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Soft Return

Webopedia Staff
Last Updated May 24, 2021 7:55 am

The term return refers to moving to the beginning of the next line in a text document. Word processors utilize two types of returns: hard and soft. In both cases, the return consists of special codes inserted into the document to cause the display screen, printer, or other output deviceto advance to the next line.

The difference between the two types of returns is that soft returns are inserted automatically by the word processor as part of its word wrap capability. Whenever too little room remains on the current line for the next word, the word processor inserts a soft return. The position of soft returns automatically changes, however, if you change the length of a line by adding or deleting words, or if you change the margins.

A hard return, on the other hand, always stays in the same place unless you explicitly delete it. Whenever you press the Return or Enter key, the word processor inserts a hard return. Hard returns are used to create new paragraphs or to align items in a table.