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

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HTD-issue-with-page-break

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!

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69 Responses

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

  2. 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

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Worked like a charm. Those pesky squares are gone!

    My version of word is Mac 2011, Version 14.6.5.

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

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

  14. The method described by HTD only works for a single paragraph. On a PC: if a document has a couple of hundred of these black bullets, Select All of the text, then open up the Paragraph dialogue as HTD says. The tick-boxes will be coloured heavy blue. Tick them all, then untick them all and click OK. That should clear all the black bullets.

  15. This is the first time I Have needed to do this, and it was driving me nuts! thanks for you help.

  16. Bless you, even though my forehead is already bloodied. I have cursed this little stupid box for days.

  17. Thank you – solution posted 2013 and still being used in 2020. Thank you so much – I hate those little black squares.

  18. Oh thank goodness! I hate those little black squares! I’m so glad I found this to get rid of those awful things! Thank you!!

  19. Thank you so much… easy to follow and that way a researcher could issue his article.

  20. What if these little pesky dots are with my table and wouldn’t let me add a caption

  21. I have a very annoying problem that I hope you can help me solve.

    In recent Word documents, I’ll reach a point, usually near the end of the line, where whether I use the right arrow key, type in anything, or move the mouse cursor there, I get dropped down to the bottom of the document. This happens every fourth or fifth paragraph.

    I get back to where I was by hitting “Control Z” of course, but the same thing will happen if I try any moves at all.

    I work with Track Changes on as I’m editing books and want their authors to see what I’ve done.

    I can get around this temporarily by hitting “Show All Changes” and doing what I want, but that’s cumbersome, and it doesn’t always work.

    I’ve tried a new keyboard, but the same problem. I’ve uninstalled and reinstalled Word Office 19, but that didn’t help.

    So I don’t think it’s the hardware or the Word program, but I’m at a loss as to how to fix it.

    This problem started only recently, but it’s happening with more than just one document.

    Any suggestion you can offer me would be greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks,

    Marty

  22. With Word 2016 you could actually double click on that little black box and the window would open up so that you could uncheck the boxes. With Word 2019, I can’t double click on it.
    Can we bring back the double click?

  23. Thank goodness for Google and you. I was close to a breakdown trying to get rid of the ominous ‘little black box’ and the gaps it was leaving in my document. I wish you joy, happiness and prosperity for the rest of your days.

  24. Hi Martin, that is a tricky one. It is hard to understand exactly what is happening without either seeing the document or a video of what you are describing. It could be any number of things, honestly. If you can share a video of what is occurring in action, I may have a better idea.

  25. Hi Teresa, yes, as software “evolves” it is supposed to get easier. Unfortunately, it usually means that more features are added and that adds a layer of complexity. And, old versions are discontinued or no longer supported.

  26. I finally got rid of the annoying black square! Your step by step instructions are awesome! Thank you so………..much!

  27. Followed your instructions for Word for Mac – they worked perfectly (it was unchecking “keep with next” that did it for me). Blessings be upon you.

  28. The text above says “On Windows, the easiest way to get to the paragraph formatting is to Right-Click on the paragraph and choose ’Paragraph’ from the window.” In fact, what opens when you right-click on the paragraph is not a window but a menu. Thanks.

  29. Hello Michael,

    I do have a formatting issue that is driving me crazy ! After transferring several boxes from a Word document to a Word template, I’ve noticed that each part of the box with a different style has separated from the rest of the box, and I can’t seem to figure this out, even after removing the little black squares that you mention. I could send you a screenshot if you think you might have an answer.

    thank you,
    Janice

  30. Yes, your instructions removed the little black box. However, it changed the font to Italic, the Bold to Regular, and the Regular to Bold. So, I have to redo the whole paragraph.

  31. Thank you so much. Got rid of my unexplained white space at bottom of pages. I wonder if it would be safe to ‘Select All,’ and get ride of all those awkward little black boxes, without unknowingly screwing up something else.

  32. Here we are, nearly 9 years after your original post and its still relevant and it still works! Thank you so much! I tried Word “help” function and couldn’t find anything. There was a short period of banging head against table. Your fix worked perfectly. Will be bookmarking this solution.

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Michael Sheehan (“HighTechDad”) is an avid technologist, writer, journalist, content marketer, blogger, tech influencer, social media pundit, loving husband and father of 3 beautiful girls living in the San Francisco Bay Area. This site covers technology, consumer electronics, Parent Tech, SmartHomes, cloud computing, gadgets, software, hardware, parenting “hacks,” and other tips & tricks.

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