Clear paragraph and font formatting in Word

October 26, 2015 at 2:38 pm 1 comment

Even if you have been using Word for a long time, you might not realize how easy it is to remove paragraph and/or font formatting from text. This post highlights a few different methods for stripping formatting, all of which work in recent versions up through and including Word 2016.

You can clear paragraph and/or font formatting with the mouse or with keyboard shortcuts.

Using the Mouse

The techniques outlined in this section require just a mouse click or two.

The “Clear Formatting” Icon in the Font Group (Home Tab)

Did you ever notice the icon in the top row of the Font group on the Home tab that looks like a little eraser?  Most people probably don’t even see it, especially in versions prior to Word 2013, where the icon is so pale that it blends in with the background of the Ribbon.  (In the two most recent versions, the eraser has a reddish tint, so it stands out slightly.)  In any case, despite its location in the Font group, that icon – labeled “Clear Formatting” in some versions and “Clear All Formatting” in others – actually can be used to remove both font formatting and paragraph formatting from text.

If you have applied a paragraph style, such as a heading style or block quote, you can strip the style by placing your cursor anywhere in the paragraph and then clicking the “Clear Formatting” icon.  This method won’t clear any font formatting that you have applied directly to text after you’ve applied a paragraph style.  However, if the paragraph style itself incorporates font attributes (e.g., bolding, italics, a size or font face other than the default, etc.), clicking the icon clears those font attributes as well – even if you don’t select / highlight the entire paragraph first.

If you have manually applied a font attribute to some text, you can strip the font formatting by selecting / highlighting the affected text, then clicking the “Clear Formatting” icon.  (If you want to remove font formatting from a single word, just place your cursor somewhere within the word and click the icon.)

What’s particularly useful about this tool is that you can use it to remove both the paragraph style and any “direct” font formatting within a paragraph by selecting / highlighting the entire paragraph, then clicking the icon.  And yes, you can clear formatting from multiple paragraphs by selecting all of them and then clicking “Clear Formatting.”

By the way, it’s super-easy to add “Clear Formatting” to your Quick Access Toolbar (QAT).  Just right-click the icon and choose “Add to Quick Access Toolbar.”  The icon will appear at the right side of your QAT.

The “Clear All” Style in Styles Pane

Another item you might never have noticed is the “Clear All” style at the very top of the Styles Pane.  (To open the Styles Pane, either click the dialog launcher – the small gray square with a diagonal arrow at the right side of the Styles group on the Home tab – or press the key combination Ctrl Alt Shift S.)  This style works exactly the same way as the “Clear Formatting” icon in the Font group on the Home tab.

Incidentally, there’s also a “Clear Formatting” icon on the Quick Styles Gallery drop-down.  (To open the gallery, navigate to the right side and click the arrow with a horizontal line above it – the “More” menu.  The “Clear Formatting” icon appears near the bottom of the menu.)

Using Keyboard Shortcuts

Ctrl Shift N – Apply the Normal Paragraph Style

You might know that positioning your cursor within a paragraph to which a style has been applied and pressing Ctrl Shift N strips out the style and reverts to your Normal (default) paragraph style.  Like the “Clear Formatting” icon, Ctrl Shift N will not strip font formatting unless the font attributes are part of the paragraph style.[1]

Ctrl Q – Clear Manually Applied Paragraph Formatting

The keyboard shortcut Ctrl Q clears direct (manually applied) paragraph formatting.  Typically, that means any attributes applied via the Paragraph dialog, such as indents, line spacing, before or after spacing, widow/orphan control, and the like.  It also applies to justification applied via the Paragraph dialog, the icons in the Paragraph group on the Home tab, or keyboard shortcuts such as Ctrl E (Center) or Ctrl R (Right).  And it applies to tab stops applied from either the Ruler or the Tabs dialog (opened by clicking the button at the lower left side of the Paragraph dialog or by double-clicking the Ruler).

Ctrl Q does not remove paragraph styles (heading styles, block quotes, body text styles, etc.) or font formatting.

Ctrl Spacebar – Clear Font Formatting

Ctrl Spacebar is a handy keyboard shortcut to clear direct (manually applied) font formatting. You can remove font formatting from a single word by placing your cursor somewhere within the word and then pressing Ctrl Spacebar, but more often you’ll select / highlight a larger block of text to which you’ve applied font formatting, and then press the key combination to remove that formatting.

Keep in mind that Ctrl Spacebar does not remove font formatting that is incorporated within a paragraph style.  So, for example, if you are using heading styles that apply boldface and underlining as part of the paragraph style, you can’t strip out the bolding and underlining with Ctrl Spacebar.[2]



[1] In my tests, Ctrl Shift N sometimes did remove manually applied font formatting if I selected the entire paragraph first – but sometimes it didn’t do so.  Therefore, I would say that this keyboard shortcut is not a dependable way to clear both paragraph and (manually applied) font formatting.

[2] You can, however, use Ctrl B / Ctrl U or the icons for bold and underlining to remove those font attributes, then right-click the icon for the style in the Quick Styles Gallery and choose “Update style to match selection,” which will clear those attributes from the style within the current document.  But that’s a topic for a different blog post…

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