recently started moving the cursor over and highlight the text behind it. it never did this before and I cant figure out how to stop it ? do you know how to stop this ?


2015-10-22 09:53:15

D. Doernberg

PS-- would it be helpful update the body of the article with this clarifying info about only removing explicit (vs. underlying style) formatting?


2015-10-22 09:50:24

D. Doernberg

Thanks so much Allen for the fast, helpful, and concise explanation-- completely answers my question!


2015-10-21 12:10:14

awyatt

DD: The Ctrl+Spacebar shortcut doesn't remove all formatting, it removes all explicit character formatting.

This means that it returns the formatting of the characters to whatever formatting is dictated by the underlying styles. If there are styles applied to the text, those are not removed by the shortcut, and those styles could result in bold, italic, or fonts being used for the characters.

-Allen


2015-10-21 11:59:47

D. Doernberg

GREAT tip that solved 99% of my problems, but I'm puzzled by CTRL+SpaceBar -- it resets character formatting in most places by just removing the blue highlight (left by a PDF to MS Word converter program) AND leaves rich text like bold, italics, etc. as-it... just what I want! BUT... in one place in the same document it doesn’t preserve the rich text, instead removing all formatting and leaves the text in boring Courier.

In web surfing more about this Character Reset it appears that maybe that "strip all formatting, including rich text" this is the proper/expected behavior... so I'm puzzled why it's working differently for me (MS Word 2011 Mac) in most places!


2015-09-11 17:49:04

Mercy

Please I need urgent help. I copied a text from a website and pasted in ms word 2007. There has been this background grey highlight which I haven't been able to get rid off, even with the tips above. Could you help me out on this please?


2015-08-18 09:39:28

JAN

Thank you Joe Dec 2014 I did ctl space and it worked - nothing else was working

thank you


2015-07-14 16:25:46

Brenda

after removing the highlighting it still has background shading can not remove it without deleting the text, how do you solve this problem


2015-04-26 09:35:35

sammy

Fantastic! Tried 4 other tips that didn't work until I got to this one. Word doc had numbered paragraphs. One paragraph had a highlighted number. Couldn't get rid of the highlight. Selected the entire paragraph, including the final punctuation mark, and set highlighting to no color. Bingo!


2015-04-14 00:15:01

Chris

Sorry--none of these tips, or any others I've found on this, work! I tried all of them in my word doc, none of them work. Please help. This is driving me nuts. Trying to get work done and can't remove highlights even trying all of your tips. thank you.


2014-12-05 11:42:50

joe

Highlight the text and press ctl+space


2014-09-23 10:02:39

Carrie

Outstanding! I've had that bizarre grey highlighting problem in MsWord for YEARS and never knew how to fix it. I have a big assignment for work which involves copying and pasting from online legislation, and was stressing wondering how on earth to get rid of all the grey bars. Thank you so much!


2014-08-11 04:56:53

Duncan

Thanks for this tip - it always pays to remember just how much information Word "carries" in the paragraph marks.


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.