How to show formatting marks in MS Word

When you are working on a document, you often need to apply a standard formatting to each of the sections or paragraphs. MS Word comes with a variety of formatting features that can help you achieve this. 

You may already know all or most of these features, but figuring out when to apply them can set your document apart from the rest.

Showing the formatting marks of your document is useful for cases like this. Formatting Marks help identify recently-applied formatting.

MS Word offers some methods you can use to show the formatting marks in your documents.

You can use the Show or Hide formatting marks button or the Word Options dialog box. This article will guide you on the step-by-step processes of how you can perform each of these methods.

Now, there are three methods you can use to show formatting marks in MS Word.

3 Ways to Show Formatting Marks in MS Word

  • Using the Show or Hide formatting marks button
  • Using the Keyboard shortcut
  • Using the Word Options dialog box

These methods are best used for different purposes. If you want to display the formatting marks of a currently opened document, you can use the first two methods. Suppose you want the formatting marks to appear for all your documents, then the latter option would be the more suitable method. 

It’s important to note that formatting marks will not appear when you print your documents. So, don’t worry if you wish to preserve these marks in your digital copy while having the intent to have the document printed. Now that you have an overview about formatting marks, you need to understand when to show them.

Let’s get started!

Why Should You Show the Formatting Marks in MS Word?

Working on MS Word documents generally requires you to focus on two components—the content, and the format. 

Most often, writers tend to focus first on the content, which gives the formatting a lesser priority to start your documents. When the content is finally written, it’s time to focus on the formatting. You restructure the contents to appear in a format that you need. Showing the formatting marks will help you concentrate on restructuring your documents.

Here are some good rules of thumb to help you decide when to show the formatting marks:

  • You have trouble positioning or aligning statements that are in bullet format.
  • You want to align paragraphs.
  • You need to remove unnecessary formatting in your documents.
  • You need to follow a standard formatting of your documents.

Displaying the formatting marks in MS Word helps ease your formatting process. These marks include spaces, tabs, paragraph marks, page breaks and other factors that affect the structure of your content. You will have a quick preview of all the formatting you have applied by allowing MS Word to display them as symbols.

Let’s dive right in!

Method 1: Using the Show or Hide Formatting Marks Button

As stated earlier, the Show or Hide formatting marks button displays the formatting marks of a document you are currently working on. Do this method if you don’t intend to have all your other documents display their formatting marks.

Here are the steps on how you can achieve this.

Step 1: Open the document that needs its formatting marks shown.

Start by locating and opening the MS Word document that needs formatting. Browse for the file in your drive and double-click it. This will open it in the MS Word program. A sample document is being shown below.

Step 2: Locate the Paragraph group.

The next step you need to do is to focus on the Paragraph group, which contains the button that will display the formatting marks. To do this, ensure that the Home tab is active. If not, you need to click it from the ribbon. Upon clicking, different sets of controls grouped accordingly will appear below it. From here, you will need to locate the Paragraph group.

Step 3: Find the Show or Hide formatting marks button. 

From the Paragraph group, locate the Show or Hide formatting marks button which is signified by a pilcrow symbol (¶). Confirm if it’s the right button by moving your mouse cursor over it. A tooltip will appear describing its function.

Step 4: Display the formatting marks using the Show or Hide formatting marks button.

With the Show or Hide formatting marks button already located, click it to display all formatting marks in your document. You can always toggle between showing and hiding these marks by clicking this button.

Method 2: Using the Keyboard Shortcut

If you prefer a more straightforward way of displaying the formatting marks in your current document, you can use this method. Like the first method, this will not let all your other documents show their formatting marks by default. 

The following are the simple steps on how to do it.

Step 1: Locate and open the document that you need to format.

Just like the first method, you will need to open the document first. Find the file that you need to format and double-click it. Doing so will open your file in the MS Word program. 

Step 2: Show the formatting marks by pressing the shortcut key.

Once your document is already open, you can now immediately display the formatting marks. To do so, press the Ctrl + Shift + 8 keys simultaneously on your keyboard. Notice that the paragraph marks will appear on your document. You can now focus more on the formatting of your document. Toggle between show or hide marks by pressing the same shortcut key.

Method 3: Using the Word Options Dialog Box

Finally, another method that you can use to show the formatting marks in MS Word is through the use of the Word Options dialog box. Unlike the first two methods, the changes that you will perform in this method will be applied to all your documents. Use this method only if you need to format many documents and you need to display their formatting marks by default.

You can apply this method by following the steps below.

Step 1: Open the MS Word program.

Begin by searching and opening the MS Word program on your computer. To do this, press the Windows key on your keyboard and immediately type “Word”. Your system will search all applications and files associated with the keyword, but MS Word should be the first result. From the result, click the MS Word application.

Step 2: Open an existing document or create a new one.

Since the changes in this method will be applied to all your documents, you can either create a blank document or open a saved document. MS Word requires this step to enable the settings that you need to configure in the succeeding steps.

Step 3: Open the Word Options dialog box.

With a document already open, click the File tab to display the Start screen of MS Word. From the left panel of the Start screen, clicking the Options control to display the Word Options dialog box.

Step 4: Locate the section “Always show these formatting marks on the screen”.

This section contains the settings that you need to configure. You can find this section by clicking the Display option from the Word Options dialog box. Located in this section are the formatting marks with their corresponding checkboxes.

Step 4: Select the formatting marks you want to display in your documents.

From the list of formatting marks, select each option that you want to appear in your documents. Do it by ticking the checkbox adjacent to your selection. Remember that you can always deselect an option by ticking its checkbox again.

Step 4: Finalize your settings.

Upon configuring your settings, you need to click the OK button of the Word Options dialog box. The formatting marks you selected earlier will now appear on all your documents. You can always revert your settings by following the same steps, but instead of selecting options, you will have to deselect them. 


The methods discussed in this article will guide you on how you can display the formatting marks in your documents.

With this feature of MS Word, you can easily restructure your documents because you can view these marks as symbols. As you open your documents and go over your contents, you can decide on the proper formatting—what you need to remove and what you need to add. Each method in this article has its own steps.

Learn all these methods so that you will know what to do in case you encounter situations that require them.

We hope you found this article helpful!

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