Double spacing in outgoing messages in MS Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013

Microsoft Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013 users often complain that the recipients to their e-mails say they contain double spaces between lines. This situation may happen in HTML formatted e-mails making the message look unclear and scruffy.

The reason is the way the new Outlook handles new line signs in HTML messages. It is generally accepted in word processors that the Enter key starts a new paragraph, while hitting Shift + Enter starts a new line of the text. The difference between starting a new paragraph and proceeding to the next line may seem subtle, still it is important and known for a long time. Spacing between paragraphs is usually bigger than spacing between regular text lines. In HTML <p> tag is used to start a new paragraph, whereas <br> tag to move one line down.

Unfortunately Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013 violates this rule and, from the perspective of a user writing a new message, there is no difference if they hit Enter, or Shift + Enter. The result is the same, the word processor behaves as if proceeding to the next line, whereas when we hit Enter the <p> marker is being inserted, which means the actual beginning of a new paragraph. However, when we hit Shift + Enter, the <br> tag is inserted, which means proceeding to the next line. Inserting the <p> tag and the <br> tag looks the same to the user, which is caused by the way Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013 CSS style sheet was developed.

Because there is no noticeable difference between inserting a new paragraph (see image below), and proceeding to a new line, users often hit Enter twice to get the effect of a new paragraph with spacing they are used to from other word processors, including Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, which is an integral part of Microsoft Office 2007, 2010, 2013. As a result the users insert double paragraphs to their e-mails, which means two <p> tag (<p><p>) instead of a single <p> tag, or hit Enter instead of Shift + Enter to go to the next line – as a result they insert the <p> tag instead of <br>.

Spaces in a MS Outlook 2007 e-mail message

The problem appears when a recipient uses a mail reader which doesn’t support complex CSS style sheets used by MS Outlook. And there is quite a number of such readers.

Personally, I have no clue what pushed the makers of Microsoft Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013 to the idea of treating a new paragraph, and proceeding to a new line, differently from other mail software makers, and differently from what is generally accepted and to which users are accustomed. What can Outlook users do to make their e-mails look the same on their and their recipients’ computers? There is a number of possibilities, and everyone can choose the most convenient one, though each of the solutions has some drawbacks.

The first solution is to always use Shift + Enter when proceeding to the next line or next paragraph. In order to proceed to a new paragraph, users will need to hit Shift + Enter twice. The drawback of this solution is that text formatting, such as indents or bullets, is based on paragraphs, and if we want to use this type of formatting, we will still have to create a new paragraph hitting Enter, because double-hitting Shift + Enter inserts two <br><br> tags instead of <p> tag, which in HTML stands for a paragraph.

If we want the Enter key to insert a new paragraph which will in fact have bigger spacing than a line space in a regular text, we can edit the Outlook style sheet used when composing a message. This is the second solution. The style sheet can be found in NormalEmail.dotm file in %appdata%\Microsoft\Templates. You need to open the file using Word and modify Normal style in such a way to achieve a 10 pts margin after each paragraph. To do this you should:

  1. Right-click Normal style on the ribbon and choose Modify from drop-down menu.
  2. In a dialogue screen click Format, and from drop-down menu choose Paragraph.
  3. In the window with formatting properties in Indents section in the field After type 10 pts.

After saving changes in NormalEmail.dotm file when composing a message in Outlook, when we hit Enter a new paragraph with a visible indent from the preceding paragraph will be created.

The third solution is to be a conscious user and be able to notice Outlook’s behavior with Enter and Shift + Enter keys, although the Outlook itself doesn’t show any difference between those two situations. If we want to insert a new paragraph, we should hit Enter. If we want only to proceed to the next line – hit Shift + Enter, and remember not to hit Enter twice if we want to make a new paragraph. This solution, however, has some obvious drawbacks. The message we created will look different in mail applications which can interpret MS Outlook CSS styles, and different in applications which can’t. The message will also be less readable in the first type of applications because of the lack of spacing between paragraphs.

