Software

Add horizontal lines to a Word document

Susan Harkins shows you two easy ways to insert a horizontal line into a Word document.

Most of you already know that you can quickly add a horizontal line to a Word document by typing three hyphens and pressing Enter—but there's more. There are several line keyboard shortcuts and a built-in feature that lets you add predefined but artistic (fancy) lines.

From the keyboard, basic lines As I mentioned, there are several ways to enter a quick horizontal line by entering other characters, as sampled below.
If you don't like this feature, turn it off as follows:

2003

2007

2010

1. Select AutoCorrect from the Tools menu. 2. On the AutoFormat As You Type tab, uncheck Border Lines in the Apply As You Type section. 1. In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. 2. Click AutoCorrect Options in the AutoCorrect Options section. 3. On the AutoFormat As You Type tab, uncheck Border Lines in the Apply As You Type section. 1. In Word 2010, click the File tab, click Options (under Help) and then click Proofing in the left pane. 2. Click AutoCorrect Options in the AutoCorrect Options section. 3. On the AutoFormat As You Type tab, uncheck Border Lines in the Apply As You Type section.

Horizontal Line feature, artistic lines Those lines are certainly functional, but Word can draw lines that are a step (or two or three) up from the basic lines shown above. Choose Borders and Shading from the Format menu and click the Horizontal Line button at the bottom of the resulting dialog box. (It might take a few seconds for all the lines to load.) Just double-click a line to insert it—that's all there is to it. You can choose from several. This feature's a bit harder to find in 2007 and 2010. On the Home tab, click the Borders and Shading drop down (in the Paragraph group) and select Borders and Shading.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

9 comments
Shrike49
Shrike49

I had forgotten about some of these keyboard Short Cuts and this is a good memory refresher and handy tip! While The Office 2010 user interface is much fancier looking, I tend think the same as sirWizard's comments. MS over the years have had every chance to fix fix some of the Headache's (Search & Replace for example) in Word etc, yet they seem hell bent on a Pretty display's and hard work for the end User, including getting HELP!! No wonder there are freebie options to MSO popping up right left & centre. Thank goodness for Techrepublic and people like Sue!!

aroc
aroc

I have gotten used to using the horizontal line as a section divider in Outlook notes for separating gathered "bits" of text. One day recently as I was typing away, something popped up, and I clicked what looked like a button to get it out of my way (was in a hurry), and only the second after did it register that it was something about NOT converting my 3 characters to horzontal lines. I have not been able to re-create that scenario since to restore the behavior. Although, I can insert the line from the Ribbon menu, that is much more cumbersome (as is the Ribbon in general). The instructions above for Word 2007 do not work for Outlook. TIA

stapleb
stapleb

I agree they can look good for display work, but a right pain to remove, particulary if someone else has been "helping" you. I haven't tried it, but maybe Ctrl + Q would also get rid of it, I'm off to try. And the answser, yes it does.

firstaborean
firstaborean

If you want to put a limited horizontal line, especially one that goes above a portion of text and stays with that portion of text, the way that underscoring text stays with the text, use the "Advance" field after the text you wish to overscore. Add the argument, \lnn, where the "l" stands for "left," and nn is the length of the text in points. After the field, enter the overscore character, alt-0175, as many times as needed to make the space. When the field is collapsed, the overscore slides right over the text. If the resulting overscore is too short, reexpand the field, then add more overscore characters; if it's too long by less than one overscore character, then select the overscore characters, then use the character spacing command to reduce character spacing by one or more points per character. You can make the overscore characters with a different font from that of the text that is overscored, if you like. Garamond makes a better overscore for Times New Roman than does Times New Roman, for instance. I figured out how to do this when I created an instruction book with lots of Boolean expressions in it, needing to show logical inversion. This works for all versions of Word for Windows from 97 onward, except for Word 2000, which had a bug that screwed things up, introducing spurious line breaks.

SirWizard
SirWizard

It's so easy to do in Word 2003. Add a couple steps for Word 2007 and another couple for Word 2010. The little table demonstrates how Microsoft decreases UI usability over time. If you access border (or shading) features frequently, you can place the Borders and Shading button onto any Word 2003 toolbar, or wherever Microsoft lets you place a button in Word 2007 / 2010. That provides single-click access to many border features. That dialog box is very useful. You can use it to apply lines, plain or fancy, in horizontal, vertical, and box layouts. Click the Options button to specify how far to place the borders from the text. Note that the distance settings apply to new borders, not the existing ones. To fix old borders to the new settings, under Setting, click the None button, and then reapply the desired borders, or you can toggle the presence of the borders with the corresponding border line buttons.

Madsmaddad
Madsmaddad

I have a problem on a newsletter that I write, where I always copy this month's and save it as the pro-forma for next month's, that sometimes I can't get rid of these horizontal lines because they have somehow become attached to the paragraph. Go to Format --> Borders and Shading, and set the appropriate border for your paragraph, or get rid of it if that is the problem. PM.

knudfjeldsted
knudfjeldsted

@aroc I have the same problem.  The function was there, but one day it didn't work any more. 

Did anybody find out how to get it back?

Knud

ssharkins
ssharkins

Thank you for reminding me -- these lines can be rather sticky and it's frustrating if you don't know how to get rid of them.

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