How to Remove Box Symbols in Word: A Troubleshooting Guide

How do I get rid of unwanted symbols in Word?

Have you ever opened a Word document to find mysterious box symbols where letters or spaces should be? These annoying characters can disrupt your text and formatting. This guide will help you understand why these boxes appear and offer practical solutions to banish them for good.

Understanding Box Symbols: The Culprits

Before we dive into solutions, let’s explore the common causes of box symbols in Word:

  1. Encoding Issues: Word documents rely on specific character encoding (like Unicode) to display text correctly. If a document uses an encoding that your version of Word doesn’t recognize or support fully, it might substitute those unrecognized characters with boxes.
  2. Font Limitations: Sometimes, the font you’re using simply doesn’t have a glyph (the visual representation) for a particular character in the document. In these cases, Word often replaces the missing character with a box as a placeholder.
  3. Hidden Formatting Characters: Word uses hidden characters for formatting purposes (e.g., spaces, tabs, line breaks). Occasionally, these characters become visible as boxes, especially if you’ve copied and pasted text from another source. Sometimes, you might encounter the tick in box symbol Word, which can indicate completion or selection of an item. You can learn more about this symbol at

Effective Solutions to Remove Box Symbols

Here are the most common and effective methods to get rid of those pesky box symbols:

  1. Change the Font:
  • Simple Swap: The easiest fix is to try a different font. Many fonts (like Arial or Times New Roman) have broader character support and are less likely to display boxes. Highlight the text with boxes and select a new font from the dropdown menu in the Home tab.
  • Symbol Fonts: If you need to preserve specific symbols that standard fonts lack, consider installing a symbol font (like Wingdings or Symbol) that might contain the missing characters.
  1. Adjust Encoding Settings:
  • Detect and Convert: Word can often detect encoding issues automatically. Go to “File” -> “Options” -> “Advanced.” Under “Web Options,” click “Encoding” and select “Auto-detect.”
  • Manual Encoding Change: If auto-detect doesn’t work, try manually selecting different encodings (like Unicode UTF-8 or Western European). Note that this might affect other characters in your document.
  1. Reveal and Replace Hidden Characters:
  • Show/Hide Button: Click the “Show/Hide” button (¶) in the Paragraph section of the Home tab. This will reveal hidden formatting characters. If the boxes are indeed formatting symbols, you can delete them like regular text.
  • Find and Replace: If there are many instances of boxes, use the Find and Replace tool (Ctrl+H). In the “Find what” field, type “^w” (represents whitespace characters) or “^p” (represents paragraph marks). Leave the “Replace with” field empty and click “Replace All.”
  1. Paste as Plain Text:
  • Stripping Formatting: When pasting text from other sources, right-click and choose “Paste Special” -> “Unformatted Text.” This removes formatting and potential encoding conflicts that could cause boxes to appear.

Related: How to Insert Check Mark in Word?

Advanced Tips:

How can I get the latest version of Microsoft Word for free?

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  • Update Word: Ensure you have the latest version of Word, as updates often fix bugs and improve compatibility.
  • Check Compatibility Mode: If the document is in Compatibility Mode (for older Word versions), try converting it to the latest format.
  • Seek Professional Help: If the problem persists, consider consulting a document recovery specialist who can often diagnose and fix complex encoding issues.

Preventing Box Symbols in the Future:

  • Use Standard Fonts: Stick to widely used fonts that have broad character support.
  • Save in Modern Formats: Save your documents in newer Word formats (like .docx) that generally handle encoding better.
  • Be Mindful of Copy/Paste: When pasting from external sources, opt for plain text or use the “Keep Text Only” paste option.

By understanding the causes and following these solutions, you can confidently troubleshoot and eliminate those bothersome box symbols in your Word documents. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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