Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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: Searching for White Space.

Searching for White Space

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 30, 2016)


Word allows you to search not just for text, but also for special characters that normally do not print. Word even provides a shorthand character to search for white space. White space is any combination of spaces, tabs, paragraph marks, newline characters, and breaks. In short, it is most non-printing characters.

To search for white space, follow these steps if you are using Word 2007:

  1. Press Ctrl+F. Word displays the Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  2. Figure 1. The Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  3. In the Find What box, enter the text for which you want to search. To search for white space, enter ^w (it is important to use a lowercase w).
  4. Set other searching parameters, as desired.
  5. Click your mouse on Find Next.

Word then finds the first occurrence of white space. Remember that this includes any non-printing characters.

The searching process is slightly different for Word 2010 and later versions. If you are using one of those versions of the program, follow these steps, instead:

  1. Press Ctrl+F. Word displays the Navigation pane at the left side of your document.
  2. In the box at the top of the Navigation pane, enter the text for which you want to search. To search for white space, enter ^w (it is important to use a lowercase w).

That's it; Word should show the matches in the Navigation pane and highlight them in the document. If you want to get more detailed in your search, you can display the traditional Find and Replace dialog box by clicking the down-arrow at the right side of where you entered your search text and then choosing Advanced Find from the resulting choices.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10732) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Searching for White Space.

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 5 + 9?

2017-06-02 16:54:58


Hi Allen,

I wonder if you have any idea why Word 2016 won't replace double spaces with singles for me? Doing the find and replace shows XX changes but doing it again shows the same number of changes. The doubles aren't getting replaced by singles. Then on the same document I go back to Word 2011 and do the find and replace with no trouble.

Kind regards and thanks for the service you have provided over the years.


2016-02-01 09:37:33

Fred Warner

When using FIND, you can also identify STYLES to search specific formatting within Styles, to identify a possible lapse of Styles, or a potential operator induced miscue. The FIND highlights your specified search items YELLOW and the STYLE highlights the full application of the Style in the document BLUE. Making an expedient visual where the colors merge when doing a search in larger documents.

2016-01-30 11:41:48


This is a good one. thanks.

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