Mysterious Boxes around Paragraphs

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 11, 2015)

Timothy apparently hit some control key that caused paragraphs in his document to appear in a box. The box enlarges with long sentences; pressing Enter begins a new box. The boxes do not print (thankfully), but they appear in new blank documents. It is as if there were a one-cell table, but there isn't. Selecting the paragraphs and formatting for "no border" does not make the boxes go away. If Timothy just knew what to call it, he's sure he could find the answer, but he's stumped as to why this is happening.

If this problem crops up and you are using Word 2013, it is very possible that you've inadvertently turned on the display of text boundaries. In older versions of Word, turning on text boundaries displayed a border on the page corresponding to the margins. In Word 2013 the text boundaries are displayed around each paragraph on the page. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Text boundaries appear around individual paragraphs.

If this is your problem, you can turn off the display of text boundaries in this manner:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 and Word 2013 display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the screen click Advanced.
  3. Scroll through the options until you see the Show Document Content section. (See Figure 2.)
  4. Figure 2. Advanced options in the Word Options dialog box.

  5. Make sure the Show Text Boundaries check box is cleared.
  6. Click OK.

If that does not fix your problem (or if you are not using Word 2013), then check the style formatting for the Normal paragraph style. (How you modify styles has been discussed frequently in other WordTips.) In the universe of styles, the Normal style holds preeminence. It is the "root" style for almost all other built-in styles, and even for many custom styles.

The bottom line is that if the Normal style is formatted to have a box around it, then there is a good chance that all your paragraphs will have boxes around them. Check the style formatting and remove any boxes that may be associated with the style, and your problem may be immediately fixed.

In all honesty, though, the problem probably isn't related to the Normal paragraph style. If it were, then the boxes would also print, and Timothy specifically said that his boxes didn't print. There is, however, one final possibility—document or template corruption.

If the problem occurs in only a single document or a handful of documents, it could be that either the document or the template on which the document is based is corrupted in some way. Start by locating the Normal template (outside of Word) and renaming it to something else. Then, start Word and open the offending document. Create a new document and copy everything from the problem document (with the exception of the ending paragraph mark) to the new document. This process is detailed in this tip:

http://wordribbon.tips.net/T013284

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10385) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013.

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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