Preventing Overlapping Tables

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 23, 2019)

Donna has a document that has three tables in it. When she views it, the document appears fine. When she sends it to someone else the tables move and overlap each other. She wonders how to prevent this from happening.

Welcome to the wonderful world of table positioning in Word! When you insert a table using the ribbon tools, the vertical anchor is set to "paragraph," by default. The table will then move up and down as that particular paragraph mark moves with editing. If successive tables are anchored to successive paragraph marks, then the tables will all move together and cannot overlap.

If you subsequently drag a table up or down using the mouse, then the anchor changes to the nearest paragraph mark plus an offset and the wrapping changes from the default of "none" to "wrap around." Often this change of wrap radically changes the layout of the page and you have to change the table back to "no wrap" to resolve the chaos.

It sounds as if one of Donna's tables is anchored to the page (or margin) and another is anchored to a paragraph. The tables have probably, at some stage, been dragged up or down and perhaps blank lines have been added to position them on the page. This works just fine for your system. However, when you send the document to a different person, then all heck breaks loose. The other person's copy of Word has different settings from yours for font sizes and line spacing. Therefore, paragraph anchors are at different positions on the page whereas the page-anchored table is in a fixed position. Thus, you can easily see overlap of the tables and other strange behavior.

The solution is to set paragraph anchors and no text wrapping for all tables and then make sure that the table anchors are successive paragraphs. Assuming that the tables are to be displayed underneath one another the steps are:

  1. Right-click in the first table and select Table Properties from the Context menu. Word displays the Table Properties dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Table tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Table tab of the Table Properties dialog box.

  4. In the Text Wrapping section choose Around.
  5. Click the Positioning button. (This button is only available after you perform step 3.) Word displays the Table Positioning dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  6. Figure 2. The Table Positioning dialog box.

  7. Make sure the Move with Text check box is selected.
  8. Set the Vertical Position to 0 Relative to Paragraph.
  9. Click OK to close the Table Positioning dialog box.
  10. In the Text Wrapping section choose None.
  11. Click OK to close the Table Properties dialog box.

These steps adjust the positioning for only a single table, so you'll need to repeat the steps for the other two tables, as well. You'll probably find that the tables are now out of position, so use the mouse to drag them to their desired position. This will change the anchor to the nearest paragraph mark, plus add an offset. In addition, dragging changes the wrapping from "none" to "around," so you'll need to again display the Table Properties dialog box for the positioned tables and click on None.

After you perform these steps, the tables should be vertically one right after the other and should remain that way if you send the document to someone else.

If your tables were horizontally next to each other, though, then that is an entirely different story. In that case the easiest solution is probably to insert each table into its own text box and then position the text boxes next to each other. You can format the positioning on the text boxes so they don't move with text and are positioned relative to the margins of the page rather than to paragraphs. (Also make sure you format the text boxes so they have no borders.) This should give you the result you want when you share the document with others.

Of course, if you continue to run into problems you might just want to generate a PDF from your Word document. You can then share the PDF with others, and it will look just like it did on your system. (This obviously won't work if you need those other people to make changes to your document. It is great, though, if all they need to do is view it.)

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12576) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

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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