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):

  • 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!

  • Stressed Grad Student

    Awesome it worked!! I have a paper due in a few hours and this saved my life!

  • krassy

    Thank you very much indeed! Many time it took to me to look for deleting this nasty little blak square – until a just wrote the question – and your explanation helped me
    i wish you all the best

  • Deetsmagill

    I love you! Thank you!

  • Erika Figueroa

    Thank you so much…years of trying to figure out…

  • Thanks so much!! Worked like a dream on Mac for Word 2011.

  • hend

    Thank u it worked!

  • David

    You’re amazing! Thank you It actually worked.

  • SMarie

    Thank you!!! So helpful!

  • Megan Hustad

    Brilliant. Thank you. You’ve saved many people countless hours.

  • Mei

    Thank you, thank you! It was driving me crazy and I have to travel to the other side of the world tomorrow. Now I can sleep!

  • Kamile

    Thanks a lot. It worked.

  • Kathy

    Thank You for your help. We are editing for a ebook and your page helped all so much!!

  • Pingback: How to Fix Repeating Black Boxes in Microsoft Word()

  • Rick

    OMG! I’ve been fighting with those boxes for hours and hours. I wish this page was the first one that I clicked on, three hours ago!

  • Pamela Breedlove

    Thanks – this was a very helpful article.

  • Ariel Burns

    OMGOODNESS you just saved my thesis!!!THANK YOU

  • Daphne Procz-Shorts

    I love you a little bit for this. At the end of a huge cramming sheet for a math final and this dastardly thing would not go away on the last page.

  • webgalpat

    Fantastic! I hate those squares and never knew how to get rid of them!

  • David Skinner

    Nice job! Isn’t it amazing how difficult it can be to find this stuff on your own. I really appreciate what you do and HOW you do it. You article is very clear and succinct. I will be following your site for future reference. I will also patronize your advertisers. Thank you again

  • Baby

    Thanks! Now I know what to do, just hope I can remember the fix. One question, any idea why those black dots appear in the first place? I’ve been given a massive doc to format and some paras have it and others don’t. Go figure!

  • Those dots and squares are there to supposedly help you understand what types of formatting have been applied to sections of text. It’s not always that intuitive. Good luck!

  • Thanks so very much!!!

  • Thanks a bunch! That was truly helpful!

  • PR

    This did not work for me, but my little box is different – not the little black box you show. My box is open with an arrow going up and down and side to side inside of it. When I put my cursor somewhere to remove formatting it pops up and won’t go away. Thanks anyway.

  • Sasha Owens

    This was the most helpful blog I’ve went on. Thank you! I hope others can get it fixed as easy as I did following your steps.

  • Rick

    Worked like a charm. Those pesky squares are gone!

    My version of word is Mac 2011, Version 14.6.5.

  • Malcolm Chisholm

    Brilliant! Thank you.

  • Guillaume Feldman

    Good karma points for you! Microsoft couldn’t provide the answer so thanks for resolving my headache

  • Ces

    This drove me crazy…Thank you!

  • Ricci

    Thank you!! I’ve been puzzling over the same thing and finally could get it solved, thanks to your advice.