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.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to ask OfficeToolTips team.

We use cookies to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners who may combine it with other information you’ve provided to them or they’ve collected from your use of their services.

Learn more