Messages are Double Spaced for the Recipient

Last reviewed on July 18, 2014

A frequent question in Outlook forums asks how to fix Outlook so that messages aren't double spaced for the recipient. This effect is caused by the HTML coding and is most frequent for recipients using a web-based email client, such as GMail. This is because of the way Outlook creates line breaks in HTML and how browsers or other clients interpret them. In some cases, the message is correctly spaced when received and only double spaced when replied to.

Note: This is not a problem new to Outlook 2007, it was also a problem with older versions when using Word as the editor. It is more noticeable because there is only one editor: Word, and it’s the reason there is a problem with spacing.

Cause | Solutions | Edit the Template

Cause

When you press Enter while creating HTML email, Outlook inserts a paragraph tag (<p>), so two Enters (for white space between the paragraphs) inserts two <p> tags, which is double spaced when rendered in a browser. If you use Shift+Enter twice, which creates the line break tag (<br>), the message will not look double spaced in a browser. This will look ok in all mail clients.

examples of paragraphs

To see if you are using the <p> or <br> tag when composing messages, press Ctrl+Shift+8 to toggle marks off and on.

Solutions

You have 7 options:

  1. Use the +Body style and set the paragraph spacing on the Format Text ribbon > Change Styles > Paragraph Spacing command. Set as Default after changing the spacing.
  2. Use plain text for messages. Plain text will look ok in any and every email client available.
  3. Press Enter once, not twice, when composing HTML formatted email.
  4. Press Shift+Enter twice at the end of a paragraph, rather than pressing Enter twice.
  5. Just ignore it as an inconstancy in the way various applications handle HTML.
  6. Edit the email template to add '12 points after' in the Normal style.
  7. Use Search and Replace to replace paragraph symbols (^p) with a manual line break(^l)

Eighth option from Dave: Use AutoHotKey and this script.

My preference is to ignore it in messages – email is an imperfect medium and most people are used to inconsistencies such as this. I’m more concerned about the content of the messages I receive, not with how they look. (Newsletters and other bulk mail should be sent using a bulk mail application, not Outlook, and would not be affected by this.)

I often use Shift+Enter when I compose messages for my newsletters or edit the p style in my CSS to add 12 points bottom margin (margin-bottom:12.0pt;).

Change the paragraph spacing

There are two ways to change the paragraph spacing: by change the Normal style or changing email defaults. I recommend changing the email default settings but either method works.

Change the default Body setting:

  1. Create a new Email Message, put your cursor in the body area
  2. Switch to Format Text tab
  3. Expand Change Styles button
  4. Select Paragraph Spacing command and select No spacing.
  5. Change Styles

  6. Expand the Change Styles button again and choose Set as Default

Change the Normal style:

  1. Create a new Email Message, put your cursor in the body area
  2. Switch to Format Text tab
  3. Right-click on the “Normal” Style
  4. Click Modify
  5. Click Format (in the bottom left)
  6. Click Paragraph
  7. On the Indents and Spacing Tab, in the Spacing section, turn ON Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style. Line spacing should be set to single and 0.
  8. Change spacing

  9. Click OK once
  10. While still in the Modify Style window, click the radio button for “New documents based on this template” (near the bottom left)
  11. Click OK and return to Outlook.
  12. Close the message without sending.

Use Search & Replace

This suggestion comes from Jim: Do a "replace all" on "caret p" with "caret l".

This works best when the message contains only plain paragraphs – bulleted or numbered lists and other formatting require paragraphs, not line breaks.

Use Search and Replace to replace the paragraph with a manual line break.

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open the search and replace dialog
  2. Type ^p in the Find field
  3. Type ^l in the Replace field (that's lower case L)
  4. Replace all (Use Replace and Find Next if using formatting that requires paragraphs)

If you press Ctrl+Shift+8 to show formatting marks, you'll see the paragraph marks ( ¶ ) are replaced with manual line breaks ( 8 ). Press Ctrl+Shift+8 to toggle the marks off.

