Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. 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: Printing Show/Hide Characters.

Printing Show/Hide Characters

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 25, 2021)

If you use the Show/Hide tool in the Paragraph group on the Home tab of the ribbon, you can alternatively show or hide marks that indicate the location of non-printing characters in your document. You can also control display of the markings individually by using controls on the Display options of the Word Options dialog box.

While the marks may be disconcerting at first, once you are used to them, they are a great boon to efficiently editing a document. In some situations, you may have a need to print your document with the marks visible. For instance, if you teach a class in how to use Word, printing a document with the show/hide marks visible would help to explain to students why their documents don't look exactly as they want them to. Unfortunately, Word doesn't provide a way for you to do this.

One obvious workaround is to capture graphic representations of the screen. When you are looking at a particular portion of the document that you want to print, pressing the PrintScreen key places a screen shot on the Clipboard. You can then switch to a new document and press Ctrl+V to paste the captured screen into the new document. The drawback to this approach, of course, is that you can only print your document one screen at a time.

Another solution is to replace the non-printing characters with characters that will print. The following table shows what you should search for and what you should replace with in order to get the desired results.

Character Search For Replace With
Tab ^t 2192, Alt+X
Spaces (space) Alt+0183
Paragraph Marks ^p Alt+0182
Optional Hyphens ^- Alt+0172

When entering what you are searching for, a combination such as Alt+0182 means to hold down the Alt key as you type 0182 on the numeric keypad. The combination 2192, Alt+X means to type the numbers 2192 then immediately press Alt+X.

Now you can print the document and the marks are visible on the printout. The only drawback is that since the replacement characters have horizontal width, the pagination of your document will not be the same as it was before you did the replacements. In addition, replacing spaces with the small dot (Alt+0183) means that Word won't know where to break lines; it sees absolutely no spaces between words.

If this approach produces satisfactory results for your needs, you can always record the multiple search and replace steps into a single macro that can be run at any time.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10051) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Printing Show/Hide Characters.

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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