How to Remove Little Black Square Paragraph Formatting & Page Break in Microsoft Word

In Fix It, General, How To, HTD Tech Tip, Microsoft, Software by Michael Sheehan30 Comments

Recently, I received a panicked email from my step-mom wondering why a page break could not be removed from Microsoft Word. Normally, if you click on the “show paragraphs” button (¶), you can see a page break or section break. However, in this case, there was no line signifying a section break or page break when the formatting was revealed. However, there was a little black square right near paragraph that I believed to be causing the issue. But removing that formatting is not the most intuitive. Eventually I figured it out though.

Mysterious page break

Mysterious page break

Above you can see the page having the issue. There was a page break occurring but when revealing the formatting, all that you could see what a little black square on the paragraph after. But to correct the issue, the steps are relatively easy. Here’s what you do.

How to Remove Little Black Square Paragraph Formatting

Microsoft Word allows you to set up all sorts of formatting of your text, paragraphs, sections and document. But sometimes it’s not as intuitive as you might think to do things. Here’s how you can remove those pesky section or page breaks that aren’t immediately obvious.

Display Paragraph Marks

First, you need to enable the show paragraph marks and other hidden formatting. You can do this by clicking on the ¶ button. Microsoft Word for Mac is shown below.

Show paragraph styling on Mac

Show paragraph styling on Mac

This is what it looks like on Word for Windows.

Show paragraph styling on Windows

Show paragraph styling on Windows

Show Non-Printing Characters & all Formatting Marks

To ensure that you really are seeing all of the mark-up icons in your document, it’s helpful to enable the “Nonprinting characters” as well. Below is the Mac version. To do this on the Mac, go to Word Preferences > View. Note that I enabled “All” so that I can see all types of hidden, non-printing characters.

Show non-printing characters on Mac

Show non-printing characters on Mac

On Word for Windows, it looks similar. You can access it by going to File > Options > Display and check off “Show all formatting marks.”

Show all formatting marks on Windows

Show all formatting marks on Windows

Once you have that enabled, you should go to the paragraph in question.

Analyze the Paragraph Formatting

Once you know where the issue is, you should look at the hidden formatting of that paragraph and the one immediately following it. In my example, I noticed that the following paragraph had a “little black square” to the left of the paragraph. And, no matter what I tried to do, I could not delete it. (Normally, you can delete page breaks or section breaks by just highlighting them or putting the cursor right after it and deleting it. Not in this case though.

Little black square paragraph formatting

Little black square paragraph formatting

According to Microsoft, the little black square signifies that there is paragraph formatting applied to that paragraph. To remove the break, you will need to see what formatting is applied to that paragraph.

Removing the Paragraph Formatting

Here’s how you remove the paragraph formatting. First, on the Mac, position your cursor in the paragraph that has the little black square. Then go to Format > Paragraph from the menu.

Format paragraph on Mac

Format paragraph on Mac

On Windows, the easiest way to get to the paragraph formatting is to Right-Click on the paragraph and choose “Paragraph” from the window.

Paragraph formatting on Windows

Paragraph formatting on Windows

From the box that opens up, go to the “Line and Page Breaks” tab. You should try unchecking the following items (Mac version shown below):

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  • Page break before
  • Keep with next
  • Keep lines together
Uncheck paragraph options on Mac

Uncheck paragraph options on Mac

On Windows, you should also go to the “Line and Page Breaks” tab and uncheck the items mentioned above:

Uncheck paragraph options on Windows

Uncheck paragraph options on Windows

Once you uncheck those items, your page break should (hopefully) be removed. The little black square should also magically disappear.

Hopefully this little trick has saved you time and your forehead from being pounded against the keyboard. While it’s a simple fix, it is not immediately apparent or obvious on how to do it. Please leave a comment if this worked for you, or if you have any other software questions that are particularly bugging you, leave a comment as well.

HTD says: Microsoft Word is a powerful text editor, just don’t let that formatting get in your way!