Adding a little marker to your comments in Microsoft Word

This is a trick I learned while participating in a document review meeting. Before the meeting each reviewer reads the document and adds comments. All the reviewers and the document author get together, and during the meeting, we go through each comment, discuss it, and come to a conclusion. The results are recorded at the end of the comment under headings like "DISCUSSION", "RECOMMEND", or "CONSIDER".

Bob Smith 2 hours ago
When should a developer use a Widget to solve a problem, and when should they use a Doodad? The choice is not clear.
→ DISCUSSION: Widgets are when there is a choice between two options. Doodads are when there is a decision that can have multiple answers.
→ RECOMMEND: Add guidance.

The meeting leader deftly entered the → character into the document without needing to pull down any menus. And this wasn't the big, bulky arrow you get when you do the -> autocorrect.

The meeting leader explained, "I just hit the TAB key. In a comment, it enters an arrow. I discovered this by accident many years ago. I have no idea if this is a bug or a feature, but it still works!"

Comments (14)
  1. anonymouscommenter says:

    Isn't that the "Tab" proofing/edit marker?

  2. anonymouscommenter says:

    Perhaps a bug originally, but preserved over the years as a "bug with seniority" as people grow to know and use it?

  3. anonymouscommenter says:

    This could also be combined with the reply-to-comment feature introduced in Word 2013, e.g. by putting DISCUSSION and RECOMMEND into the reply.

  4. anonymouscommenter says:

    "Show Whitespace" is your friend :-)

  5. anonymouscommenter says:

    It's still a tab; if you copy/paste the arrow out of the comment box into Notepad, you get a real tab in Notepad.

  6. anonymouscommenter says:

    I examined the character, and it is a plain U+0009: Character Tabulation (HT) (and, not, say, U+2192: RIGHTWARDS ARROW). Hence, for some reason, U+0009 is displayed as an arrow in comments. The same symbol is used for U+0009 when you display hidden formatting characters in the document.

  7. anonymouscommenter says:

    This would have been a better post to use the "one weird trick" line in than the touch keyboard one.

  8. anonymouscommenter says:


    You've been able to reply to comments since at least Word 2003 by selecting a comment and clicking the new comment button.  Is the Word 2013 version different in anyway?

    Word 2010 version:

    [It gets hard to navigate when the comment density gets too high, because Word starts collapsing comments and they become difficult to recover. -Raymond]
  9. anonymouscommenter says:

    As Andreas has already said, this is not a rightwards arrow (U+2192) but is just a tab (U+0009) being displayed as one. When I need real arrows, I just type yazirusi (meaning "arrow") in my Japanese IME and convert. It gives me all of the following to choose from: →⇒←⇔↑↓

  10. cheong00 says:

    @pmbAustin: Agreed. It could have been an unintentional rendering bug to display whitespace indicators in comments.

  11. anonymouscommenter says:

    Daniel: I tried it your way and the Word 2013 feature does seem to produce the same end result, only now there's an actual Reply option in the comment itself, so there's no need to use New Comment again. I don't recall commenting on comments before discovering this Reply option, so I wouldn't have used that old way.

  12. anonymouscommenter says:


    Comments are usually turned on with Change Tracking. Change Tracking shows (new) whitespace.

  13. anonymouscommenter says:

    This trick only works when viewing comments in ballons. The arrow won't be rendered when using the _Reviewing Pane_ or when viewing comments inline.

  14. anonymouscommenter says:

    I bet it was introduced for troubleshooting balloons, and remained there because of some manager who loves arrows for actions instead of bullet points.

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