How to get rid of a sticky Word border

Word can turn a group of hyphens into a line, but sometimes that line sticks to text and you can't get rid of it. Here's the solution.

Word has a number of auto-generating formats, and most of them come in handy. For instance, if you type three hyphens and press [Enter], Word will turn those three hyphens into a solid line that extends from the left to the right margin. For better or worse, sometimes the line seems to stick to text or to the bottom of a page. No matter what you do, you can't get rid of it.

That's because the line is really a paragraph format -– it's a border and not a line object. If you enter the three hyphens directly under text, Word will attach a border to the text as a paragraph format. If there's a line between existing text and the hyphen-generated line, the line stands alone.

Here's how to reproduce this annoying behavior:

  1. Type a line of text and press [Enter].
  2. Type three hyphen characters (- - -) and press [Enter] twice.
  3. Now, backspace over the line, in the hopes of deleting it. You can't.
  4. Enter a blank line between the text and the line and try to delete the line. You can't.

If you move the text, the line goes with it. In addition, you can't select the line and delete it. The line remains even if you delete the text.

The line isn't a line at all. It's a border and it's assigned to the paragraph. To get rid of it, treat it like a border, not an object. Simply position the cursor anywhere in the paragraph and choose No Border from the Borders tool on the Formatting menu.

If you don't want any hyphen-generated borders, choose AutoCorrect Options from the Tools menu. Then, click the AutoFormat As You Type tab and uncheck the Border Lines option in the Apply As You Type section. Unfortunately, if you disable the Border Lines option, Word will no longer generate a line from a group of hyphens. Most likely, you won't want to disable this feature. Instead, just delete the border if it gets sticky. If you don't want the border attached to text, be sure to insert at least one blank line between any text and the hyphen characters.

Thanks to Tina Norris Fields for sharing her expertise on this subject.


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.

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