Gwen Hernandez

Author of romantic suspense. Scrivener expert.

Tech Tuesday: Getting rid of double paragraph returns in Scrivener


SampleDoc2ParaThere’s a temptation when writing in Scrivener (or a word processor) to press the Return key twice at the end of a paragraph to give it that nice, visual break. Problem is, when you’re setting up your manuscript for submission or publication, those extra lines leave big gaps.

To avoid the temptation, make sure you set your default format to have at least 12 points after the paragraph. This setting is accessible under the Line Spacing drop-down in the format bar by clicking Other.

But that only helps you from here on out. Sure, you can clean up those extra lines in your word processor after compiling, but what if you’re trying to create an e-book?

If you’re currently stuck with a manuscript with an extra carriage return after each paragraph, here’s how to fix it.

Mac Users

1. To start, make sure you have the invisible characters showing. That’ll make it easier to ensure you don’t copy anything unintended. Turn them on by going to Format–>Options–>Show Invisibles.

2. Select two paragraph markers in a row within your text. Any two, it doesn’t matter, but make sure you don’t get any spaces or anything in there.

3. Copy your selection with Command+C (or Edit–>Copy).

4. Go to Edit–>Find–>Project Replace.

5. In the Replace text box, paste the paragraph symbols with Command+V (or Edit–>Paste).

6. In the With text box, paste the paragraph symbols again, but then press Delete on your keyboard once to remove one of them.

You’ve just set up Scrivener to find all double paragraph markers and replace them with a single paragraph marker.

7. Deselect all the check boxes except for Text so that you don’t affect anything else like Notes or Synopsis, as shown in the image below.


8. Click Replace.

It might take a few minutes if you have a lot of them to work through, but when you’re done, you’ll only have single paragraphs.

You’ll still want to make a quick run through your documents to make sure Scrivener didn’t miss any extra lines. A miss might happen if you inadvertently put a space or tab character on the blank line without realizing it. Those should show up since the non-printing characters are visible.

You can hide the invisible characters by going to Format–>Options–>Hide Invisibles.

Windows Users

Unfortunately, the Windows version of Project Replace isn’t (yet!) set up to handle non-printing characters. So, here’s my recommendation for a workaround. It’s not as elegant, but it’s still much faster than manually removing those extra paragraph lines from a 90,000-word manuscript.

Let me know if you have another idea.

1. Compile your manuscript to RTF or DOC, making sure to include a custom separator for the Text Separator and the Text and Folder Separator, as shown below. This will ensure that Scrivener can divide your scenes up properly later. This setup assumes that you have chapter folders with text documents inside for your scenes.


If you’re savvy enough, it’s also helpful to deselect the Title checkbox for all levels in the Formatting tab. Or you can manually delete the chapter titles in Word.

2. Open the compiled RTF or DOC in Word and go to Edit—>Find—>Replace. In the top text box, use the drop down menu to choose Paragraph Mark, then copy the paragraph mark and paste it again so you have two (or type ^p).

3. In the bottom text box, use the drop down to select Paragraph Mark.


4. Click Replace All. When the replacement is complete, save and close the file.

5. Now, you’re ready to get the file back into Scrivener with the new-to-Windows Import & Split option. (NOTE: You must be using 1.5.3 or later to have Import & Split.)

6. In your Scrivener project, choose a folder where you want to import your scenes. These will be duplicates of the ones you already have, but without the extra spacing. You may want to move your old version of the documents out of the Manuscript (Draft) and then select Manuscript (Draft) as your import location.

7. Go to File—>Import—>Import and Split.

8. In the Import and Split window, click Browse to select the file you just changed in Word, and in the Sections Are Separated By text box, type the character you used as a separator.


9. Scrivener imports the file, dividing it into a new document every time it encounters the separator character.

You’ll have a little cleaning up to do, renaming the documents, regrouping them into folders, and getting rid of chapter titles and such within the text, but I still think it’s faster than going through every paragraph in your project if you have a long manuscript.