Edit the Template

In Outlook 2007:

Close Outlook. (If you get a message that the template is read only, Outlook is not closed.) Locate NormalEmail.dotm and open it for editing. You'll find it in the templates folder at C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates (Vista), To easily access this folder in Windows XP or Vista, paste

%appdata%\Microsoft\Templates\

in the Start search dialog (Vista) or the address bar of Windows Explorer.

  1. Right click on NormalEmail.dotm and choose Open. This will open the template in Word as a template.
  2. Right click on the Normal style button in the ribbon and chose Modify.
  3. Click Format in the lower left and choose Paragraph.
  4. In the Spacing section, change the After value to 12 points.
  5. Save and close the template.

Now when you write a new message you'll press enter once and have white space when recipients read the message in any client or web browser. Replies will use the style sheet of the original message.

User Submitted Solutions

These solutions were made by other users:

Dump the stationery, or at least try a different stationery. This is not an cure-all, and changing the style settings of the preferred stationery should have the same effect for default stationery. To change the style setting, click the Change Styles button on the Format Text tab then change the Paragraph spacing, then set it as default.

Another user discovered using RTF message format also eliminates double spacing. I really don’t recommend using RTF formatting, even if you do set Outlook to always convert RTF to HTML for Internet addresses, but if double spacing really bothers someone its worth a try.

Written by

Diane Poremsky
A Microsoft Outlook Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 1999, Diane is the author of several books, including Outlook 2013 Absolute Beginners Book. She also created video training CDs and online training classes for Microsoft Outlook. You can find her helping people online in Outlook Forums as well as in the Microsoft Answers and TechNet forums.

Please post long or more complicated questions at Outlookforums.

54 responses to “Messages are Double Spaced for the Recipient”

  1. AudKnits

    Great explanation. I've been wondering about this for years! Thank you for posting.

  2. Northbanker

    I only got this unintended double-spacing problem when replying to emails, not when sending new ones.

    So on comparing the formats of each (under Format, Paragraph, Indents & Spacing) I found the difference: Spacing Before/After!

    New messages were set to 0 (zero) and replies were set to "Auto".

    In a Reply message, I simply changed Spacing Before/After from Auto to 0, then clicked "Set as Default". Et Voila! My unwanted double-spacing seems gone, gone, gone.

    Not sure if there are any lurking downsides to me having done this, but I'll take the chance. :)

    Thanks again Di for getting me to look in the place where the problem/solution turned out to be!

    1. Northbanker

      Well, I spoke a bit too soon. :( It turns out that I am in fact getting the double-spacing problem on new emails, but it's a little bit subtle.

      (Note: I still have the settings prevously mentioned as Before/After = 0 pt, and that clearly does NOT fix the problem)

      I send a message with single spacing between paragraphs. (I hit Enter twice) And in Outlook Sent Items it looks fine. The message was sent to my Gmail where it looks fine (single spacing).

      But the problem begins to show when Gmail sends a reply back to my original email. When it comes back to my Outlook it is now double spaced!

      I am really baffled by this. Is Outlook doing some weird non-standard HTML coding?

  3. Northbanker

    Still have the problem and it's driving me nuts. Every reply I get from a Gmail user has my text triple spaced... very unprofessional looking!

    I've looked all over the place, changed various settings, especially within "Normal" and "No Spacing" styles. (e.g. "Don't add space between paragraphs...") No luck.

    As you suggested (I think), I looked at "Change Styles, Paragraph Spacing" and it says "No Paragraph Space".

    It feels like a styles/template problem and yet I can't seem to nail the cause.

    No way I can hit Shift-Enter instead of Enter, after 30+ yrs! And I'd rather not run some keystroke remapping script to do this for me.

    There's gotta be a fix within OL'10 settings. (OL'03 didn't have this problem)

  4. Northbanker

    I finally FIXED IT!!! ...with a workaround... changed the Compose Messages format to RICH TEXT.

    Et Voila! No more extra line spacing from OL'10. Yippee!

