How to Draw Boxes Around Inline Words and Paragraphs in Microsoft Word

Boxing up text helps separate or draw focus to important elements of your document. And while it’s convenient to use text boxes for supplemental information, such as a “Tip” or “Warning” box, text boxes aren’t ideal for regular text within your document. For that, you want an option that allows for editing and word-wrapping just like you’d expect from any other text effect like bold or underline. Thus, you’ll need to use borders to enclose selected text or paragraphs.

Text Borders

This section explains how to enclose words, phrases or sentences within a box without losing their inline capabilities. That means, the boxed text will still function exactly like unboxed text, including editing, word-wrapping, copying and deleting.

The only quirkiness with this option is that each horizontal line of text will be enclosed in separate boxes. That is, three lines of text will use three boxes, rather than one outline around all three lines. The below example will illustrate this effect. There doesn’t appear to be a way around this, unless you separate the text with paragraph returns, in which case you should use Paragraph Borders instead.

1. Select the text you want to box in.
In this example, I’m selecting a large amount of text that spans two paragraphs. When you select text that includes a paragraph return, Word defaults to Paragraph Borders, so we’ll need to change that later.

2. Select the Home tab, click the Borders arrow in the Paragraph group and choose Borders and Shading.

3. Select the Borders tab, click the Apply To drop-down arrow and choose Text.
The default when your selection includes a paragraph return, or if you don’t select anything, is to use Paragraph Borders. If, however, you only selected text within a single paragraph, the Text option will already be selected.

4. Select the kind of box you want in the Settings list, choose your Style, Color and border Width, and click OK.
Unlike Paragraph Borders that allows you to selectively toggle top, bottom, side and interior lines, Text Borders do not: It’s a full box or nothing at all. You’ll notice if you try to toggle individual lines in the Preview section, you’ll just be toggling the entire box on or off instead.

Notice how each line uses a separate box? It would be nice to have a single outline option, but I haven’t found a way to accomplish this with borders.


Paragraph Borders

Paragraph Borders allow boxing in individual paragraphs or groups of paragraphs. Basically, that includes anything that contains paragraph returns, which makes it ideal for bullet lists too.

Unlike Text Borders, Paragraph Borders allows you to toggle individual lines, so you can, for examples, use only top and bottom lines or choose to remove lines between selected paragraphs. This flexibility makes Paragraph Borders the go-to method for designing headings or inline graphics. It also lets you box in individual items on a bullet list or outline several of them.

1. Select the any text within one or more paragraphs. You needn’t be precise; simply placing your cursor in a paragraph is enough to select it, or you can drag across any text in more than one paragraph to select the entirety of each paragraph.
In this example, I’m using the same selection I did for the first Text Borders section.

2. Select the Home tab, click the Borders drop-down arrow in the Paragraph group and choose Borders and Shading.

3. Select the Borders tab, click the Apply To drop-down arrow and choose Paragraph.
Because my selection includes a paragraph mark, the Paragraph option is already selected by default.

4. Select the box Setting, Style, Color and line Width.
You have a lot of flexibility here with many different styles, colors and width options.

5. Toggle individual lines by clicking the side and bottom buttons in the Preview pane, then click OK.
You can see the effect as you make adjustments. Notice the middle button on the side? This is the one that will remove inside lines, i.e., the ones between multiple paragraphs or bullet points. Furthermore, if you want a little more space between the borders and the paragraph, click the Options button to specify distance between the text and borders.

The end result in the example looks like this. Notice the line between the paragraphs? That’s the line that disappears if you toggle that left-center button off.


Quick Borders

You don’t need to redesign your borders each time you want to reuse them. Using the quick option reapplies the same style border and allows you to toggle individual lines in paragraphs.

1. Select the text to which you want to reapply the border style.
Notice you can even select text within already bordered paragraphs.

2. Click the Border drop-down menu again and select the type of border you want.
The selected text will automatically adjust as you mouse-over an option to give you a preview. This method also allows you to toggle individual lines around selected paragraphs.

Alternatively, you can simply click the Border button to reuse the same border lines.
This is almost always the preferred method of reapplying text borders, since you can’t selectively add individual borders lines. Note, however, that the quick option uses the selection defaults, which means if you want to reapply the border style to text spanning multiple paragraphs, you’ll need to use the Text Borders method instead.

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