As mentioned in the Mac section, wou’ll still want to make a quick run through your documents to make sure Scrivener didn’t miss any extra lines. A miss might happen if you inadvertently put a space or tab character on the blank line without realizing it.

Good luck!

For more help, check out Scrivener For Dummies, or sign up for an online class.

Author: Gwen Hernandez

Author of SCRIVENER FOR DUMMIES & BLIND FURY. Manufacturing engineer turned romantic suspense writer. Scrivener instructor, runner, reader, explorer, Kung Fu sifu, AF spouse, mom, vegan.

46 thoughts on “Tech Tuesday: Getting rid of double paragraph returns in Scrivener

  1. I’ve wondered about this, and it might explain why when I copy and paste some of my blog entries from Scrivener to WordPress there are huge gaps. So far, I’ve simply corrected the error in WordPress by hitting the delete button to “snug up” the paragraph breaks. I’ll try this and see if it fixes the problem from the source. Thanks, Gwen. I always learn something from your Tech Tuesdays.

    • Sarah: On a short document with only a few paragraphs, it’s probably easier to just delete the extra paragraph lines, but I’ve had some people asking about it that had full manuscripts of 100K or more! That would be a chore. ;-) Thanks!

  2. Gwen it’s really scary how timely your Scrivener posts are! You seem to be looking over my shoulder LOL! I was just preparing to look in your book for how to do this very thing!

    I occasionally cut and paste and end up with different formatting, so paragraphs indent different # spaces and have different spacing -is there a short cut to fix this?

    • CristineGzr: It’s actually not in my book, but I’m glad it’s timely. ;-) To avoid a mish-mash of styles when pasting, use Edit–>Paste and Match Style, instead of the standard Paste. It won’t solve extra carriage returns because those are like text, but it will take care of font, indents, line spacing, etc.

  3. Under the Windows solution, #5 – there is a mistake.

    You are apparently confusing the Macintosh current version number which is indeed 2.4 with the Windows version which I think is 1.5.3 (but I’m not absolutely certain.)

  4. The extra spaces in copying text to WordPress have nothing to do with double spaced returns in Scrivener. I never double space paragraphs in Scrivener or any other word processor, but WordPress often adds the extra spaces, which I have to remove manually.

  5. Ah… Thanks, Catana. That saves me from messing around too much with Scriv. formatting. And actually, when I turned on Show Invisibles, it appears I have only one carriage return. I guess it’s just the delete button to format in WordPress… unless anyone else has a bright idea.

  6. Even with the less graceful workaround for Windows, I’m delighted to have this knowledge. I wondered what in the WORLD all those random line spacings were when I printed my first draft of my novel. In Scrivener they look pretty normal…Very useful, and very clearly presented, thanks as always, Gwen.

  7. This post is amazing. I realy like it!

  8. Am I the only one who formats my eBooks in block paragraphs with an extra space between paragraphs? When I used to indent my paragraphs, I found that on previewing, the Kindle would not recognize any indents that fell at the top of a page and instead made it block, which looked like a continuation of the previous paragraph…particularly troublesome if it was dialogue and another party is speaking. That’s when I changed to block with an extra space (or 12-point).

    • Bettye: I actually prefer block format too. You can still have that without having to add extra carriage returns though. Just click the Line Spacing button, choose Other, and set the After Paragraph value to double your output font size. So if you’re going to compile to 12pt font, use 24pts to get the equivalent of an extra line between paragraphs.

      Or were you just telling me you already do that? Forgive me for going all pedantic on you. ;-)

      • Hi Gwen, thanks for this article. I actually have the opposite problem. I often post my stories on a private phpbb discussion forum for feedback. I WANT the double hard return for posting online for the same reason as Bettye, that pure digital text often doesn’t recognize the paragraph indentation.

        Setting the “after” spacing for paragraphs in Scrivener makes it appear like there is space after the paragraph in doc, rtf, pdf, or preview… but the space isn’t actually there when you output to plain txt or try copy pasting.