    I just needed to take a look at my old computer's OL'03, to be reminded that it used Rich Text.

    I should be all set now. That is, as long as Microsoft, in it's infinite wisdom, doesn't eliminate the RIch Text format option in future builds of Outlook. (hope they're listening)

  5. Northbanker

    Rich Text seems to work fine, owing to the crucial Message Format option:

    Message Format, When sending messages in Rich Text format to Internet recipients: Convert to HTML.

    My observation is that this auto-conversion of Rich Text to HTML doesn't produce the problem with extra line spacing, so in this sense Rich Text works better than using HTML format in the first place.

    Sorry I forgot to mention this in my last post.

  6. R. Pete

    Northbanker- THANK YOU!! I tried your suggestion and changed Compose Messages to Rich Text but kept the Message Format the same - Convert to HTML. Finally, after long last, we no longer have spacing issues with outside email - even with yahoo and gmail recipients. As a bonus, we can continue to use an HTML-based business card we attach to our signatures.

    Simple and effective fix for something that was annoying the heck out out of many people at my office! Thanks again!!

  7. Rick Ryb

    We had the same problem when replying to some emails. It appears this happens when the sender is using a background. I had the offending party set the background to and the problem has gone away.

  8. Amanda P

    I have tried the Rich Text option and the spacing is still present in my emails. My system is making me manually change every email I send out. How can I *permanently* change the spacing options in my emails from Before - auto / After - auto to Zero??? It was like this until 2 weeks ago - suddenly something has changed - and i cannot figure out how to get it back!

  9. Fiona Kingham

    Thanks so much for posting the solution to this problem. I can't believe, I've been pulling my hair out about this for weeks. Thanks again.
    Fiona.

  10. Mary Ellen

    As an MVP, saying "My preference is to ignore it in messages – email is an imperfect medium and most people are used to inconstancies such as this. I'm more concerned that I can read messages I recieve, not with how they look" is not acceptable. It may be OK for you, but not for most of us. Hence, the multiple comments above.

    To a business, a professional appearance is crucial. Businesses and their personnel are judged not just on content, but on the appearance and quality of their communication.

    I have received multiple complaints on double-line spacing in my replies. Many of my contacts are using PDAs and smartphones for email, and it wastes valuable space on their screen displays. I have changed formatting to HTML, rich text, ect, and still when contacts reply to me, I am seeing double line breaks.

    This Outlook upgrade has been one of the most frustrating programs I have had to work with.

  11. Shachi

    Thanks for the NormalEmail.dotm solution! :)

  12. Dave

    http://www.fix-outlook-line-breaks.com/

    This page describes how to automatically have your 'enter' substituted with 'shift-enter', which fixes the problem nicely.

  13. Chad Pickle

    When modifying NormalEmail, you have to select the radio button "New documents based on this template" in order for the settings to default. This fixed the problem for me. That was really annoying!!

  14. Navy

    Hi there,

    I'm experiencing this boring problem since a couple of days ( note that it's a new issue that I never had before and I'm using the same Outlook installed version for about 4 years )
    As a last option I deleted the NormalEmail.dotm file
    It seems it solved the issue, most probably something corrupted into the file ?
    At least it's now using the standard default options from the Normal of Word

    Hope that helps :)

  15. scott

    I got so annoyed with this I wrote a VB macro that will change your paragraph spacing before and after to 0. This is my first VB script, so don't get too critical, but suggestions for improvement are welcome.

    I found that the shift-enter trick caused problems with bulleted lists. The only thing I've noticed so far is that if you insert a bulleted list, the spacing after is a bit goofy. I just re-run the macro and it cleans it right back up. Much easier than going into Paragraph settings and setting Before and After to 0.

