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 September 21, 2018)


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. ...


Working with Elapsed Time

Work with times in a worksheet and you will eventually want to start working with elapsed times. Here's an explanation of ...

Discover More

Converting European Dates to US Dates

Those in Europe use a date format that is different than those in the US; this is not news. But what if you need to ...

Discover More

Specifying a Time Server for Windows to Use

Windows can utilize resources on the Internet to make sure that your computer's internal clock is working at the right ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Formatting Fractions

Need to have a great looking fraction in a document? It's relatively easy to do if you apply the formatting techniques ...

Discover More

Formatting Multiple Documents

Need to format a bunch of documents so they all look the same? If the documents use styles, doing the formatting is ...

Discover More

Automatic AutoCorrect Exceptions for Beginning Sentences

When automatically capitalizing the beginning of sentences, Word relies on how you historically have done your typing. ...

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.


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. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. 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 five minus 3?

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!

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

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.