Paragraph Mark vs Line Break

One of the most confusing aspects of Word can be the paragraph marks which separate paragraphs and line breaks. One looks like a backwards P, while the other looks like a bent arrow.

The way to see the paragraphs, line breaks, and other special characters in your Word document is to press the backwards P symbol in your main menu bar. This backwards P is called a paragraph mark, or more technically, a pilcrow. When you press that backwards P symbol, you toggle Word from showing and hiding those special characters.

Here is my Champagne Cocktails book with the characters turned on -

paragraph marks

You see two different kinds of symbols here. First, you see the backwards P. This is created whenever you hit the ENTER key on your keyboard. Normally when you type you should type in an entire paragraph at a time without any line breaks or anything else and then hit ENTER at the end of that paragraph. This way the text automatically wraps to fill the space. You can add more words, or subtract words, and the paragraph will automatically enlarge or reduce to fit. This makes writing your novel as easy as possible.

However, there are specific times that you do NOT want to simply hit ENTER. For example, if your book is going to become a Kindle ebook, often Kindle is notorious for squishing paragraphs together. That is fine for most typical paragraphs, but if you need spaces between specific items, for example the individual toasts shown in this example, a normal paragraph mark would be "compressed" and lost. All of the lines would end up squished one on top of the other.

The solution here is to use a line break - a break which is permanent. You create a line break by pressing SHIFT-ENTER. You can see the line breaks in the example above as represented by the bent arrow. Line breaks will not be compressed.

Again normally you would want all of your typing done with paragraph marks. This allows the document to flow naturally based on the shape and size of the reader. However, if you need to force blank lines between ingredient lists or other items, you can use the line break to do that.

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