Software

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.

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.

40 comments
jocelynboyer
jocelynboyer

I will like the answer. It is like Excel, I use a lot the "Comment bubble" to document some colunm and explain data entry. Is there a similar function in Word 2003 2007?

SkyNET32
SkyNET32

When I hit Backspace to delete the three hyphens, it got deleted. You said it would stay. What did I do wrong?

rcstan
rcstan

The simplest keyboard fix is to place the cursor within the paragraph you wish to remove border(s) and type Ctrl + Shift + N This immediately changes the paragraph to Normal format.

richlouie99
richlouie99

This was one of the best tips you've published. And the explanation was perfect and simple.

rkbrackman
rkbrackman

Thank you! This is one of the reasons I hate word and avoid it any time I can. Now if you can just tell me how to set it to not but a double space in when I hit enter in a new document. I can fix it after I notice it but I want it to only single space as the default setting.

hanydaabis
hanydaabis

How simple is that! thank you very much for solving a very irritating problem :) I never thought of this solution and was abandoning the document and open a new one instead.

rattala
rattala

I had been annoyed by this problem for many years, many many thanks !

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

An example of Word "not playing well with others." If you enter three or more hyphens and you do not want the border, usually the case, enter a space immediately after the hyphens just before pressing the Enter key.

PatriciaT
PatriciaT

Anytime Word changes something you type that you don't want changed -- like changing three hyphens into a line, or capitalizing a word, just press CTRL + Z and Word will undo what it just did. In the case of 3 hyphens, pressing CTRL + Z changes the border back to 3 hyphens. You can continue your document without fear of Word changing it back.

lou
lou

Actually, if you put in an underline of 3 hyphens or more, and hit return, this border-line comes into play. But, if you then hit undo (Ctrl+Z) the line turns back to the hyphenated original, and the cursor is left on the next line ready to continue typing...! many ways to skin a rabbit...! Lou

lmac1947
lmac1947

You can also use the three hyphen function with the equal sign. Great for adding double bottom line in a table or anytime you need it.

lou
lou

Whoo, has been the bane of my life in the past... How wonderful to understand what it is and how it really works... You have just solved one of the many Microsoft Mysteries...! Thank you very much indeed Lou Gas?on PS: Actually, if you put in an underline of 3 hyphens or more, and hit return, the line comes into play. But, if you then hit undo (Ctrl+Z) the line turns back to the hyphenated original, and the cursor is left on the next line ready to continue typing...! many ways to skin a rabbit...! Lou

RitaBlommaert
RitaBlommaert

Many thanks, had the same problem over and over Grtz Rita

honeybear0816
honeybear0816

Wow. This has been bothering me for years. Thanks so much for this helpful tip!

natalie
natalie

Another way to remove unwanted formatting like this is Ctrl+Q, which reverts to the standard style assigned to that paragraph.

bhaven23
bhaven23

I played around with the hyphens and the line disappeared after back spacing. I'll have to check to see if auto formatting was already set to treat it in this fashion. Thank you for the tip.

Cybrduck
Cybrduck

This is the kind of stuff that make a person an office legend!

notreal
notreal

Look, just use a Word processor that does what you want rather than what it wants. Word makes the straightforward tasks difficult, and the vast majority of users spend more time trying to work out what it is doing than they will ever save because of the various features. If you are trying to win the wordpro Olympics, Word might help you shave 2 per cent off your personal best - if you just want to put some pictures and text on a page, it's a dog.

Cussy
Cussy

If you want to remove this (almost) immediately after inserting it simply use the 'Undo' arrow. In Word 2007 the method described translates to menu: Page Layout > Page Background > Page Borders

christine.lum
christine.lum

Afraid the above trick did not work for me ... tks

tushar.bhasin
tushar.bhasin

Thank you very much for this article, Susan. I never thought I would be able to find an answer for this so easily. This thing bugged me for years. I am glad, this was listed on the main page. Thanks again.

seanferd
seanferd

Don't know if I'll have a chance to use this tip, but it is exactly the type of solution to an odd and seemingly intractable problem that I really like.

fledis
fledis

Try Insert- Comment (W2003). The same command is somewhere in W2007 too; I just don't remember where exactly.

dlbobson2
dlbobson2

I have rebooted my XP Pro computer; I have done a repair from within Word; I have deleted and recreated the Normal.dot template. The only thing that I have not done yet is to uninstall Word. I just checked Word and it is still there in the top left corner of the new document, about 3 or 4 characters long. Pre-existing documents are fine when I open them. I closed a pre-existing document and clicked on New and the border wasn't there. Go figure!

rkbrackman
rkbrackman

Thank you! This is one of the reasons I hate word and avoid it any time I can. Now if you can just tell me how to set it to not but a double space in when I hit enter in a new document. I can fix it after I notice it but I want it to only single space as the default setting.

sf
sf

An alternative way to get rid of a border line is to make another one below. Place the curser between the 2 border lines and press 'Delete'. Both border lines are now deleted.

fledis
fledis

Yes, if you decide about it immediately. But may be this rabbit has stayed here for some days...

newsplan1
newsplan1

The automatic line that remakes itself into a permanent border has caused myself and others to INVENT swear words. Thank you so much for that tip.

djed
djed

Don't read articles about software you don't use.

PatriciaT
PatriciaT

Or, use the keyboard shortcut CTRL + Z. It does the same thing and you don't have to remove your hands from the keyboard.

mirossmac2
mirossmac2

People may not know that other decorative borders are possible with three-key-plus-CR combinations. triple-underline-CR gives a heavier line triple-equals-CR gives a double line triple-hash-CR gives a triple line triple-tilde-CR gives a wavy line All have to be removed as borders, not lines, but at least they are more obviously borders than the single line of triple-minus-CR.

ssharkins
ssharkins

This one really puzzled me. It's not immediately apparent that the resulting line is actually a border format and not a line object. I knew there would be others suffering! ;) I'm glad I was able to help.

ian
ian

This always happens on one of our PCs but not others - discovered it is as suggested the way Auto-Correct is set up. Many thanks for saving my sanity.......

dlbobson2
dlbobson2

I duplicated this problem in my Word 2000. Now I cannot get the border to go away at all. I tried clicking on the No Border button on the tool bar with no luck. I went to Tools, AutoCorrect, AutoFormat As You Type and unchecked Borders with no luck. I replaced my Normal.dot template with a different one with no luck. I deleted my Normal.dot template and opened Word so it would recreate another Normal.dot template, again with no luck. This Border is now in every new Word document when I open Word. Any suggestions?

lfloyd
lfloyd

triple * gives a dotted line.

unellen
unellen

Thanks, Now I know how to undo, and I can do in multiple styles, too.

dlbobson2
dlbobson2

The border that I cannot get rid of is only visible in the Normal view and not the Web Layout or Print Layout views. It does not print out on the page when I print either. How crazy is that! I may try to uninstall Word and reinstall. If I do I will let you know. Thanks for the replies!

mirossmac2
mirossmac2

I just knew there was one more but C.R.A.F.T.* ruled. *Cant Remember A Forgotten (or some other word beginning with F) Thing.