Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Getting the Expected Space Before a Heading.

Getting the Expected Space Before a Heading

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 4, 2018)


If you take advantage of styles in your Word documents, they can make your formatting much more consistent and easier than formatting manually. You can define styles for all sorts of elements in your documents.

One of the most common document elements to format is different heading levels. When formatting headings, it is not unusual to set them off from surrounding text by adding additional space before them. Word lets you do this in the style definition for the heading. You can specify virtually any amount of additional space before the heading that you want.

When your heading style includes additional space before the paragraph, you may be surprised when Word sometimes fails to add that expected space. For instance, when the heading appears right after a page break or a column break, Word normally doesn't include that extra space. Instead, the heading appears right up at the top of the page or column.

Truth be told, the only place that Word will honor your specification for extra space is if the heading is the first paragraph in the document, if it appears within the body of the text on a page, or if it appears right after a section break.

How Word handles the "space before" setting for paragraphs (including headings) when those paragraphs appear after a page break or a column break is actually a configurable setting in Word. Follow these steps to make adjustments to your Word 2007 or Word 2010 system:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Click Advanced at the left of the dialog box.
  3. Scroll to the every end of the options in the dialog box.
  4. Click the plus sign to the left of Layout Options. Word shows a long list of compatibility options it can use. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The compatibility options in the Word Options dialog box.

  6. Scroll through the list of options until you find the option called Suppress Space Before After a Hard Page or Column Break.
  7. If the check mark beside this option is selected, then Word ignores your "space before" specification when the paragraph with that specification occurs right after a page break or a column break. If it is not selected, then your "space before" setting is honored in these instances.
  8. Click OK.

You should note that if your heading style specifies space before the heading, and that heading naturally falls at the top of a page, Word suppresses that extra space, no matter what. The reason is because Word "eats up" the extra space, as if it was really at the bottom of the previous page.

If you are using Word 2013 or Word 2016 you are out of luck, as most of the layout options have been entirely removed from the program. If you are working with a document created in an earlier version of Word you can still find the options and modify them, but not if you are working with a native Word 2013 or Word 2016 document.

Information on a possible workaround for Word 2013 and Word 2016 users can be found in the following article (Note that this is the English version of the article.):

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (6015) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Getting the Expected Space Before a Heading.

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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What is 8 + 2?

2018-05-17 09:21:28


If you use a list end after the previous page last paragraph, the page break before heading (on the next page) will be at the appropriate spacing. Way easier!

2018-01-07 05:18:12

sarvar ahmad bhat

I think before adding the space before or after heading you need to on Normal style and then it adds space before and after.

2017-06-28 11:54:03


You have to set two things in the compatibility list (untick other items in the compatibility list just so you can test this properly). Tick Don't use HTML paragraph auto spacing and also tick Split apart page break and paragraph mark. If you already have a document full of page breaks, it will add an extra paragraph onto the following page but you can use the format paint brush to paint that with the same style as your heading and then delete the extra blank line or alternatively just delete the blank paragraph return and apply the style that you need back onto the first heading of your page. Your spacing should now be consistent all the way through your document.

2016-05-09 16:58:34

Gay Robertson

I am using Office 2013 and this option is definitely available to me if I use compatability mode.

2015-12-03 09:26:05


Simple solution is to change the spacing after the paragraph. Where I had 6 pts before and after, I re-formatted my normal style to 0 before and 12 pts after.

2015-11-30 10:51:41


Thank you, Dario de Judicibus! That solution worked perfectly.

2015-11-27 07:14:50

Dario de Judicibus

Well, I found a clean stable solution for Word 2013 and 2016 too:

How to add space before a heading in Word 2013 and 2016
(English version of article)

2015-09-18 11:41:21


For 2010 and 2007 Word, in the same list of layout options above, make sure to uncheck "Don't allow HTML auto-spacing." It's the one cut off at the bottom of the screenshot.

Saddened that 2013 doesn't allow the ability to fix the auto spacing that Word defaults to. It's driving me crazy!

2015-03-07 18:37:01


Maryland, USA wrote: "In Word 2010 or 2013, go to File > Options > Advanced > Layout Options and select Don't use HTML paragraph autospacing.

If you're using Word 2013, you'll need to first save your file in an older compatibility setting to reveal this option."

That trick worked, but as soon as I save back to Word 2013 the space above goes away again. Do I seriously have to revert to .doc for all my templates now?

2015-03-02 09:08:06

Maryland, USA

In Word 2010 or 2013, go to File > Options > Advanced > Layout Options and select Don't use HTML paragraph autospacing.

If you're using Word 2013, you'll need to first save your file in an older compatibility setting to reveal this option.

2015-02-27 14:46:52


Just switched to 2013 and have been going CRAZY with this issue. I've successfully set up spacing at the top of the page for my headers by incorporating the "Page Break Before" option in 2007 and 2010.
It sucks that this option has been removed (and let us not mention what a travesty the right-click menu now is). Thanks for letting me know that I am out of luck.

2014-06-09 19:06:39


I too cannot get Word 2010 to recognize space before in a heading style. Hoping someone has found an answer.

2014-06-03 16:33:44

Ellen Finkelstein

Wow, frustrating that the feature was taken out of 2013. I need a style for a chapter heading and it should be a couple of inches down the page.

2014-01-30 13:06:58


I'm having the same problem as Tom, except for Word 2007. I'm also using heading styles.

2013-08-20 10:17:01


"Truth be told, the only place that Word will honor your specification for extra space is . . . if it appears within the body of the text on a page."

In Word 2013, it is not honoring my space before the headings within the body of text. Is this because the paragraph style already has an 11-point space after?

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