Section Breaks Changing On Their Own

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 18, 2015)


Pete is currently generating a large document (approximately 540 pages) that utilizes both portrait and landscape page orientations. There are many, many section breaks in the document, since this is necessary which switching between page orientations. Lately when he inserts a "Next Page" section break the previous section break, which was also "Next Page," automatically changes to "Continuous." Pete wonders if there is a reason why this happens and, perhaps, if there is a limit on the number of "Next Page" section breaks there can be in a document.

According to Microsoft sources, there is no limit on the number of section breaks in a document. The problem, more than likely, is that Word is trying to "second guess" what type of section breaks you want. In that case, there really is no solution, other than to double-check section break settings after adding new breaks. If you are only using "Next Page" section breaks in your document, then you can select the entire document and apply the section settings to all sections at once.

It could be, however, that your document is large enough and complex enough that it has become, in some fashion, unstable. This is not entirely uncommon with complex Word documents and it can be even more common if you are working with Track Changes or have lots of graphics or tables. If you suspect this is the case, then save the document using Save As to see if it clears matters up. If it doesn't, transfer everything in the troublesome document (except the very last end-of-paragraph mark) to a new document and then save that new document.

Finally, if you have a very complex document and nothing else seems to work, consider breaking your document into smaller documents—perhaps about 100 to 150 pages each.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (5939) applies to Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010.

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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Comments for this tip:

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What is 9 - 7?

2017-02-13 08:57:16


Rick G,

I just can't believe you were so helpful to make a macro to me. Many many thanks!

I tried it and it worked like a charm!

In contract documents I only need one section break to make the last page's footer different so the side effect you mentioned doesn't take any effect.

I'm really appreciated your efforts, on other hand I'm really envious of your knowledge. :)

Now I will create this macro to my colleagues' laptops in exchange for a few beers :)

Best, Balint

2017-02-10 10:22:40

Rick G.

Further testing reveled that, if you already have a continuous section break in the doc, my macro has the undesired side effect of replacing all of your footers with the footer on the last page. Word makes it a pain to fix that problem and I don't have time right now to make the macro handle that. Sorry. You can still use the macro if you have an easy way to replace the original footer after the macro runs, but I wanted to warn you about the problem.

(To handle the problem, the following change to the macro might work:
If it finds a section break, it should go to the last footer, make it the same as previous, then go back to the break it found and delete it, etc.
It would be nice if, at the end, it went to the footer on the last page and unlinked it from the previous footer for you.)

2017-02-10 09:51:40

Rick G.

Oops. My previous comment should say
Normal.dotm instead of

2017-02-10 09:48:47

Rick G.

Word allows you to easily have a special first page footer, but unfortunately, not a special last page footer. If you don't know how to add macros to your Normal.docm then try googling it.
If you can successfully add the following macro, you can add a QAT button for it and easily run it before you print or save your docs. It will make sure your section break is on the page before the last page of your doc.
Good luck.

Dim Add_Break_TF As Boolean

Selection.HomeKey Unit:=wdStory
With Selection.Find
.Text = "^b"
.Replacement.Text = ""
.Forward = True
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = False
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = False
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
End With
If Selection.Find.Found Then ' Break found
If Selection.Information(wdActiveEndPageNumber) <> _
Selection.Information(wdNumberOfPagesInDocument) - 1 Then ' If not page before last page
Selection.Delete Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=1 ' Delete break
Add_Break_TF = True
End If
Else ' Break not found
Add_Break_TF = True
End If

If Add_Break_TF Then ' If there is not already a break on the page before last page
Selection.EndKey Unit:=wdStory ' Goto bottom of file
Application.Browser.Target = wdBrowsePage
Application.Browser.Previous ' Goto page before last page
Selection.Find.Execute FindText:="^p" ' Goto end of 1st paragraph
Selection.Collapse direction:=wdCollapseEnd ' Just after end of 1st paragraph
Selection.InsertBreak Type:=wdSectionBreakContinuous ' Insert break
End If

End Sub

2017-02-08 08:50:37


Rick G.
Thanks you so much for replying so quick.

I did exactly what you had recommend and it worked.

I still have worries with this solution since a text of a contract is always being edited till the last minutes just before signing. So if I insert new paragraphs into the last page meantime it can occur that the end of the document slip to a new page together with the signature area.

In a contract the date of signing is always the last row that's why I tried to insert the continuous section break there.

I don't see any reason why is it neccessary that a header and footer of a page have to be in the same section...

