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Tech Tuesday: Getting rid of extra paragraph returns (or tabs or line breaks) in Scrivener


[UPDATE: Scrivener 3 now supports many of these replacements via Edit>Text Tidying.]

There’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.

NOTE: You can also replace other non-printing characters—such as tabs or line breaks—with the same procedure. The shortcut key combinations for supported non-printing characters are:

  • Paragraph Return: Option+Enter (Mac) or Ctrl+Enter (Windows)
  • Line Break (soft return): Control + Enter (Mac) or Shift + Enter (Windows)
  • Tab: Option+Tab (Mac) or Ctrl+Tab (Windows)

Alternatively, Mac users can right-click (Control+click) on the text box in the Project Replace window, click Insert, and choose the desired non-printing character from the list.

Replacing Invisible Characters (Mac and Windows)

Finally, the Windows version of Project Replace can handle non-printing characters (as of 4 August 2016)! To eliminate extra paragraph returns in your entire manuscript, do the following.

1. Go to Edit—>Find—>Project Replace.

2. In the Replace text box, press Option+Enter (Mac) or Ctrl+Enter (Windows) twice. A pilcrow (paragraph return) character appears for each time you press the key combination.

3. In the With text box, press Option+Enter (Mac) or Ctrl+Enter (Windows) once.

You've just set up Scrivener to find all the double paragraph markers in your manuscript and replace them with a single paragraph marker.

4. Deselect all the check boxes in the Scope and Affect (Mac only) sections, except for Text, so that you don't affect anything else like Notes or Synopsis, as shown in the images below. If you only wanted this to apply to documents you've selected in the Binder, choose “Selected documents only.”

Mac project replace window


Windows project replace window


5. Click Replace. NOTE: Once you get through step 6, this cannot be undone and applies to the entire project (unless you chose “Selected documents only”).

6. Read the warning and if you're confident that you have everything set up correctly, click OK (Mac) or Yes (Windows) to proceed.

A bar at the bottom left of the window displays the progress. The replacements might take a few minutes if you have a lot of them to work through.

7. When the bar reaches the end (Mac users will receive a notice showing how many documents were changed), click Close to close the Project Replace window.

You’ll want to take a quick look through your documents to make sure Scrivener didn’t miss any extra lines. Turning on the invisible characters (Format—>Options—>Show Invisibles) makes it easy to check for problems. A miss might happen if you inadvertently put a space or tab character on the blank line (second paragraph return line) without realizing it.

Mac users can hide the invisible characters by going to Format—>Options—>Hide Invisibles. Windows users, return to Format—>Options—>Show Invisibles to remove the checkmark.

Good luck!

Need more help? Sign up for an online class, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session. If you don't already have it, you can download Scrivener here.

{Updated 26 Jan 2017}

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  1. Reply

    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.

    • Reply

      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. Reply

    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?

    • Reply

      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.

      • Reply

        “It’s actually not in my book,”

        Well, Gwen, that makes your sneak,y god-like, all-knowing powers even more creepy! Thanks LOL

  3. Reply

    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. Reply

    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.

    • Reply

      Catana: You’re right. I usually notice it when I paste my blog post back into Scrivener after making edits in WordPress. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. morgansc


    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.

      • morgansc


        Ah, just found this reply. Thanks, Gwen, both for the photo comment (yes, I thought it was time) and the workaround for pasting to WP blogs. 😉

  6. Reply

    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. Reply

    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).

    • Reply

      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. 😉

      • Nalin


        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?


  8. Reply

    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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  10. Reply

    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 🙂

    • Reply

      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.

  11. Reev


    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.

    • Reply

      Reev: You can remove the extra space between documents during compile by changing the text separator to Single Return. You’ll find it under the Separators tab of the Compile window. Good luck! 🙂

  12. Jim Lambert


    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

  13. Reply

    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

    • Reply

      Glad it helped, Jason. I know it’s hard when you compare the PC and Mac versions, but the PC version is still awesome. Way ahead of the Mac version I started with. And the Windows version is catching up quickly. I think 2014 is going to be a great year for Windows users. 😉

  14. Reply

    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!!

  15. Reply

    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.

  16. Alec


    Hi, thanks so much! I have an issue though, when I replace the two paragraph symbols with one (on a mac) I have no line breaks (of course, that was the point) between paragraphs, but it didn’t automatically create indentions as I thought. Anyway to change the web-formatted (line break between paragraphs) with indentions only?

    • Reply

      Alec: You have to set the indentations separately. This post talks about how to set up your defaults and then apply them: To set the first line indent–which is what you’re talking about–adjust the location of the little bar (Mac) or the downward-pointing triangle (PC) at the left end of the ruler.

      So once you have your defaults all set up, the process for pasting in future text would be to eliminate the double paragraph returns and then apply your default formatting. HTH!

  17. Reply

    Hi Gwen, you´re posts are amazing, and the book “Scrivener for dummies”…I hope it arrives to my address very soon.
    I need your advice in something, is about the indents. How can I change the indent for the paragraphs from 0.50 to 0.25 inches, in the whole manuscript (project)? Mine is 178,000 words.
    I will appreciate your help in this. Thanks for your time.

