Text-Wrapping Breaks in Mac Word

Update: You can follow the steps in this post, or, as a reader pointed out, you can simply use <shift>-<return>. I’ll leave this post here, though, as an example of how to define an AutoText entry and how to assign a keyboard shortcut to it.

In my post on structure and styles, I mentioned the use of text-wrapping breaks to create specific line breaks within a single paragraph without using paragraph marks. I’m not sure how many people will actually want to use this feature. The only time I’ve ever wanted to use it is when I’ve included examples of programming code my documents, but I’m not a typical Word user. So, I thought I’d share how to insert a text-wrapping break in Mac Word.

This would be a really easy task were it not for a rather shameful oversight on our part. A while back, Win Word added “Text-wrapping” break to the list of options in the Insert/Break dialog box. However, we no longer expose that dialog box in Mac Word’s UI, where Insert/Break is a hierarchical menu, and we’ve never actually created a new menu command that we could add to the Insert/Break menu. Also, if you try to write a VBA macro that inserts a text-wrapping break, you’ll get an “out of range” error.

However, not all is lost. A text-wrapping break just happens to be a special character that you can insert into the document like any other character. If we can get one into a document in the first place, then we can create an AutoText entry for it. So, start by copying the following HTML code to an empty document your favorite text editor:

<p> This is a paragraph with a line <br> break in it.</p>

Save the file as “WrapBreak.htm”. Boot Word, and open “WrapBreak.htm.” The document should look like:

This is a paragraph with a line
break in it.

Click on the “Show/Hide ¶” button on the standard toolbar. This will make it easier to see the text-wrapping break character. It will come right after the word “line,” and looks like a left-pointing arrow with a vertical hook at the right-side of the arrow (sorry, I couldn’t find a Unicode character that matches it).

Select just the text-wrapping break character, and then select “Insert/AutoText/New…” from the menus. This will bring up a dialog box asking you to give the new AutoText entry a name. I called mine “WrapBreak,” but you can give it any name you want. Click <OK> to make the name permanent.

That creates the AutoText entry, but I like being able to insert the entry without having to go to a menu. So, I’ve assigned a command-key to the AutoText entry. The one I used is Cmd-<return>, but you can use whatever makes sense to you. To do this, select “Customize/Customize Keyboard…” from the tools menu. Scroll to the bottom of the “Categories” list box, and select “AutoText.” In the “AutoText:” list box, select the name you just gave to the new AutoText entry above (if you named it “WrapBreak” then it’s probably at the bottom of the list). Click in the “Press new shortcut key” edit field, and type the key combination you want to assign. Then click the <Assign> button. Click <OK>, and you’re done.

With that AutoText entry and the keyboard assignment I’ve given it, all I need to do to insert a text-wrapping break is type Cmd-<return>. Pretty slick, if you ask me.