I don’t know how my Word document is set up

May 26, 2022 | Word Hints and Tips

Word documents are often cobbled together from many different documents created by many different people all with different ideas about how they should be structured.  Getting this information copied into one file is only half the battle.  The other its to get the formatting and layout consistent.  The problem is that much of the paragraph formatting is not immediately obvious so knowing what to do to change it is tricky. 

There are 2 key features you can switch on which will provide some great insight into what is happening. 


Show/Hide is switched on by clicking on the Show/Hide icon 

Show Hide icon

The Show/Hide icon enables unprintable characters to be seen.  This includes the following 

  • Space – shows as a dot 
  • Enter/Return – shows as the Show/Hide icon 
  • Tab – shows as an arrow 
  • Tables – little circles with lines on the corners show where each cell starts.  This is particularly helpful if the borders of the table have been removed 
  • Page Breaks, Section Breaks and Column Breaks – shows as a dotted line or double dotted line with the name of the type of break 

Keyboard shortcut for Show/Hide 

CTRL + * – Turns on and off Show/Hide 

NOTE: This must be the * above the 8 key not the one that sits around the numeric keypad on the right of most full sized keyboards. 


The Ruler is not automatically visible and must be switched on to view it. 

  1. Go to the View Tab 
  2. Tick the tick box for Ruler 

Once it is visible there are a number of symbols that can be seen on it as described below 

Left Indent 

This shows at 0 on the ruler initially as shown below 


The rectangle at the bottom shows where the paragraph indent is as a whole but the top part can be split with the top triangle determining where the first line of a paragraph is and the bottom part showing where the rest of the paragraph is.  These can be dragged on the ruler if this needs to be changed. 

Right Indent 

This shows at the end of the ruler as a triangle and can be moved to determine where the paragraph ends. 

Right Indent


These show as a variety of symbols on the ruler if personalised tab stops have been set up.  In the picture below they are left tab, centre tab, right tab, decimal tab and bar tab respectively. 


These are not the only tools that can help you but they will help you get a better idea of what is happening behind the scenes. 

Further Reading

If you’ve enjoyed reading about the different ways to set up your Word document, there’s some other blogs below that you might find useful:

Want to learn more about Microsoft Word? Then email lara@laramellortraining.co.uk to discuss how I can help or have a look at the Microsoft Word I run.