Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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: Avoiding a Section Break Booby Trap.

Avoiding a Section Break Booby Trap

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 15, 2014)


There's a "booby trap" when using section breaks that you may not be aware of. If you make a section break to create special page formatting and afterwards (for whatever reason) want to remove the section break, you could mess up the formatting of your document.

For instance, let's say you add a section break to your document, and format the portion before the section break different from that after. Thus, your document formatting can be described as follows:

Text with "normal" page layout
==== Section break ====	
Text with special page layout

When you delete the section break, the whole document inherits the latter page layout. This is very seldom the result you wanted, since you probably wanted to get rid of the special page layout, not the normal page layout.

One way around this potential problem is to always add a pair of section breaks and then edit the page layout of the middle section:

Text with "normal" page layout
==== 1st section break ====
Text with special page layout
==== 2nd section break ====
Text with "normal" page layout

In this case, when you remove both section breaks you'll end up with the last page layout (which is "normal").

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13309) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Avoiding a Section Break Booby Trap.

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 6 + 0?

2016-03-23 09:32:19


Can you please tell me why i end up, in a Word document, with a blank page that I cannot delete. I usually transfer to pdf and delete the page. Is this because of the section break? Thank you.

2015-11-10 16:22:22


Hi, I had to use multiple section breaks in same page in many pages of document. I am finding problem with formatting page numbers. When I select page number and try to make it start from previous it is taking reference number from first page. So I had to manually make it start from whatever number is before by entering previous page number. Whenever content been added in the document and page numbers go wrong because of entering manually.

Could you please let me know the solution to this problem?

Thanks so much!

2014-11-19 11:47:40

Bonnie Granat

Jennifer Thomas: Thank you for your comment. I will check that setting the next time I have the problem, or maybe I'll check it whenever I'm working on a document with sections, like a book. That may have been what I stumbled upon when I was able to fix the darn thing, but of course when one's in a state of trying to get a problem solved one doesn't always remember exactly what one did that resulted in a successful outcome.

Thank you so much for this -- now I don't hear the theme from The Twilight Zone playing the background!

Now if there were only a way to get Word to not put the found word in a Find operation on the very first line of the screen and requiring the user to scroll down to see the lines above it, I'd be a happier camper!

2014-11-18 08:40:12

Jennifer Thomas

Bonnie, I often see that issue with break types changing, and the usual culprit is the setting for Section Start (Page Setup | Layout tab). For example, if it is set to 'continuous',then when you delete a break then following break will change to Continuous. I fix that by changing the setting to Next Page, and then changing the Apply To value to Whole Document. Hope that helps!

2014-11-18 01:07:28

Bonnie Granat

What I don't understand is when a section break (odd page) turns into a continuous page break all by itself. I usually can eventually get what I want, but I have no idea how I do it. It wastes time having to reinsert the breaks over and over again, but that's what it takes to get the section break I want.

2014-11-17 10:17:30

Peggy Hoover

Going to get this tip to my colleague -- she is always having difficulties with page / section breaks!! Thanks!

2014-11-17 09:05:33

Jennifer Thomas

Martin, I don't know of a built-in command, but here's my easy solution for this issue.

Click in the section you are about to lose by deleting the break. Now record a macro where you open Page Setup, click each of the tabs that has information you want to preserve, then close the page setup mox and end the macro. That macro now has all your Page Setup values for the desired section.

Now you can delete your section break and just run the macro to put all the values back. This also works well for enforcing your desired page setup values on a recycled or client document.

It doesn't preserve the header/footer content, of course, but it does remove nasty surprises like incorrect new break settings, even/odd footer designations, and those other often-overlooked page setup options that interfere with processing later.

Hope that helps!

2014-11-15 04:57:45

Martin Riordan

I often convert PDF documents to DOC(X) and this booby trap is common and irritating. I often delete all section breaks with Find and Replace and start from scratch.

If there was a button or command to copy one section's layout to the next section (eg. in your example, copy "normal" page layout over "special" page layout, BEFORE deleting the section break, this could minimize the problem.

Is there any such command?

2014-11-15 04:28:22

Stephen Fennell

Thank you for that! I often have to edit texts that have section breaks, and I dislike them because the instant I click "Delete" on a section break the layout can be utterly transformed. I never know what will happen. Your tip explains that this is because the layout of the PRECEDING section then acquires the layout of the SUCCEEDING section. That knowledge will help me to put things right without so much guessing and hoping. I am indebted to you!

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