Anyway this is it, and again, thank you very much for your effort and time spent on me.

2017-02-07 08:35:43

Rick G.

Balint, if I understand your issue correctly, you should put your continuous section break on the page before the last page. E.g. if your doc is 10 pages, put the continuous break on page 9. Then page 9 will have the section 1 footer and page 10 will have the section 2 footer. (Then unlink the section 2 footer from the section 1 footer and change the text.)
This is because even when you add 5 continuous section breaks on a page, the footer section number matches the header section number for that page. The footer section number won't change until the next page.

2017-02-06 13:18:26


Well my problem is just the opposite of yours :)

I'm a lawyer and mainly edit real estate sale and purchase contracts.
In my country (Hungary) every page of the contracts have to be signed by all of the parties.

So I usually insert a table into the footnote and every cells contain one party (that I call "signature table"), this is the place where they can sign one by one next to each other.

At the last page the contracts always end with the date and place of the signing and after them there go the signatures.

Many times the last page has only one or two paragraphs only so the signature area is about in the middle of the page or a bit above. (It's important to leave the most few place to avoid re-printing the free area later...) Thus in this case the signature table / area I inserted into the footer at the previous pages is too far from the row with the date and place. That's why I'd insert the signature table / area directly after the last row.

With this step I get two signature tables in my last page: one under the last row and one in the footer.

I've inserted a continuous section break after the last row (with the date and place of signing) and hoped that'd make a new section in my footer but it didn't. The footer remained Section 1.

I tried many methods you'd suggested here but none of them worked.

I'd really appreciate any further advice or tip. I just can't believe that this very usual task (I guess) is so difficult in word.

Thank you very much in advance for your effort!

2016-11-30 14:47:57


The problem is that Microsoft's mindset is "I know what the user wants" (which, of course, they really don't), so Word makes all sorts of bad decisions on its own about formatting. That makes it essentially unusable for a large, complex document. You CAN use it if you have enough time and enough hair to pull out, but if you actually want to control what the finished document looks like without going bald and exhausting your expletive vocabulary, switch to a different program. I realize this isn't option for many users who, like the rest of us have been railroaded by IT departments into using this poor excuse for a word processor, but WordPerfect is far and away better, and you can do things with formatting in WP that you can't even dream of doing in Word ... and you can do it in half the time because you don't have to fight with it.

2016-10-25 11:24:15

Carlos Cavaleiro

This is really frustrating. I am working on a 700+ pages Word document, that has all this bugs. I can't figure out a solution. As this is a official revised document, I can't paste and copy to a new formatted file, since I can lose information.
Tried many ways, nothing works.

2016-10-07 23:17:17

Steve Gray

Breaking a long doc seems to make sense but recombining them is a problem. Word has no real, unconditional Paste and Keep Source Format, so when you try to combine the pieces you may get unwanted formats. Word has hundreds of dumb design decisions. If I thought MS would pay any attention to user's suggestions (which they claim to do but there's no evidence that they do), I would conscientiously submit all my suggestions.

2016-10-07 23:13:20

Steve Gray

Word also does this to me. It will insert Continuous breaks where I don't want them, and they can be impossible to delete. I wish Word did not try to guess what users want. Especially it likes to stick in Odd Page breaks, and I have to remove all of them and put in Next Page breaks. Ridiculous.

2016-10-04 12:50:36

Deena Larsen

Actually, I work with 500+ page documents all the time, and I have seen this bug on docs from 4 pages to 1,000 pages.

You add an odd page break. You come back, and magically, the odd page break has turned into a next page break. You take out all formatting, all review comments, track changes, etc. You then delete the next page break, and save. You put in the odd page break. Half the time, this will now stay an odd page break.

However, this problem can and has persisted (and there is a similar bug on continuous page breaks.) At this point, you simply swear a lot and copy the whole document as unformatted text into a new doc. And hope you do not see the bug again that day.

2016-08-29 17:14:23

Q Thomas

My goodness, thank you ALL for your service! Dave Rathbun's suggestion didn't work for me, but Beth Li's did.

You saved me from throwing my computer out the window.

2016-03-15 19:59:26

Rick G.

