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What's this backwards P all over my email?


In my outlook email I now have what looks like a letter “p” and back
arrows, at the end of each line! How do I remove them?

What you’re seeing are probably paragraph marks.

The fact that you’re seeing them is benign, and easy to turn off. But it
also tells me a little bit about your configuration.

While it’s really a matter of personal preference, I see it as a sign of a
larger problem.

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First, you’re probably seeing something very similar to this:

Paragraph marks in email

The font may be different, so the appearance might not be identical, but at
the end of each line is a paragraph mark.

Question 1, of course, is if it’s a “paragraph” mark, why is it at the end
of every line? This is one of the differences between plain text and
“rich” text email. In rich text, each paragraph is represented as a single line
– it’s then broken into multiple lines as it’s displayed to fit the window. Try
it sometime in your word processor – resize the window and you’ll see each
paragraph “re-wrap” to fit the screen.

In plain text, each line is represented by … a line.

Regardless, at the end of the line, whether it represents an entire
paragraph, or just a single line, is an end of line marker.

Or, in word processing terms, an paragraph mark.

So why do I keep coming back to “word processing” when all you’re doing is
editing email?

Because you’re using Microsoft Word as your email editor. And Microsoft Word
is first and foremost a word processor.

“I strongly recommend not using Microsoft Word as your
email editor in Outlook.”

In Word you can turn off the display of paragraph marks several different
ways. In Tools, Options, on the
View tab, you’ll see the Paragraph marks

Word's Tools-Options-View dialog

Simply uncheck that.

If that setting is unchecked already, you may be viewing all non-printable
characters. If you see a dot everywhere there’s a space, such as between words,
this is likely to be the problem. SHIFT+CTRL+* will turn that on and off,
including paragraph marks.

Now, you’ll note that I said I see this as a sign of a larger problem … so
what’s the larger problem?

Using Microsoft Word to edit email.

Word is a fine, fine word processor. I use it regularly. But in my opinion,
it’s overkill for editing email. Word is a big program packed with
lots of features that aren’t (or shouldn’t be) used in email. If you’re close
to marginal on memory, Word can be particularly slow. The rich text it produces
is notoriously bloated, meaning that the resulting email is much larger than it
needs to be to convey the same look and feel to your recipients.

I strongly recommend not using Microsoft Word as your
email editor in Outlook.

To turn it off, and use Outlook’s internal, “leaner and meaner” editor, in
Outlook hit Tools, Options, and in the
resulting dialog click on the Mail Format dialog. Then uncheck
both “Use Microsoft Office Word 2003 to edit e-mail messages” and “Use
Microsoft Office Word 2003 to read Rich Text e-mail messages” (you may see a
different version of Word listed depending on what you have installed):

Outlook's Tools, Options, Mail Format dialog

Once you do that email editing and viewing should be a little quicker for
you, and your emails will also be smaller in size.

And you won’t see any unexpected paragraph marks.

Do this

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25 comments on “What's this backwards P all over my email?”

  1. We are currently making it company policy to have Word as our editor as quite a few people here need to insert hyperlinks to documents instead of attaching documents. Inserting hyperlinks in an email is much easier with Word as Outlook editor. Would you be able to let me know the reasons for not having this? Is it only email size? I would appreciate your comments. I know that there were issues pre 2003 version but thought they may have been ironed out. We are using Office 2003.

    Vera Hawkins

  2. You hit on one: Word generates horrible HTML. You don’t see it unless you pay attention to the size of the message, or actually take steps to look at the result. If you send email to people outside your company, the results can be quite messy if they’re not also using Outlook and/or Word.

    One particular frustration is that it’s nearly impossible to control the formatting when you *reply* to a message that was created with Word as the email editor. (I say “nearly” because it often turns out that if you edit in *exactly* the right sequence, you *might* be able to do what you want, but it’s certainly not obvious, and is quite frustrating until you’ve figured out the magic incantation.)

    And finally – Word is huge. It’s a big, fat application. Using it for email is like trying to use a chainsaw to open a can of tuna. Yes, you can do it, but the process and results are messy.

    I don’t quite understand how inserting a hyperlink is easier, to be honest. Is it really all about that one feature?

  3. Thanks Leo, you hit the target right on. I must have accidentally hit the asterik and caused all this headache. Us old people get real frustrated when we can’t figure something out. So, thanks for saving a few more gray hairs. Pat

  4. Actually, that didn’t work. The paragraph marks were still showing in Outlook, even though they were disabled in Word 2003. The solution was to start a new email, click Tools, then Options, then the View tab and deselect the ‘All’ option for Formatting Marks.

  5. I KNEW they were Marks but I HATE HATE them…when they showed up in email probably because I am flying about the keyboard and I accidentally tripped them to start…I was going to scream! Thank you, Thank you, Thank YOU for this quick and easy way to get out! HELP was not helping at all! SHIFT+CTRL+* WOW! Bravo
    Kindest Regards,

  6. Thanks! c-sh-* solved my problem within a minute of encountering the issue. Frustration averted! I learn everything via “accidental keystrokes”. Yesterday I learned that in Adobe Bridge I can press Space to make items selected for preview go to full screen.

  7. Thank you!! I must have turned it on accidentally and didn’t know how to undo it. Thank goodness my google search worked!:

  8. There are a lot of people that need help with grammar in addition to spelling. Outlook can check spelling, but not grammar. I have forced some people to use Word as their editor so it catches most of their rediculous grammar mistakes.

  9. hey thanks so much for the info! was getting very annoyed with these backwards P’s as i had no idea what had happened!
    thanks very much

  10. I have the same problem but showing paragraph marks is NOT checked in Word. Can you tell me any other method to get rid of the paragraph marks? This problem started yesterday when I tried to copy and paste a screen shot from the Broward County (Florida) Clerk of the Court’s Office into an email.

    Thanks for any assistance you can provide.

  11. thanks … you are the place to look for quick answers. Like I would ever guess to hit shift+ctrl+* … and how on earth did I do that to start with.

  12. THANK YOU! I had been searching for icons in my C drive and somehow hit those buttons. The control/shift* is the one that fixed things for me. It was my company email that I had the problem with, so I thank you twice! THANK YOU! Gail

  13. Thank you for your post Leo. It was the simple Shift+Ctrl+* that solved it for me. saved me so much trouble!


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