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How to Use Soft and Hard Returns in Word 2010

You can use both hard and soft returns in Word 2010. Both kinds of returns move the insertion pointer to the line below the one you've been typing on. But Word's different types of returns let you decide whether a new line starts a new paragraph.

  • Hard return: Pressing the Enter key in Word ends a paragraph. It’s officially known as typing a hard return. Yes, it’s a return even though the key is known as Enter on a PC. The problem with the hard return is that it adds a bit of “air” after a paragraph. That’s a good thing; you should have air around paragraphs in a document.

  • Soft return: Those times when you don’t want air, when you need to put lines of text close together, you use a soft return. The soft return, or line break, is used primarily in titles and headings; when you have a long title and need to split it up between two lines, you press Shift+Enter to insert the soft return.

For example, use a soft return when typing a title and subtitle:

  1. In a Word document, type the line "Enjoying the Ballet."

  2. Press Shift+Enter.

    A new line starts.

  3. Continue typing "A Guide for Husbands and Boyfriends."

    The soft return keeps the title text together (in the same paragraph), but on separate lines.

You should also use the soft return when typing an address, either on an envelope or in a letter. If you try typing the lines of an address and pressing Enter after each line, you see more space between the lines, which isn’t what you want. Nope, that soft return can sure come in handy.

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