Nonbreaking spaces in Microsoft Word

Nonbreaking spaces: What are they?

Using nonbreaking spaces in Microsoft Word can be very helpful. We’ll teach you how to type them in this post.

A nonbreaking space is a character that has the same width as a word space but prevents an undesirable line break. For example, would you rather read 4.6 million as a unit? Or the number 4.6 at the end of a line and million at the beginning of the next line? (See Figure 1.)

Using nonbreaking spaces lets you control how line wrapping works, in this case treating 4.6 million as a unit and moving it all down to the next line. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 1. A regular word space between 4.6 and million results in an awkward line break. (Click to enlarge.)

Figure 2. A nonbreaking space keeps 4.6 and million together, moving them both to the next line. (Click to enlarge.)

How to type nonbreaking spaces in Microsoft Word

  • In Windows, type Cntl + Shift + Space.
  • On a Mac, type Opt + Space.

Using Find and Replace with nonbreaking spaces in Microsoft Word

Translators, here’s a quick tip. Let’s say you have a French source document. Nonbreaking spaces appear before all percent signs, after opening quotes and before closing quotes, before colons, before units, etc. But because you’re translating into English, you need to eliminate some of them—the ones before percent signs, for example.

Do a simple find-and-replace operation to delete the nonbreaking spaces in question:

  1. Find all nonbreaking spaces following by a percent sign: type ^s% in Word’s Find window. (^s is Microsoft shorthand for “nonbreaking space.”)
  2. Replace with a percent sign: type % in Word’s Replace window.

The above operation can be tweaked to find and delete the nonbreaking space before or after other characters.

Figure 3. Type ^s in the Find window to locate all nonbreaking spaces in your document. (Click to enlarge.)

If you liked this tip, check our post on how to instantly convert European number format to U.S. format.


 
nonbreaking spaces in Microsoft Word
 

Matthew Kushinka is the founder and principal of RedLine Language Services LLC. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the company helps commercial clients create, revise, and translate their written content. Send your questions or comments to matthew@redlinels.com or connect with Matthew on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.