4. Working with Spaces, Tabs and Page Breaks

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This lesson guides the user through spaces, tabs and page breaks. We also demonstrate how to identify and edit issues with these spaces, tabs and page breaks by revealing format marks.


Lesson Goal

Learn how to identify and fix spacing errors by showing formatting marks.

Types of spaces

There are many types of spaces in Word. The most common include the simple space, tabs, soft returns, hard returns, and page breaks.

The difficulty with these types of spaces is that they all look the same, simply because they all look like a blank space.

To view the different space types, you must enable formatting marks with Ctrl Shift 8. Each type has its own mark to distinguish itself from the others.


                          Space                                                       .


                            Soft Return                                             

                            Hard Return                                            

                            Page Break                                …….Page Break…….


Each of these has a specific use case.

  • Space: to separate words with a single space. In Word, it’s not designed to be used as a way of editing the look of your document by inserting large numbers of spaces.
  • Tab: Primarily to create an indent.
  • Soft return: To start typing text on a new line without starting a new paragraph
  • Hard return: To start a new paragraph or to separate out sections of text
  • Page break: To start text on the next page. You should not use multiple hard returns to mimic this effect.


In the previous lesson, we demonstrated a variety of methods for selecting text in a Word document.

In this lesson, we'll learn how to identify and fix spacing errors by showing formatting marks. There are a variety of different spacings we use to separate text in any document.

The most basic of these is a simple space, but other types include tabs, soft returns, hard returns, and page breaks.

A tab is simply a longer space.

A few different factors can affect how long a tab can be. We'll cover these later.

A soft return is when we start a new line of text without enough space to form a new paragraph.

This is useful when you want to separate lines in your paragraph to aid readability without starting a new paragraph.

A hard return starts a new line of text in a new paragraph.

A page break starts a new line of text on the next page.

Even though there are a number of different spacing types, they're all variations on a theme. They are made up of blank spaces. It can be difficult to spot if a certain type of spacing was used incorrectly when they all look the same.

That's why the format marker is a very useful tool.

It immediately reveals all spacings and differentiates them using markings. This makes it very easy to spot if any spacings have been used incorrectly.

Let's return to the first page of our document and see if we can spot any misused spacings by showing formatting marks.

We can display formatting marks by clicking on the paragraph icon in the home tab or using the keyboard shortcut Control + Shift + 8.

We can immediately see that there are a lot of hard return marks here.

That makes sense, because the only text on this page appears in the center.

Using a few hard returns to lower the text makes sense, but we can also see this doc uses a lot of hard returns in order to start a new page. This kind of works now, but it could create problems later on.

For example, let's add the year to our cover page information by creating a new line.

If we scroll down to the next page, we can see that this has shifted the entire document down by one line.

Let's undo this change with Control + Z and replace the hard returns with a page break.

We'll highlight these hard returns. We'll hold down the left mouse button next to the first marker below the text and release it next to the bottom marker.

We'll insert a page break by typing Control + Enter.

We can now see a single page break marker instead of all the hard returns. When we add a new line containing the year, we can see it doesn't affect the spacing of any text below the page break.

Let's look at the section called Introducing Fetch Cuisine on page two and see if we can spot any other spacing errors there.

We'll start by temporarily turning off formatting marks to see if everything looks normal.

There are three paragraphs close to each other. This looks like the paragraphs were separated by soft returns. We can also see that the first line of the first and third paragraphs are slightly indented. It looks like a tab was used to indent this text.

Note that the first line of the second paragraph isn't indented. This tells us that the author didn't use consistent formatting.

Let's turn on formatting marks to see if the tabs and soft returns were correctly used.

The author clearly did not use the correct spacing tools. First, they used spaces instead of a tab to indent the first lines.

They then used spaces until Word automatically created a new line between the first and second paragraph.

They were slightly more efficient when creating the break between the second and third paragraph using a mix of tabs and spaces.

This is a clumsy and inaccurate way of jumping to the line below.

Let's replace these errors with the appropriate spacings.

We'll start by selecting the spaces at the beginning of the first paragraph, and type Tab to replace them with a tab.

Note the arrow symbol, indicating a tab.

If we quickly scan the rest of the document, we can see that no other paragraphs used indents.

Therefore, we'll remove the tab to keep things consistent.

Let's move on to the paragraph breaks.

We'll select the spaces between the first and second paragraph, and type Shift + Enter to create a new line.

Note that the small return arrow is now in place to indicate a soft return.

The soft return is more efficient than using spaces, but these paragraphs are too close together.

Also, a soft return doesn't represent a new paragraph, just a new line.

The best practice is to use a hard return. So we'll delete the soft return and type Enter to insert a hard return.

We'll also get rid of the remaining spaces at the beginning of the paragraph.

We'll then use another hard return for the next paragraph.

Let's stop here. As we can see, a variety of different spacing techniques can be used to achieve any specific formatting.

However, understanding how to correctly use various types of spacing will help you efficiently create professional-looking documents.

Typing and Formatting Text in Word


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