Special types of spaces in Word documents

Word 365
While typing word documents, you usually separate words and sentences by pressing the Space key (also known as Spacebar), which inserts a regular general-purpose space character. However, some Microsoft Word documents may contain other kinds of spaces. You can discover those white-space symbols during editing the document but not on printing.

To show non-printable and white-space symbols in Microsoft Word, click the button button Show/Hide ¶ (or pressing Ctrl+* or Ctrl+Shift+8):

Show/Hide ¶ button in Word 2016

You will be able to see the following marks for white-space characters:

   1)   A little dot between words represents a normal space (also called word space):

Common spaces in Word 2016

A general rule of publishing is to use only one normal space between words (the only exception is a pre-formatted text, e.g., code listings). If you need to align text at fixed positions of the line, use tabs and tab stops.

   2)   A degree symbols between word represents a nonbreaking space (also called non-breaking space, no-break space, non-breakable space (NBSP), hard space, or fixed space) that prevents text wrapping at the end of the line. A Nonbreaking space in the Word document looks like:

Nonbreaking spaces in Word 2016

A general rule of publishing is to use non-breaking spaces between words of organization and person names, postal addresses, etc.

Some popular rules:

  • Insert a nonbreaking space between the copyright symbol and the following year(s) to ensure they will not end up on different lines or pages. For example:

    Rule 1 for Nonbreaking spaces in Word 2016

  • Insert a nonbreaking space before and after ellipses (also called a suspension point, points of ellipsis, periods of ellipsis, or even "dot-dot-dot" is a sequence of three dots used to indicate an omission in quoted material). For example:

    Rule 2 for Nonbreaking spaces in Word 2016

   3)   A little dot with varying gaps before and after the dot represents Em Space and En Space. These spaces have different widths on printing:

  • Em space is a space with the width of the lowercase m character.
  • En space is a space with the width of the lowercase n character.

   4)   A vertical bar between words represents a ¼ Em space (also known as mid-space) is a space with the ¼ width of the lowercase m character:

Em and En spaces in Word 2016

If you want to see only space marks and no other non-printable symbols, do the following:

   1.   On the File tab, click the Options button:

Word 2016 options

   2.   In the Word Options dialog box, on the Display tab, under Always show these formatting marks on the screen, check or uncheck the Spaces option:

Spaces option in Word 2016

See also this tip in French: Types d’espaces spéciaux dans les documents Word.

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