It clearly shows from the presented ideas and solutions that the problems of spacing between paragraphs in MS Outlook can’t be completely solved. Unfortunately, it is a serious problem for some users. For the time being, however, they could apply one of the solutions presented in this article as a workaround of the MS Outlook inconvenience.

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UPDATE: Learn how to set a default email format with user-defined line spacing using a Visual Basic script

And a scriptless alternative: Press CTRL+0 (zero) before starting to write and email (or after highlighting its whole text). The keyboard shortcut resets paragraph spacing to single with 0pt before and after. See this Microsoft Word (the only email editor for Microsoft Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013) KB article for reference: support.microsoft.com/kb/290938

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20 thoughts on “Double spacing in outgoing messages in MS Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013


  1. Hello guys,

    My problem is this. All my inbox messages are double space if its in plain text format and since its plain format, i cannot do anything for the paragraph because there are no option or settings for it. If it is HTML well its ok you can do something about it in paragraph option.

    So here is what happened.

    You could try this option..
    I called a customer representative and advised me tons of information and it didnt work out until the last one..
    Search in google “how to reset option and registry setting in word”. You will be direted to many sights but choose the one with “support.microsoft”. Then scroll down and you will find two download button. Select depending on your OS. And after download click Run. And wiindows will run in automatically for you.. After that close it. And restart your computer. Once its done open your outlook again and will be single space.. It really feels good tha i solve this simple issue but really disturbing.
    The reason you will reset option for Word is because Outlook uses the Word for messages and they are linked..

  2. I kept changing the styles, but still had the issue of extra spaces. I finally went to %appdata%\Microsoft\Templates and found old temp files there. This was with Outlook closed. After deleting ~$rmalEmail.dotm, it worked the way I set it after that.

  3. Pawel – Have you encountered any instances where this issue has impacted Exchange 2013 Mailflow rules? We are seeing certain rules pass/fail based on whether enter or shift-enter is used within the email body. This (apparently) is impacting Exchange’s ability to identify embedded text strings in the email body.

  4. I am having the opposite problem with Outlook 2007! I’m just finding out that my emails are sometimes being received with no paragraph breaks at all. This is very embarrassing when I’m sending out long business emails. Can you help? Thanks!

  5. Since this is such a great explanation and since this page comes up so often when I search for a double space solution for Outlook, I wanted to paste a solution that solved the problem for me here. It is Cliff’s virtual basic script with directions and the link is http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/officeversion_other-outlook/outlook-double-spacing-problem/b3120ff6-e78e-4299-b483-aaf1a800516d?page=2
    Just look for his message on page 2. I tried every other solution suggested without success for my Outlook 2010, Win 7.
    Mary

  6. OK, seems the site omitted from my prior comments what was considered HTML code. When I wrote the feedback, to get to a new text line, I pressed Enter and Not Shift+Enter as the author states is generally accepted. So this site does not follow the generally accepted text editor / word processor “rule” either. Go figure. (note press of Enter to move down one text line below)

    Not saying MS is perfect (far from it these days), Just saying this website is also guilty but you didn’t notice it when you asked your questions / feedback!

  7. There is some good feedback and workarounds listed above, however, while MS may “change behavior”, it should be understood, (as is evident based upon the fact that this article was created and the questions), that the vast majority 95% of uses don’t know what the HTML / HTM / XML text format requirements are, how it’s formatted or even care or are even aware that it exists. MS has been trying to make a disjointed computer industry / specifications usable for the masses for decades.

    To me is seems that the later the MS office / Applications / OS versrion, the more confusion is created, however, this said, if something is confusing, illogical, unintuitive, stupid, etc. then provide feedback to MS and pound them on it!!!. MS functions on principle that if nobody complains (or not that many complain) then it must be good! If they receive feedback that something stinks and enough people complain, they WILL change it. So give MS feedback / complaints as they need it!!

