I have set listchar in .vimrc as below:

set list  lcs=tab:→\ ,space:·,nbsp:␣,eol:¶

How can I display these characters →\ , · , , with red color? Here is my failed attempt:

hi! set list  lcs=tab:→\ ,space:·bsp:␣,eol:¶   ctermbg=red  guibg=red
  • 2
    :h hl-SpecialKey
    – Matt
    Jul 18, 2020 at 9:18

1 Answer 1


You need to do this in two steps. You got the first one right by setting list and listchars.

The problem comes when you apply the highlight: you cannot combine the commands the way you are trying to.

As Matt pointed in his comment, the highlight group responsible for listchars characters is SpecialKey.

" Enable
set list
set listchars=tab:→\ ,space:·,nbsp:␣,eol:¶

" Highlight
highlight SpecialKey ctermfg=blue ctermbg=red guifg=blue guibg=red

As you can see, I separated the settings in several lines and expanded them to their long name for more clarity, which is arguably more appropriate if you want to put these lines in a vimrc.

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