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AtlanTips: Searching for blank paragraphs

Quite often blank paragraphs are used to add vertical spacing between text fragments. Adding a blank paragraph is very simple: you only need to press the Enter key.

But in a professionally designed document, blank paragraphs should be avoided. There are multiple reasons for this. For instance, most formatting in documents should be controlled through the paragraph styles. When you change a style's properties, this might affect the blank paragraphs. As a result, their height and the corresponding spacing between document fragments might change too. Another reason is that the spacing that you create with blank paragraphs in a middle of a page:

Spacing between text fragments

might look inappropriate if you make changes to the document so that the group of blank paragraphs appears spread over two pages:

Spacing between text fragments

It is much preferable to create spacing between paragraphs through the corresponding attributes of the paragraph format. When you want to add blank space before or after a paragraph, simply click that paragraph, and press Ctrl+Shift+G, or click the "Paragraph format" button of the "Paragraph" toolbar:

The 'Paragraph format' toolbar button

then adjust the "Spacing before" or "Spacing after" properties in the "Paragraph Format" dialog:

Spacing before/after paragraphs

When the "Special symbols" command of the "View" toolbar is checked:

The 'Special symbols' toolbar button

a blank paragraph displays only a pilcrow Pilcrow (paragraph end mark) symbol:

Paragraph end marks

Now you might wish to remove blank paragraphs from a document. This can be done with the Atlantis "Find / Replace". Here is how to proceed:

First, press Ctrl+Home in the active document to place the cursor at the beginning of the document.

Then press Ctrl+H to display the "Replace" tab of the "Find / Replace" dialog:

The 'Replace' tab of the 'Find / Replace' dialog

If the "More" button is displaying in the dialog:

The 'More' button

click it to access additional search options:

Additional search options

Make sure that the "Use wildcards" box is checked:

Use wildcards

Place the following pattern in the "Find what" box:


Search pattern

"<<" in the pattern above means "a paragraph start", and "^p" is a paragraph end mark.

Clicking "Find Next" will select the next blank paragraph (if any):

The 'Find next' button

If you leave the "Replace with" box blank:

The 'Replace with' box

you could click the "Replace" button to delete the currently selected blank paragraph:

The 'Replace' button

Clicking "Replace All" would replace all blank paragraphs in the document:

The 'Replace all' button

The document might contain a more complex flavor of blank paragraphs, i.e. paragraphs containing not only a paragraph end mark but also space characters or manual line breaks. For example, the paragraph selected on the picture below, contains an ordinary space character, a nonbreaking space, a tab character, and a line break:

Blank paragraphs

But if you uncheck the "Special symbols" button of the "View" toolbar, such a paragraph would still display as a blank space. So it can also be considered a blank paragraph.

To search for not only completely blank paragraphs but also for paragraphs containing space characters, tab characters, or manual line breaks, place the following pattern in the "Find what" box of the "Find / Replace" dialog:


"[^w^l]{0,}" means "0 or more instances of space characters, tab characters, or manual line breaks".

Finally, the following pattern can be used to find groups of 1 or more consecutive blank paragraphs:


For example, this pattern would match to the following group of "blank paragraphs":

A group of blank paragraphs