To me, FuzzmanX's suggestion sounds like Beth Li's suggestion, except that Beth Li's suggestion is step-by-step and much more clear.
Furthermore, I suspect that FuzzmanX does not realize there is more than one problem being discussed. He writes that it is bad advice to say there is a bug and offer a work-around.
When I delete a section break, if the previous section break is a different type (Continuous,Next-Page,etc.) Word changes the type of that previous break, even if it is 20 pages away. I believe most people would agree that IS a bug and a work-around (like the one offered by Dave Rathbun) is helpful.

2016-03-15 12:18:54


So the author's solution is that this is a bug and you need to do a work-around. That's bad advice.

Your page setup is wrong. You need to go to Page Setup/Layout and change the Section Start to New Page. See below:

<em>Default Why does word change my odd page section breaks to continuous?
I just posted this very question Friday, but mine were changing from "New
Page" section breaks to "Continuous." I then discovered that if I go into
the section following the actual break mark, and then pull up "Page Setup"
from the "File" menu, and look under the "Layout" tab, at the top, there is
"Section." Make sure that is changed to whichever type of section break you
want. I think you will find that it's "Continuous" there, and that is why it
keeps changing it. Hope this helps. It fixed my problem. </em>

2016-03-14 17:07:17


I "solved" this issue by only ever using continuous section breaks, and inserting page breaks separately where needed.

Brendy Sue: there are plenty of options other than Word. I normally use LaTeX, and usually only turn to Word when I have to collaborate with somebody else, or am bashing out a three-pager that it can't possibly @#$% up too badly.

LaTeX has its warts too though. For starters, it requires a lot more learning, at least to get started. It can also sometimes be hard to find bugs in a document. And tables are such a PITA that I've taken to simply making them in Excel and inserting them as images, even though they don't look nearly as good.

Without going on too much of a rant, the biggest problem with Word is that it doesn't know if it wants to be formatting-driven or style-driven. This makes it easy to use, but nearly impossible to use properly, because you can't really tell it which way you want to do things, which makes its behavior totally unpredictable. If you apply formatting directly, it may or may not create a new style. It also may or may not automatically update the existing style, even if you have told it explicitly not to do this. Conversely, if you choose to apply or change a style to a paragraph, you may or may not lose direct formatting. And when trying to combine documents, regardless of what you choose as a copy/paste option (unless you paste as plain-text), whether the source document styles and formatting come along with it is completely random.

2015-11-23 05:45:15

Radomir Sanak

Thank you Dave Rathbun, it works in Word for Mac 2011 as well.

2015-11-09 14:08:52


Thank you all, for letting me know I am not alone in my frustration. I have, for the most part, solved issues by following tips provided by Dave Rathburn and Beth Li. However, in a few cases, even though the section break showed as Odd Page, the next section started on the Next (even) Page. Nothing to do but insert another Odd Page section break, delete the first one, and then go through the tedious task of unlinking the headers in the following section and putting in the correct header text.

All by way of a warning to anyone who has to change or delete section breaks: If you have different header text (like chapter titles) in the sections, check and re-check them after deleting or inserting or, presumably even changing, section breaks. Word by default links the headers and footer to the previous section whenever it thinks you add a new section break.

2015-10-13 22:13:55


Thank you Allen for the tips article, and a big thank you to Dave Rathburn - your comment helped me resolve the issue I was having.

2015-09-15 22:57:02

Brendy Sue

Yes, thank you, Beth Li! So stupid is this hidden "feature," that I thought I had a virus or had gone insane. Cost me at least 10 hours of prime work time, too. If I "tell" the damn doc to mark a section "continuous section break," you'd think that'd be plenty to designate that I want a continuous section break and not a next page section break! What am I stupid? I have a PhD!!!! Why do software developers think they should make us jump through extra hoops and say magic words in order to actually do what we ask the program to do? What we need is an option other than Word!!!

2015-08-30 18:44:50

Takara Shelor

Beth Li - THANK YOU SO MUCH. Your response worked. Nothing else I tried had any effect.

2015-08-20 10:04:54


Beth Li, thank you for answering my question about what Allen meant by "apply the section settings"!

2015-08-19 09:58:42

Beth Li

I was also working on a long document with several section breaks. My usual problem is when I want to start another chapter on an "Odd page" but it keeps on inserting an "Even page" even if I inserted a Next page or Odd page section breaks. In case you have the same problem as mine, I have solved it by doing this, (it might also work for you).

Position your cursor at the very start of the page/document that you are working on.

1. Open the Page Setup dialog box.
2. Go to Layout Tab.
3. Under Section (top part of the box), there is an option for Section start, click the drop-down key and choose "Next Page" or "Odd Page" or whatever your preference is.

