Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007 and 2010. 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: Positioning the Footnote Separator.

Positioning the Footnote Separator

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 20, 2016)


When Jim prints his document, the footnotes appear as they should at the bottom of each page. Just above the footnotes and below the page's text is the footnote separator. It lines up with the indented first line of a normal paragraph. Jim would rather have the footnote separator align to the left column, rather than being indented.

The footnote separator is inserted, automatically, by Word in its own paragraph. As a paragraph, you can easily format it just as you would any other paragraph. Follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you are viewing your document in Draft view. (Click on the Draft View icon on the status bar of the document.)
  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 View Footnotes dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The View Footnotes 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.
  9. Use Word's regular formatting tools to change the paragraph indentation on the separator.
  10. Click on Close.

While the above works just fine, there is one other thing you might want to keep in mind. By default, the Footnote Separator and the other separator lines used by footnotes and endnotes all use the Normal style. If these lines start showing some strange formatting characteristics, it is more than likely because you've made some changes in how the Normal style is defined. Besides the steps already outlined, there are two other ways around this problem.

First, you can make a personal rule that you never use the Normal style for any of your regular document text. Pick another style—perhaps Body Text—or create your own custom styles to use for your text. That way the Normal style remains unchanged and you won't have unintended consequences such as you see with the Footnote Separator line.

The second approach is to define a custom style that you intend on using for your separator lines. You can then, within the footnote area, apply the style to the separator lines. In this way you can use the Normal style for other purposes, and as you change that style it won't affect the custom style you applied to the separator lines. (Of course, if the custom style is based on the Normal style, you might get some "trickle down" formatting that affects how the custom style looks whenever you make changes to the Normal style. The solution is to make sure that your custom styles are not based on the Normal style.)

Additional information about formatting the Footnote Separator and other separators can be found at the Word MVP site:

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12312) applies to Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Positioning the Footnote Separator.

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. ...


Avoiding the "Check Remainder" Dialog Box

Need to check grammar using a macro? Word includes a couple of different ways to perform the check, and what you see differs ...

Discover More

Increasing the AutoFilter Drop-Down Limit

When you turn on AutoFiltering, Excel displays a drop-down list at the top of each column in your data table. This list ...

Discover More

Converting List Types

There are two types of common lists you can create in Word: bulleted lists and numbered lists. You can switch between the ...

Discover More

Do More in Less Time! Are you ready to harness the full power of Word 2013 to create professional documents? In this comprehensive guide you'll learn the skills and techniques for efficiently building the documents you need for your professional and your personal life. Check out Word 2013 In Depth today!


IEEE Citation Format

Different style guides describe different ways of formatting information that appears in a document. One such style guide is ...

Discover More

Jumping to a Footnote

Jumping to a specific footnote can be very handy if your document has a lot of footnotes in it. Word provides the capability ...

Discover More

Using Cross-References in Footnotes

Need to make a cross-reference from one footnote to another footnote? You can do it if you throw bookmarks into the mix, as ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments for this tip:

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is one more than 2?

2017-01-17 06:46:38

KWON Jeongkee

I am struggling with this yearlong problem about Word 10.

Could I just know how I can prevent the footnote reference number from appearing at the start of a line?

Kind regards,


2016-12-26 18:30:49

Keshava Prakash

Thanks for the suggestion

2016-11-24 10:55:43


Thanks - very helpful!

2016-11-17 16:09:27

Gabriel Vaz

Im so thankful for that!
This opened to me a whole other area of possibly solving bizarre unreacheable MS Word settings!

2016-11-06 15:54:08


thank it was usefull

2016-07-24 08:23:44


This website is very helpful. I just found the solution for what i have been looking for. thank u so much, great work!!

2016-07-22 01:07:34


Great! solved my problem!

2016-01-05 04:04:54


For me, this works fine for positive indents. When defining a negative indent, the "negative" part of the separator line is hidden.
How do I make it show?
I am using Word 2010.

2015-12-07 14:38:40


Thank you!

2015-10-29 08:00:56


Thanks for the 2013 info - it worked for me.

2015-06-28 19:53:15

Ted Duke

Possibly a Microsoft change, but the backspace key did not work for me on June 28, 2015. However, a somewhat more precise way will work. Steps 1 through 3 remain the same. Step 4 does the trick.

1) Use View tab to set Draft view
2) On References tab click Show Notes
3) Click down arrow at end of field in the top bar of footnote display area and select Footnote Separator

4) Page Layout Tab: In Paragraph under the Indent heading, adjust the upper Left number to move the separator. Negative numbers move it to the left. Aligning it with text depends on your ability to "eyeball" it so far as I could tell.

2015-06-23 12:47:26

Sharon Lippincott

Thanks for the tip. I'm using Word 2013, which is a bit different, but using your tip, I was able to muddle through to remove the indent from a line. Bread crumbs follow:
1) Use View tab to set Draft view
2) On References tab click Show Notes
3) Click down arrow at end of field in the top bar of footnote display area and select Footnote Separator

In my case, I clicked the line and backspaced to remove the indentation.

That did the trick. :-)

2015-05-05 15:29:16



2015-03-29 01:48:08

Nahush Khubalkar

Thank you so much. I was looking exactly for that information. I could do the task within seconds. Thanks once again.

Nahush Khubalkar

2012-11-17 08:12:17

Charles Lawrence

Hi, Allen !

Thanks for this piece of informative writing. Would definitely try it out.



Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.

Links and Sharing