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When you press Enter in Microsoft Word, by default, your cursor will jump ahead two lines. But why does it do this, and is there any way to make it only move ahead one line instead? We’ll show you the answers.

Line Break vs. New Paragraph

Since Word automatically wraps your text to a new line by default, there’s typically no need to manually enter line breaks (like on an old paper typewriter) unless you are doing some special text formatting. So Microsoft has made Enter default to perform a paragraph break, which is like inserting two line feeds at once. In the example below, the first arrow points to a paragraph break, and the second arrow points to a regular line break.

The difference between line breaks and paragraph breaks in Microsoft Word.

If you press Shift+Enter in Word, you’ll get a traditional line break (also known as line feed). The cursor will go down to the next line instead of jumping two lines ahead. Also, if you press Ctrl+Enter, you’ll insert a page break, which takes your cursor to the top of a new page.

RELATED: What's the Difference Between the "Enter" and "Return" Keys?

How to Make Enter Perform a Single Line Break

If you aren’t content with using Shift+Enter to insert a regular line break, you can change some options to make Enter always give you single line feed instead of a paragraph break. First, click the “Home” tab, then select “Line Paragraph and Spacing” (which looks like five horizontal lines with up and down arrows beside it). When the menu opens, click “Line Spacing Options.”

In the “Paragraph” window that opens, locate the “Spacing” section. Set the “After” value to “0 pt” using the text entry box. Next, check the box beside “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style.”

Set "After" to "0 pt" and check the box beside "Don't add space between paragraphs of the same style."

If you’d like to set this as your default, click “Set as Default” at the bottom of the window. Otherwise, click “OK,” and the changes will only apply to the open document. The next time you press Enter, you’ll notice that you only get a line feed instead of a paragraph break. Happy writing!

RELATED: How to Control Line and Paragraph Spacing in Microsoft Word

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is an Associate Editor for How-To Geek. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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