Hope this helps.

2015-06-23 15:22:50


I have frequently (and infuriatingly) experienced a similar problem with Word 2003, 2007, and 2010 for Windows.
I occasionally use two-column formatting (for indices, using text, and for columnar tables, using tables). You need a section break before and after the portion of the doc to which you apply a columns property. I usually use Section Break (Continuous) for this purpose.
I have had lots of aggravation with the latter Section Break interacting with the next section break, causing the next section break to become undeletable and often to change type (most often to Section Break (Odd Page)).
Dave Rathbun's tip applied to the offending undeleteable (usually but not always having self-determined itself to the Section Break (Odd Page) variety) seems to work in this case too.
Big thanks to Dave. This one is now a new paragraph in my 'How to cope with MS Word's bugs' sheet.

2015-05-14 15:08:11


Dave Rathbun, your tip on how to delete continuous page breaks is the most glorious thing I've learned in a long time. These page breaks have been bothering me for many years and the I've wished evil things on the staff who've entered them into documents. THANK YOU!!!!

2015-02-18 08:41:05


The tip says: "If you are only using "Next Page" section breaks in your document, then you can select the entire document and apply the section settings to all sections at once."

Can someone please tell me what "apply the section settings" means and how to do that? In Word 2010 to insert a "Next Page" break I normally click the Page Layout tab, click Breaks, and select "Next Page". How do I "apply section settings" in a way that relates to section breaks?

2015-02-05 05:05:48


I am very frustrated to observe some of the "continuous breaks" in my document turn automatically into "page breaks"
Word10; Win8

Could you pleaeaease help me, I on my way to destroying my computer :-)

Thanks in advance

2014-07-16 10:10:51


@Dave Rathbun:

A second thank you! This has had me extremely frustrated and your tip worked.

No doubt if this was covered on the Microsoft web site it would be described as a legitimate feature rather than a bug...

2014-05-21 16:53:10

Dennis Halpin

I have a 488 page document with 119 sections, many graphics and tables, cross-references, page size changes, different footers, and track changes is in use.

Word 2007 changes "section break next page" to "end of section" and I am not able to change the custom footer.

I am running up against a deadline and would appreciate any assistance.

2014-04-11 15:31:18

John McMullen

Not just sections, but other breaks as well. I've seen this kind of behaviour for page breaks and section breaks. If, for example, I'm trying to replace a page break with a section break, I put in the section break and delete the page break...and Word kindly converts the new section break back to a page break.

At least, I think that's what it's doing. (The idea that it's purposely not deleting the text I selected but something else is too awful to contemplate.)

Anyway, I've seen the behaviour in both Word 2007 and 2010. I'm going to try the procedure next time it shows up.

2014-01-27 08:24:28

John Durand

Thank you, Dave Rathbun! Your procedure solved a problem that has had me frustrated for a long time, with several long documents.

2012-06-26 11:58:33

Jennifer French

When I teach people how to create large documents in Word, I always suggest that the page breaks (whether Continuous, Next Page or Page Break)be set in the document AFTER the content is written and entered from the end of the document backward to the front. It prevents Word from "helping" you set breaks.

2012-06-25 12:27:19


I apologize for part of my 12:12 pm post. I was selecting my document and using Insert/Break/Next Page. After I submitted my post, I remembered Page Set-up, so I clicked on the Layout Tab and selected Next Page. IT WORKED. Yea!!!

2012-06-25 12:24:31

M.F. Bell

No matter what I do, it does not work. Once I delete the Continuous break, the previous break converts to Continuous. In addition, your tip says "If you are only using "Next Page" section breaks in your document, then you can select the entire document and apply the section settings to all sections at once." That doesn't work.

2012-06-25 05:55:53

Dave Rathbun

I work at a power plant where we write our procedures using Word 2007. We have noticed this issue also and that if you try to delete the resulting Continuous Page Break, it just changes the next one forward to Continuous. Our resident (at the time) Word guru gave us this "procedure" to successfully remove the Continuous Break:
1. Place cursor at Continuous Page Break.
2. Press Right Arrow key once to move the cursor to be directly after the Break.
3. Insert a Next Page Section Break.
4. Delete the Next Page Section Break you just inserted.
5. The Continuous Section Break is converted to a Next Page Section Break and may now be deleted normally.

I have no idea why this works, except as suggested in Tip, but it does work. I've used it many, many times in both Word 2003 and Word 2007.

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