Changing Space between the Footnote Separator and Footnotes

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 9, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


When Abdul adds a footnote to a document, the separator line and the first footnote's text appear too far apart from each other for his tastes. He wonders if there is a way to reduce the distance between the separator line and the first footnote's text.

The most likely culprit here is the formatting applied to your footnote separator. This separator appears on its own paragraph and can be formatted just like any other paragraph in your document. The separator isn't normally accessible, however, unless you go through these steps:

  1. Make sure you are viewing your document in Draft view. (Click on the Draft View icon on the status bar or click the Draft tool on the View tab of the ribbon.)
  2. Display the References tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click Show Notes.
  4. If you have both footnotes and endnotes defined in your document, Word displays the Show Notes dialog box. (See Figure 1.) If you don't have both defined, skip to step 7.
  5. Figure 1. The Show Notes dialog box.

  6. Click on the View Footnote Area radio button.
  7. Click on OK.
  8. Using the Footnotes drop-down list at the top of the Footnotes window, choose Footnote Separator. The current separator appears in the window, and the insertion point should be within the separator. (See Figure 2.)
  9. Figure 2. Using the drop-down list to choose what you want to see.

  10. Use Word's regular formatting tools to change the paragraph formatting. Pay particular attention to the Space After setting for the paragraph. You can also change the font size used for the separator, which—if the line spacing for the paragraph is set to Auto—will affect the amount of apparent space after the separator. Or, you can change the line spacing on paragraph to a smaller amount. (So many choices!)
  11. Click on Close (the small X at the upper-right corner of the footnote area).
  12. Switch your document view back to Print Layout.

While going through these steps, you may find it helpful to have non-printing characters displayed. That way you can see if there are, for some strange reason, extra spaces, tabs, or hard returns included in the footnote separator. (The easiest way to display non-printing characters is to display the Home tab of the ribbon and click the icon that looks like a backwards P—technically called a pilcrow—that appears in the Paragraph group.)

You should also be aware that if you have long footnotes in your document, it is possible for one to start at the bottom of one page and conclude at the bottom of the next page. In such a case you'll want to repeat the above steps, but in step 7 choose Footnote Continuation Separator and apply your formatting there, as well.

You should realize that the separator lines (indeed, all of the elements that appear in the drop-down displayed in step 7) use the Normal style, by default. If you use the Normal style in your document and change the formatting of that style—perhaps you add additional space after paragraphs that use the style—then the changes will be applied to the separator lines, as well. The only ways around this are to (1) not use the Normal style within your document body or (2) apply a different style to your separator lines.

If there is still too much space between the separator and the first footnote, it could be because of formatting applied to the footnote itself. Footnotes can be formatted just like regular paragraphs, but just like regular paragraphs you'll have the most flexibility and power if you format the style applied to footnotes. You'll want to look at the formatting of the Footnote Text style; it is what is applied to footnotes automatically. Decrease the Space Before setting and, if you want to make sure there is space between the actual footnotes, increase the Space After setting.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (2953) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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