Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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: Unwanted Page Breaks in Cross-References.

Unwanted Page Breaks in Cross-References

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated May 13, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


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Word allows you to insert cross-references in your document to other places in your document. A typical use for this ability is to cross-reference the contents of a heading. For instance, you may have a heading on one page that you want to cross-reference on another. If you do the cross-reference properly (as has been detailed in other WordTips), then Word automatically updates the text in the cross-reference whenever you update the text in the heading.

What if your cross-reference develops strange behavior, such as always having a hard return before the text or a page break before it? Carefully read the paragraph above and you will discover the answer: If you update the text in the heading, Word automatically updates the text in the cross-reference. In other words, if you put a hard return or a page break in front of a cross-referenced heading, then that hard return or page break will be reflected in the cross-reference, as well. Worse yet, you won't be able to delete the hard return or page break at the point of cross-reference, only in the heading.

Why does it work this way? It is very simple, really. Word implements cross-references through a combination of a bookmark and a field. The bookmark is used to mark the heading (in this case) and the field is used to reference that bookmark. If you add information to the heading—including a hard return or a page break—then that added information is included in the bookmarked text and therefore in the cross-reference.

There are two potential solutions to this problem. The first is to examine the bookmarks used for the cross-references and make sure that they don't include the hard return or page break characters. This approach can be difficult, especially for beginners—you really need to have a firm grasp on non-printing characters and how bookmarks work.

An easier solution is to make sure that you never place extra hard returns or page breaks before your headings. Instead, position the insertion point at the beginning of the paragraph preceding the heading and press Enter, rather than pressing Enter at the beginning of the heading itself. An even better solution is to use Word's style features to define how a heading should behave. The behavior, as defined in the style, doesn't follow through and apply to the cross-reference. The result is a "better behaved" document that is easier to format and easier to maintain.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10339) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Unwanted Page Breaks in Cross-References.

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 four more than 4?

2023-05-15 09:37:43

Paul Stregevsky

In my user guides, if a section ends with an outline-numbered paragraph (which I use for numbered steps), I must make sure it's followed by a Normal paragraph. If I don't, a cross-reference to the Heading 1 or Heading 2 that immediately follows it might include the entire preceding section; instead of reading "Continue in Chapter NN, YYYY," a sentence will read, "Continue in Welcome to Section N, XXXX. .... [2 pages of text] Section NN, YYYY."


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