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: Printing Non-Printing Characters.

Printing Non-Printing Characters

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 19, 2015)

Word utilizes a number of different characters that don't show up on a printout of a document. For instances, spaces and tabs leave horizontal space within a document, but there is no indication of their position within a printout.

On-screen is something different. You can see these non-printing characters by simply clicking on the Show/Hide tool on Home tab of the ribbon. For instance, spaces show up as dots and tabs show up as right-pointing arrows. Seeing where the characters are located can be a great help in formatting a document.

But what if you actually want to have these characters printed? What if you want the small dots or right-pointing arrows on your printout? Seeing them printed could be a big help for teachers and others who must judge whether formatting has been done correctly within a document.

Unfortunately, there is no configuration switch or printing mode that allows these non-printing characters to appear on the printout. There are ways around the problem, however. The most obvious answer is to do screen shots of smaller documents. These screen shots would capture the dots, arrows, and other indicators. This will only work, of course, with very short documents. The benefit of this approach is that the printouts can be taken home and graded without the need for a computer at hand.

If you prefer, you can also do a Replace operation to search for all the characters that are non-printing and replace them with their visible on-screen character. This may sound odd, but is quite simple. For instance, you could search for all occurrences of ^p (which is the paragraph marker) and replace them with ^0182^p. The ^0182 code is the backwards P symbol (pilcrow) used at the end of paragraphs. The ^p, of course, is used to actually stop your paragraphs from running together. The ^0182 code will print the desired symbol, but the ^p code will not. You can do similar replace operations for other common non-printing characters; simply look through the symbol tables used by Word to discover the different characters you can use in the operation. You can also codify the steps into a macro that could be run against all the documents, as needed.

There is one caveat to the foregoing approach: Adding the printable characters to the document will make the document itself larger and will affect the horizontal and vertical spacing of the document. This can be an acceptable price to pay, however, if your goal is a hardcopy of those non-printing characters.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12478) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Printing Non-Printing 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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