    Sub SetParagraphSpacingToZero()

    Dim myOLApp As Outlook.Application
    Set myOLApp = CreateObject("Outlook.Application")

    Dim myInspector As Outlook.Inspector
    Set myInspector = myOLApp.ActiveInspector

    If Not TypeName(myInspector) = "Nothing" Then

    If (myInspector.IsWordMail And myInspector.EditorType = olEditorWord) Then

    Dim myWordEditor As Object
    Set myWordEditor = myInspector.WordEditor

    myWordEditor.Paragraphs.SpaceBefore = 0
    myWordEditor.Paragraphs.SpaceBeforeAuto = 0
    myWordEditor.Paragraphs.SpaceAfter = 0
    myWordEditor.Paragraphs.SpaceAfterAuto = 0

    End If

    End If

    End Sub

  16. Revathy

    thanks a ton

  17. Ken

    I thought that editing NormalEmail.dotm and checking the box "Don't add space between paragraphs of the same style" might help, but when I save the template, then compose an HTML email, the change does not "stick" (i.e. the checkbox remains unchecked in the Paragraph settings) which seems strange.

  18. Eric Kyllingmark

    I agree with Mary Ellen. For a worldwide adopted product such as Outlook 2010 to not correctly interpret line spacing and be told that email is "imperfect" and we just need to accept the way things are is ridiculous. This is a FAIL. When I select "single space" in the paragraph dialog box, that is what I should get - no excuses. If the people on this forum can figure out how to do it, so can you Microsoft.

  19. selene

    This does not work in Outlook 2013. All settings are set as 0 spacing, etc, but if I view format symbols (Ctrl Shift 8), each "Enter" still inserts a . Any fix for 2013?

  20. selene

    Thanks, yes the screenshot is helpful, but I have been choosing "No Paragraph Space". But as you can see, that still inserts the after each line which still makes the email appear double spaced to recipients. The spacing has always looked "fine" to me in that it is single spaced, but when I toggle on the format symbols I can see that it is not any different. It is just different how it appears to ME.

    I was under the impression that changing the style to no spacing would fix this? But maybe not?

  21. Greg

    My old Dell laptop with XP and Outlook Express bit the dust and I'm using a new laptop with Win 7 and Outlook 2013.
    I had everything set up nicely with OE. I sent out itineraries and this double spacing really messes things up.
    I want my OE back! It was SO much easier to navigate as well.

  22. Greg

    Thank you. Live Essential just worked, no double spacing.

  23. Greg

    Well I spoke too soon. I have to copy and paste between emails a lot and when I copy text from either live essentials (or from gmail) and paste into an email I'm already in the process of composing in live essentials, the pasted text loses its indentation. All lines are justified to the left of the screen.
    So now I'm using OE in virtual XP mode on my Win 7 professional, and it just works, but virtual mode is slowing me down.
    Why does Microsoft mess up something so basic?

  24. Greg

    I stopped using Live Essentials for the moment, but have had some success with Outlook 2013.
    My issue with Outlook 2013 was that itineraries composed in rich text were being received double spaced. There is an Outlook setting that corrects this by going to FILE > OPTIONS > MAIL > (scroll down to) MESSAGE FORMAT and change where it says "When sending in Rich Text format to Internet recipients" from the default "Convert to HTML format" to "Send in Outlook Rich Text Format". The messages are then received in Outlook single spaced in Rich Text, rather than double spaced in HTML format.
    .
    My emails go through gmail's servers. When I view them online, Gmail displays the message in New Courier double spaced if sent from Outlook using the default "Convert to HTML format", and displays the message in Arial single spaced if sent from Outlook using send in "Rich Text Format".

  25. meowbie

    Dave, thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been annoyed by this issue for years. The AHK script finally creates a clean solution (of sorts) to this frustration.

    I have to agree with a couple of other people here that Diane's opening comment that the "email is an imperfect medium" has also irritated me over the years, each time I have come here. Aesthetics matter.

  26. meowbie

    Just thinking aloud here in reply to my own message: it should be a fairly simple matter to create a VBA script to do the line-ending conversion, instead of the external AHK solution? This would once and for all create a transparent, native solution.