    Lastly, but not least… Please note that in this response, I pressed to Carriage Return one text Line down and Did Not press as the author states is “generally accepted” which “Unfortunately Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013 violates this rule”. I therefore can safely conclude that this HTML site is also violating the “generally accepted” rule for text editors / processors as well to make it easier for users :-))

  8. Thanks so much Pawel – this is the best article I’ve seen regarding this issue, and by now I think I’ve read them all…

    You gave good description of the specific problem, plus a great list of REAL possible solutions, with all their dis/advantages – top stuff :)

    I was wondering: if clicking CTRL+0 when replying (either at the beginning or the end, after selecting all) solves the issue – is it possible to write a macro that will do it automatically with every send?

    I have no knowledge in dealing with such macros – only know they exist – do you have any idea regarding this?

    Thanks again

    yuda

    • Hi yuda,

      I’m not a macro expert, so I can’t give you any suggestions on the subject. Instead, I would recommend that you try editing the Normal.dotm and NormalEmail.dotm files to suit your needs. You can do this by modifying the Normal style defined in them (Word 2013: right-click the Normal style in the Styles sections of the Home ribbon and choose Modify). In the ensuing window there will be a Format dropdown menu activator where you can configure pretty much any aspect of the style.

      Please let me know if this helps.

      Best regards,
      Pawel

  9. I have tried for over an hour now to respace my signature in outlook using the ‘shift’ enter solution and the top 3 lines worked nicely and are now single spaced but the bottom details will not change from double spaced to single spaced – I have tried retyping from scratch, copying from email etc. etc… maddening – any solutions?

  10. Hi Gary,

    Thank you for the info.

    On my Windows 8.0 with Outlook 2013 set to compose in HTML the problem is still present, so maybe the 8.1 update contains some sort of fix for it? I don’t know how it would work though, since the issue seems to be related to Office. Have you tested sending emails to email clients different than Outlook?

    Best regards,
    Pawel

  11. 04/24/14: After struggling several hours, solution for my situation: use “HTML” as the “Composing Mode”
    Windows 8.1 with Outlook 2013 from having to switch from XP & Outlook Express
    I utilized “Rich Text” on XP/Express to get the special effects
    The double spacing issues occurred when I set “Rich Text” as the “composing” mode for Outlook outbound emails. It would also reset my signature to double spacing.
    Switching “Composing” to Plain Text stopped the double spacing, but no access to special effects
    In desperation, I tried “HTML”, which seems totally opposite to what this article advises: worked like magic: no double spacing, and all the effects of “Rich Text”

  12. I can’t believe this. I am not that computer savy and have just changed my emails to Outlook 2013. Things are double spaced when I reply and forward and I can’t seem to change this no matter what I try. Why is this? Obviously Microsoft is smarter than me so I’m assuming I’m doing something wrong?

    • Hi Sandy,

      Try applying the solutions from my article. Pressing CTRL+0 before editing emails probably requires the least work, but on the other hand, you have to remember about it every time you write an email.

      Best regards,
      Pawel

  13. Hi Michael,

    Sorry about the late reply. Have you tried modifying your Outlook “Normal” style sheet (NormalEmail.dotm) as per the article?

    Also, I’m being told that CTRL+0 when editing an email should have the same effect as checking “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style”. It seems to work in my case, but I’m unable to find documentation for this shortcut online.

  14. Yes, there is a permanent solution. Change the default format of your composed emails from HTML to Rich Text. You can find this in Outlook 2010 by clicking File, then Options, then Mail.

  15. Is there really no way to set as default for the enter key to simply drop a line not start a new paragraph? It’s massively frustrating, usually I CTRL-A > Paragraph > Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style. But if I forget to do this my emails come out looking ridiculous for the recipient.

    Even if I select Set As Default it won’t keep that setting. Driving me crazy!

    Great blog btw

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