Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. 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: Unable to Set Margins in a Document.

Unable to Set Margins in a Document

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated April 4, 2020)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365


Susie wrote about a problem she was having with setting margins in some documents. In her office, everyone shares documents. In such an environment, it is not unusual to reuse someone else's document, or use an existing document as the basis for a new document. Susie reports that sometimes she tries to change the margins on a document, but that she cannot—the preview area in the Page Setup dialog box doesn't display correctly, and any changes to the controls are ineffectual.

The fact that this is only happening with some documents is an indicator that the problem doesn't lie with Word, but with the documents exhibiting this behavior. More than likely, the document has, in some way, become corrupted. Here is one way to try to "reclaim" your document:

  1. Open the problem document.
  2. Create a brand-new blank document.
  3. In the new document, set the margins the way you want them to appear.
  4. In the problem document, press Ctrl+A to select the entire document.
  5. Hold down the Shift key as you press the Left Arrow. This "unselects" the final paragraph marker in the document. (You should have everything in the document selected except the final paragraph marker.) If you have the display of non-printing characters turned off, you may not actually see that the final paragraph marker was unselected, but it was.
  6. Press Ctrl+C. The document (minus the final paragraph marker) is copied to the Clipboard.
  7. Switch to the new document.
  8. Press Ctrl+V. The text from the old document is pasted in the new document.
  9. Close all the documents.

At this point, you should do your work with the new document. You will need to enter headers and footers again, but the document should now work as you expect it to. Once you are satisfied, you can delete the problem document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11893) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Unable to Set Margins in a Document.

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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