Microsoft Word: Too Many Empty Paragraphs

Microsoft Word: Too Many Empty Paragraphs

Inserting empty paragraphs to control where a table, graphic, or picture appears on a page.

This is an error a novice user of Microsoft Word often makes.

Visually, the error reveals itself by simply clicking the keyboard sequence Ctrl + * or clicking the Show/Hide ¶ icon "¶" found on the Home tab of Word's ribbon. By the way, the technical name for this ¶ symbol is Pilcrow. This control is an On/Off toggle for Show/Hide of the paragraph marks. It looks like this:

Use the Spacing Before or After control in the Paragraph Dialog.

The correct way to add extra space between paragraphs or other objects in the documents, such as pictures, tables, et cetera is to use the Spacing Before or After control (measured in points) contained on the Paragraph Dialog.


Access this dialog from the Paragraph Group on Microsoft Word Home Tab Ribbon.

Paragraph Group - Click Arrow

What's the big deal … right?

Well it's a big deal for automated document readers used by people who have visual impairments. It's also a big deal when the document's edited, and stuff added. The novice user becomes confused and even angry at Microsoft because the dumb program is now pushing things onto the next page … "for no good reason" and the software is doing it, all by itself!

There are two easy methods to remove extra empty paragraphs from a document.

Method One: Advanced Find and Replace using Wildcards.

  1. On a Windows version of Microsoft Word, press the keyboard combination of Ctrl + H to open the Advanced Find and Replace dialog. On a Mac version of Microsoft Word version 2016 and later, choose from the Menu Bar, Edit > Find > Advanced Find and Replace.

  2. Click the "More >>" button to open the full dialog.

  3. Tic the "Use wildcards" checkbox.

  4. In the "Find what:" text box type: ^13{2,}

  5. In the "Replace with:" text box type: ^p

  6. Click the "Replace All" button to run the Find and Replace.

The ^13 code you type into the Find text box is the ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) decimal code of a carriage return character (A.K.A. Paragraph Mark). The {2,} code is saying find at least two concurrent carriage returns. If there are more, say 3 or 4, it will find those as well. The ^13 code is not used in the Replace text box though … there you must use a ^p code, which also represents a paragraph mark.

Method Two: Use a special VBA macro

You might use a macro if you have many documents to correct. Here is the VBA code you need.

Sub RemoveBlankParagraphs()
    Dim rng As Word.Range
    Set rng = ActiveDocument.Content
    With rng.Find
        .ClearFormatting
        .Replacement.ClearFormatting
        .Text = "^13{2,}" ' look for 2
        .Replacement.Text = "^p" 'replace with 1, this is 508 acceptable
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = Word.WdFindWrap.wdFindStop
        .Format = False
        .MatchWildcards = True
    End With
    rng.Find.Execute Replace:=Word.WdReplace.wdReplaceAll
    rng.Find.ClearFormatting
    rng.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
End Sub

To install the macro into your Normal template

Follow the process outlined in our article: Adding Macros to the Normal Template

Building a Library

Building a Library

Microsoft Word: Adding Macros the Normal Template

Microsoft Word: Adding Macros the Normal Template