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You’ve seen printed documents with sections of text that had been highlighted with a marker in yellow or some color. You can highlight text in MS Word documents without printing them out and using a marker. Keep reading to find out how.

How to highlight text in MS Word

We’ll look at two types of highlighting. The first is highlighting one or more words alone or within a sentence.

Highlight one or more words in Word

examples of highlighting using the highlight feature in microsoft word

Examples of highlighting done using the highlight feature in Microsoft Word

To highlight text in Microsoft Word, select the text you wish to highlight. Then:

  • Open the Home tab of the ribbon.
  • In the first section of the Home tab you’ll see the Paste section. The next section to the right is the text section where you can change fonts, font sizes, and more. In this section look for a small icon on the bottom row that looks like a tiny marker above a colored line.
  • Click that marker icon to open a panel of colors you can select to highlight your text.
  • Choose a color.
highlight text button in microsoft word

The text highlight button in Microsoft Word

You should now see your text highlighted with the color you chose. Word is actually placing a colored background behind those words that you selected. The remainder of the sentence will not be highlighted.

NOTE: If you have your computer set to dark mode, you may have white text on a dark background. In this case, some highlight colors may be barely visible or not at all against the dark background. However, if you print the page or view it in light mode with a white background, you will see that the highlight is indeed there.

Highlight an entire paragraph in Microsoft Word

You can easily highlight an entire paragraph or more in MS Word using the previously mentioned method of selecting all of the words in the section you wish to highlight, then using the highlight button.

Highlight words, sentences, or paragraphs in MS Word using Shading

use shading to highlight text in MS Word

Examples using the Shading feature to highlight text in Microsoft Word

The second type of highlighting we’ll learn allows us to highlight the full width of the entire paragraph block.

Word provides another method of highlighting single words, entire sentences, and paragraphs, but it calls it shading. Here are some differences between highlighting and shading.

  • More colors are available with shading than when you use the highlight button in the Home tab.
  • Shading allows you to highlight words with a patterned color. Basic highlighting allows colors only.
  • Highlighting all of the text using the select and highlight method mentioned previously highlights only the text and the blanks between words. It does not highlight the entire margin to margin block that shading provides.
  • Shading can be used to place a color background behind an entire paragraph from left margin to right margin even if it is a one word sentence. If your document or design called for it, you could have two or three words centered with a rectangle shaped background from left margin to right margin.

You’ll find the Shade function hidden away under the Design tab. With the Design tab open, look all the way to the right for a button/icon labeled Page Borders. If you mouse over that button, the tooltip will say Borders and Shading.

shading in microsoft word

The shading control in Microsoft Word

To shade specific words:

  • Select the text.
  • Under the Design tab, click the button labeled Page Borders on the right end of the ribbon.
  • From the box that opens, select the Shading tab.
  • On the left side, click inside the box below the Fill label.
  • Choose your shade (highlight) color. If you don’t see exactly the color you need, select the More Colors… button below the current color choices. From there you can find practically any color you could wish for.
  • On the right side, you should see a square with your selected words in it. Below that square, click in the box to choose Text or Paragraph.
  • To highlight only the text you’ve selected, choose Text. To highlight the entire paragraph block which extends from the left margin beyond the last word to the right margin, choose Paragraph.

I’ve included photos of a Microsoft Word document that illustrates the use of the different highlighting and shading uses that I’ve discussed in this article.

I consider the Word’s shading function to be more useful than the highlighting function if you need any more than the most basic highlighting—select a word and highlight it with one of fifteen colors.

With a little forethought, the shading function can be quite useful in laying out a document with accented sentences, creating signs, or designing pamphlets.

You can find more tips for using Microsoft Word here.

You’ll find video tips for using Microsoft 365 here.