Remove all Highlights in a Word Document

How to highlight, everyone knows. If you want to highlight repeatedly, double click on the highlight button. Now selecting any text automatically applies the highlight. How to search for highlighted areas is already covered. Now let us learn how to Remove all Highlights – in one stroke – requires just 30 seconds to do it. Learn the magic now!

Why Remove all Highlights from a document?

If you have taken the trouble to add highlights, why would you like to remove them? Well, there could be many reasons.

Simplest reason is that you received a document highlighted by someone else and you don’t want those anymore. You may have copy pasted some text from a document which already had highlighted areas…

You may want to forward a non-highlighted copy to someone.
Or you may want to enable track changes to get inputs from others. In this situation, highlights will visually interfere with track changes (although, both features can work together).

Remove all Highlights from a Word Document

Here is the sample document containing highlights. You can use your own, but make sure you make a copy of any document and work on the copy. That way, if something goes wrong, your original file is not disturbed.

Remove all Highlights - base text

Removing all Highlights is performed very easily using Find Replace. Press CTRL H (not CTRL F). In the Find what textbox – what do we type? We just want any highlighted text to be found. Therefore, keep the textbox empty. Click on the More button. Don’t resist.

Remember: More means “More Benefits” not “More Trouble”.

There are lot of options shown. Don’t get confused. Apply our simple method of elimination. Read each option and think – is this one likely to help me remove highlights formatting? If no – move to the next option. Till you find something useful.

You will soon realize that the Formatting button seems to be the only available choice. Open that dropdown and click Highlight

Select Highlight option            Search for Highlight

Now the Find what area shows Format: Highlight. So far so good. Now how to remove the highlight? At this stage if you choose Replace All, the entire text which has highlights will be removed. Dangerous. Press Ctrl Z to Undo this immediately.

There is one more step which is not very intuitive. We have to inform Word that we are searching for formatting and we want to replace only the formatting- without disturbing the text itself. Right now, the Replace with has no formatting specified.

Click inside the Replace with checkbox and again open the Formatting dropdown to choose Highlight.

Search and replace highlights

Unfortunately, this also does not work. Replace All will work but nothing will changed. Why? Because we searched for highlights and applied Highlights again. Therefore, there is no change visually.

What went wrong? We want to Remove all Highlights. Did we tell that to Word? No. We told Word to Replace with Highlight. That is NOT what we want.

We want to remove the highlight formatting. The solution is not obvious at this stage.

Click inside the Replace with textbox, click on Formatting again and choose Highlight again. Now the Replace with area shows No Highlight. This is what we want. In effect it will Remove all Formatting.

Now choose Replace All and your job is done!



This method works even if highlights of different colors are used. I do not know any method by which we can remove highlights of a particular color across the document (without programming). If you know the method, please share here as a comments post.

Simpler Method

Sorry. There is a simpler method. Ctrl A to select the entire document. Open the Highlight dropdown and choose No Color.

My friend Kamal Karnatak noticed this and commented about it. He is absolutely right. It is a very fast way to handle this problem.

Question is, if there was such a simple method, why did I write a long and complex way?

Because I wanted you to learn the power of the humble Find – Replace dialog. Now that you know how to handle highlights, you can apply this method to any combination of formatting options.


3 thoughts on “Remove all Highlights in a Word Document”

  1. Another way, which I use. Give your comment.

    CTRL + A, On the Home tab, in the Font group, click the arrow next to Text Highlight Color and select no color.

    1. Yes Sir. You are absolutely right. I showed the lengthy way to educate people about the way to use Find with formatting. It also has a double selection option which makes it No Highlight.
      This is a very quirky way to implement the feature. In Find, where there is a dialog, it shows both options, e.g., Bold/ Not Bold.
      But because the Highlight option is a dropdown item, there is now way to show the reverse setting.
      That is why this non-intuitive method is used as a workaround by Microsoft.
      I have already updated the article.

  2. Also, people generally use highlighter as a reminder to something to be taken care of afterwards. Replacing all might not help at such times as it doesn’t ensure that every highlighted item has served it’s purpose while your way will enable finding every highlighted item & review them respectively.

    Thanks for this super tip :-)

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