How to Show Invisibles & Formatting Marks in Google Docs: A Guide

To show invisibles and formatting marks in Google Docs, click on ‘View’ in the top menu, and then select ‘Show ruler’ to see the margins and tab stops, and ‘Show section breaks’ to see where sections begin and end. This makes it easier to format and edit your document.

After completing this action, you’ll be able to see hidden formatting marks like spaces, tabs, and paragraph breaks. This can be incredibly helpful when you’re trying to align text, create consistent spacing, or troubleshoot formatting issues.


Google Docs, the cloud-based word processor, is incredibly popular among students, professionals, and anyone in between who needs to draft up a document. It’s straightforward, accessible anywhere with an internet connection, and best of all, it’s free. But as with any word processing software, sometimes what you see on the screen doesn’t quite translate to the printed page. This is where the ability to show invisibles and formatting marks in Google Docs becomes essential.

Formatting marks are the little dots, arrows, and symbols that represent spaces, tabs, and line breaks in your document. They’re like the skeleton of your document’s structure, and while they’re not typically visible, they can be incredibly helpful for fine-tuning the layout and ensuring consistency throughout your work. Whether you’re a student formatting an essay or a professional creating a report, knowing how to show these marks can save you a lot of headaches.

Step by Step Tutorial on Showing Invisibles & Formatting Marks in Google Docs

Before diving into the specifics, it’s important to understand what we’re trying to accomplish here. Showing invisibles and formatting marks can help you fine-tune the layout of your document. It’s like turning on the lights to see the framework of your construction – suddenly, everything becomes clear, and you can make adjustments with precision.

Step 1: Open your Google Doc

Open the Google Doc you want to edit.

This initial step is as simple as it sounds. Just like opening a book to the first page, you’re starting at the beginning by opening up your document.

Step 2: Click on the ‘View’ tab

Click on ‘View’ in the top menu of Google Docs.

In this step, you’re looking for the ‘View’ tab, which is located at the top of your screen in the main menu bar. Think of it as the command center for changing how you view your document.

Step 3: Select ‘Show ruler’

Select ‘Show ruler’ from the dropdown menu to see document margins and tab stops.

By selecting ‘Show ruler’, you’re adding a visual guide to your document that shows you the boundaries of your page. This can help you align text and images, ensuring that everything is where it should be.

Step 4: Select ‘Show section breaks’

Choose ‘Show section breaks’ to see where each section starts and ends.

This step is particularly useful if you have a longer document with multiple sections. It’s like having markers along a trail – they show you where one section ends and another begins, which can be crucial for organization and navigation.


Easier formattingBy showing invisibles and formatting marks, aligning text and adjusting spacing becomes simpler, as you can see exactly where each formatting mark is located.
Troubleshooting document issuesWhen something doesn’t look right in your document, these marks can help you identify the problem quickly. For example, if there’s an unexpected space or a line break, you can find and fix it because these marks make it visible.
Consistent document layoutEnsuring that your document has a consistent layout is easier when you can see all the formatting marks. This means fewer surprises when you print or share your document, and a more professional overall appearance.


Can clutter the document viewIf you’re not used to working with formatting marks visible, it can make your document look cluttered and be distracting.
Not necessary for simple documentsFor straightforward, text-only documents, you might not need to see these marks, and having them visible could be more of a hindrance than a help.
Potential for over-relianceRelying too much on these marks can be a crutch that prevents you from learning to format your documents by eye, which is a valuable skill to have.

Additional Information

Now that you’re familiar with the basics of showing invisibles and formatting marks in Google Docs, let’s delve into some additional insight that might further enhance your experience. First off, it’s important to note that while these marks can be incredibly helpful, they might not be necessary for every document you create. The key is to use them when they’ll be most beneficial – like when you’re dealing with complex formatting or troubleshooting a stubborn layout issue.

Another tip is to use these marks in conjunction with other Google Docs tools. For instance, the ‘Clear formatting’ feature can be a lifesaver when you’re trying to reset the formatting in a particular section of your document. By clearing the formatting and then using the invisibles and formatting marks to guide you, you can ensure that your document maintains a clean and consistent look.

Lastly, remember to turn off the visibility of these marks when you’re done editing. Just as you wouldn’t leave the scaffolding up after building a house, you don’t need these marks cluttering your document once you’ve perfected the layout. Plus, if you’re sharing the document with others, it’s more professional to present a clean, mark-free document.


  1. Open your Google Doc
  2. Click on the ‘View’ tab
  3. Select ‘Show ruler’
  4. Select ‘Show section breaks’

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I hide the formatting marks once I’ve turned them on?

To hide the formatting marks, simply follow the same steps and deselect ‘Show ruler’ and ‘Show section breaks’ from the ‘View’ tab.

Will showing formatting marks change the way my document prints?

No, formatting marks are only visible on-screen and will not affect how your document prints.

Can I show formatting marks in Google Docs on mobile?

Currently, this feature is not available on the mobile version of Google Docs.

Do formatting marks affect the word count in Google Docs?

Formatting marks do not contribute to the word count; they are merely visual aids for editing purposes.

Can I customize which formatting marks are visible in Google Docs?

No, at this time, Google Docs does not offer the option to customize which formatting marks are displayed.


Knowing how to show invisibles and formatting marks in Google Docs is a game-changer for anyone who wants to have greater control over their document’s layout and formatting. It’s an essential skill for students, professionals, and casual users alike, and can make the difference between a good document and a great one.

So the next time you find yourself wrestling with an unruly document, remember these steps and take advantage of the clarity that formatting marks can provide.