  18. Reply

    I just started with Scrivener and I’m getting the distinct impression that it hasn’t yet managed to reconcile formats used for traditional publishing (MS Word) with formats used for ebooks (epub, mobi, HTML, etc.).

    While your advice here is absolutely right for .doc, .rtf, etc. files, it really doesn’t work for Scrivener’s output to those other markup formats at all. If you output to HTML/epub/etc., Scrivener does not parse a single-enter break as a paragraph break at all, just a line break. (And in HTML, the linebreaks don’t even get parsed; they’re treated the same as a space character or any other whitespace.)

    Near as I can tell, if you want Scrivener to output your paragraphs correctly into a digital publishing format, you NEED to use a double-enter for a paragraph break. I’m new at this and I could be wrong, but if there’s another way of doing it I’m not sure what it is.

    • Reply

      (Adding: I’m using the Linux beta, so of course some wonkiness is expected. But it doesn’t seem like the parser is something that would be different across platforms. Can anyone confirm/deny whether Windows and Mac versions have the same issue I’m referring to?)

    • Reply

      Thad: The reason it looks like that with ebooks is because the formatting is set up to have no after-paragraph spacing. I leave mine like that and add in first-line indents, but if you want more space between paragraphs, you can adjust it on the Formatting tab of the Compile window. Make sure you’ve selected the text row in the upper table, then click on the text in the editor below, choose the line spacing menu on the little format bar, and select More (or Other). That’ll give you a box where you can add after-paragraph spacing.

      • Reply

        Thanks; that helps. It’s still a problem for exporting to plain text or HTML, but it works okay for epub etc.

        I’m new to Scrivener and I expect I’m coming to it from a much different perspective than most people; my background is as a programmer and web developer, and I like being able to output documents as clean, easy-to-read plaintext, or HTML that you can easily pull up in a browser. It seems to me that Scrivener is really only suited for those formats if you DO add double line-breaks, which is unfortunate. Maybe I’ll go see if there’s already discussion on this topic over at the official forums.

  19. Reply

    Gwen, I’ve been searching for the issue I’m having when I import a Word manuscript into a new Scrivener project using the Import and Split. Many of the end dialog quotes are made into ”” instead of the curly quote (smart quote). Have you seen that before? I looked at the section in your book and in the user manual, but didn’t see it mentioned.

    Thank you.

    • Reply

      daniellelenedavis: Not sure why it’s happening, but you should be able to do a project replace (Edit–>Find–>Project Replace) from “” to “. Then, you can use Format–>Convert–>Quotes to Smart Quotes.

      If you are going to import a lot of Word documents, you might take a look at the Import converters in Scrivener–>Preferences (Mac) or Tools–>Options (Win). Hope that helps!

  20. Geoffrey Slocock


    Hi Gwen,

    As a previous poster noted when running the Linux version your windows workaround really messes ups. In fact , the first paragraph in every scene gets changed to a centred style of justification… yuk!

    What I have found as an alternative method is to go to an OpenOffice version and search for paragraph marks. This you must do by ticking the box for ‘regular expressions’ and inserting ‘$$’ (two successive paragraph marks). You can do a similar thing in MS Word.

    Geoff Slocock

    • Reply

      Thanks for sharing, Geoffrey. I have no experience with Scrivener running on Linux, so I appreciate you providing some alternatives for those users.

  21. David Ruekberg


    You should warn readers not to take step 6 lightly. THIS CHANGE CANNOT BE UNDONE.
    I write poetry, so hitting a hard return after every line is a necessity, and two for a stanza break. However, Scrivener was adding even more space during Compile. That’s what I wanted to remove. However, this method removed extra spaces for stanzas. I cannot get them back. I reverted to a backed-up version from the previous night, but apparently Scrivener does not make this change in the document itself, it makes it in some settings file somewhere, not in the backed-up project file.
    Now all of my poems lack stanza breaks.
    Any suggestions on how to do this? The current draft has about 100 pages in it.

    • Reply

      David: Scrivener does warn you, but it’s probably easy to miss what that means in the moment. I’ll add a warning here too.

      For future reference, if Scrivener is changing something when you compile, then the place to fix it is in the Compile window, especially the Formatting tab. Some compile formats add after paragraph spacing, first-line indents, and so on, but that can all be changed.

      A backup version (or copy or anything) should not be affected by changes you make in a later version. Paragraph returns are just non-printing characters, not some special setting. Have you tried any of your other backup files? If you don’t have the date/time added to the backup file name, Scrivener just rotates through #1-5 in order and then starts over, so backup 2 might be newer than backup 5, so it’s easy to get them confused unless you look at the date/time column in your Finder or File Explorer.

      Even if you can’t recover all of the poems you had, you might be able to get most of them in their previous format, and then you’d only have to add extra paragraph returns to the most recent ones. Good luck!

  22. Jennifer


    OMG thank you so much! I have become so frustrated with the automatic indents for new lines and now it’s solved!

  23. Jean


    Can this be used to remove the blank line at the end of documents? It doesn’t look like it, unfortunately.

    • Reply

      Hi, Jean. It wouldn’t remove all of the blank lines, only reduce them. If you have version 3, you can strip out the trailing space during compile, but it’ll still be in the documents when viewed in the Editor. That option is available in the Compile window under the Options button (looks like a gear) by selecting “Remove trailing whitespace from documents.”

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