  27. meowbie

    That would be fantastic, Diane! I was thinking of it initially as a search/replace. But does Outlook VBA support keystroke interception? If it did, it would be even cooler to do the substitution on the fly.

  28. meowbie

    Actually, I've changed my mind :P A simple search/replace triggered by the Send process would be sufficient, and probably more desirable too since it would fix all quoted text too.

  29. vivek

    This seems to happen when I reply or forward for email which I receive from iPhone. Normal emails when I reply I don't see this issue, please help

  30. Joey

    So I have tried a lot of different things and foudn that the replace all option is the best. However, I would like to have this run automatically on sent emails. It doesnt look like you can set a rule for this to happen and I am not knowledgable enough to setup a script to perform this. Anyone have any ideas on how I could automate this?

    Also, I notice when doing a full replace all of the '^p' it strips out the lines sperating the emails in a conversation chain. Any insight would be appreciated :)

  31. Samuel Grier

    I work in IT support. I have a customer that cannot open a .pdf attachment in outlook 2007 without the attachment displaying lines of grayed-out, unwanted text thats displaying in between the actual sentence lines of the document. How do I resolve this. The document was edited. but, how do I keep the issue from reoccurring?

  32. Jay

    Diane

    Thanks for the useful post. My e-mails appear double spaced for recipient (who uses gmail) and couldn't be solved by the above (problem is that others create docs in Word, I or others review through track changes, and edited in Word and then copied and pasted into Outlook 2007).

    I was trying to get everyone to change the default template in Word, but sometimes the original file originates from outside the office and nothing seemed to work.

    After reading this post I googled, then found, and then altered someone's VBA script as per below:

    --

    Sub ReplaceMLBwithPM()
    Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
    Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
    With Selection.Find
    .Text = "^p"
    .Replacement.Text = "^l"
    .Forward = True
    .Wrap = wdFindContinue
    .Format = False
    .MatchCase = False
    .MatchWholeWord = False
    .MatchByte = False
    .MatchAllWordForms = False
    .MatchSoundsLike = False
    .MatchWildcards = False
    .MatchFuzzy = False
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
    End Sub

    --

    Then I assigned the keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+Alt+P - see http://office.microsoft.com/en-001/word-help/record-or-run-a-macro-HA010099769.aspx (FN1)- which means if you Ctrl + A (Select All) then Ctrl+Alt+P you have converted all the paragraph tags to manual line breaks in a matter of seconds. Not the perfect solution, but fairly painless I couldn't have it done it without this page though as was totally lost.

  33. Joe K

    The issue that I am having is that some replies start with "Multiple Line Spacing" at 1.15 with 10 points after. I have changed the spacing to single and 0 points before and after, checked the "Don't add space between paragraphs of the same style" then set as default for all documents based on the NormalEmail template. I have also set the text format to Rich Text under the File: Options: Mail: Compose Messages in this Format. Certain replies still start with the multiple spacing and 10 points after. I can change it in the reply to single spacing but it is incredibly annoying to have to do it each time. The default settings don't change but the reply still starts with the spacing enabled. They style is also different on the replies that have the extra spacing. I use the Normal style exclusively, and again I can modify it and set it to use the same for new documents based on this template. The troublesome replies start with the default style however the font, font size, and spacing are all goobered up.

    If anyone has a solution or any ideas I would appreciate them, while this is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things it is getting VERY IRRITATING!!!!

  34. Boyd Murray

    The only one of the solutions discussed above which worked for me was: Do a "replace all" on "caret p" with "caret l".

    I tried automating this with: Outlook 2010> Open Email > Click in Body > File > Options > Spelling & Autocorrect > Autocorrect Options > Replace ^p with ^l. This didn’t work - ^l was just interpreted as the 2 characters “^” and “p”. I also tried entering Alt-codes but that didn’t work either.

    Does anyone have any suggestions as to how replacing "caret p" with "caret l" can be done automatically?

  35. Boyd Murray

    Thanks Diane! What is the general method for doing a macro? Ideally, I would like the macro to run whenever I hit the email 'Send' button.

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