        How can I set up a compile profile that inserts the double-enter for plain text output, but not for others?


  9. Okay, I copied and pasted these instructions in my Scratch Pad for future use, because I’ve been facing this problem. Up until now I solved it by copying and pasting the style format from paragraph that was not double returning to ones that did double return. Thanks for posting this. Also, your book is very handy for learning more about using Scrivener.

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  11. Gwen, Thanks for the post! I imported my 60K manuscript from Word in Scrivener and had these apparent double tabs as you discuss here. But for me it isn’t a return key hit twice at the end of the paragraph, I looked at my original Word doc and can see that some paragraphs were formatted in Word with an auto indent (special first para with auto indent of .5 inches) ~ those paragraphs translated fine into Scrivener. The paragraphs that appear to have the double tab were somehow not formatted properly in Word. If I have my cursor at the begin of said paragraph, I can click on paragraph indents and spacing ans see that there is no special formatting selected for that line. Those paragraphs, in Scrivener, ended up with this apparent double tab. I will make sure when I import again in the future to verify that the formatting is correct in Word first :-)

    • So, to remove the “double tabs” in word, do the following: Find/replace all the tab character with nothing. This will remove ALL tabs in your document and you’ll probably scream thinking you ruined your formatting. Wait. It will work. I promise. Then, select all text (control A), click on the “paragraphs indents and spacing” on the ribbon bar, then select “first line special” by .5 inch, then click OK. All paragraphs should now be indented by one tab and you can re-import into Scrivener.

  12. I recently discovered your site and book. Amazing! :) I still can’t find the answer to my question. After compiling, is it possible to remove the additional space between docs under a folder? I know I can merge the docs to get rid of the space but I want to retain my outline. Hope to hear from you.

  13. I’m very late to the party, but I was looking for a solution to the problem of tabs from another program interfering with my paragraph indents. I can’t find any mention of how to use invisible characters in Find in the Windows version, but I found my own workaround.
    Scrivener puts whatever text you highlight into the Find box when you hit Control-F. If you select an invisible tab, it will put something in the Find box that works for finding tabs in your document. Unfortunately it doesn’t work quite the same way with paragraph breaks. Something goes in the Find box, but it doesn’t get found. Here’s a step by step breakdown for getting rid of tabs:
    1. Close the find box (if it is open)
    2. Manually select a tab character (you could manually insert one just to do this, I suppose)
    3. Press Control-F (note that there is something invisible highlighted in your Find box)
    4. Click the Next button (you move to the next Tab character)
    5. Make sure the Replace box is empty
    6. If you are sure you are ready: Click the Replace All button

  14. Brilliant blog, thanks Gwen. I have the exact problem and had no idea how to fix it till now! Really beginning to wish I had a Mac. Desperate for the same kind of functionality in Scrivener for Windows and hoping Scrivener 2.0 for Windows is out soon! That said it is the best writing software I have encountered on any platform so no complaints! Thanks again, Jason

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  16. Aw, this was an extremely good post. Finding the time and actual effort to create a good article… but what can I say… I
    hesitate a whole lot and never manage to get anything done.

  17. This is awesome. I had figured out how to delete the extra spaces, but not how to have them in scrivener but not compile. Thanks!!

  18. Gwen, this is a very good tip that really helped me the first time I found it here. I enjoy your helpful postings, and came here again to this topic today Googling for an answer to how to do find and replace in one Scrivener document and not the whole project. When I saw the comment in this thread about WordPress adding extra spaces I remembered how that used to plague me until I found a workaround. If I copy and paste text from Scrivener first into a plain text editor (e.g. TextWrangler, TextEdit) then copy and paste it from there into WordPress no extra spaces are there to be removed by hand.

    Hope you can point me to answer how to find and replace in one Scrivener document. I am trying to change all double quotes to single quotes in one document in a Scrivener document and not in other documents in the same project.

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