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: Avoiding a Section Break Booby Trap.

Avoiding a Section Break Booby Trap

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated August 1, 2020)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365


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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, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. 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 3 + 7?

2020-08-03 12:11:50

Connie Goss

Thank you for this simple work-around! This problem has tormented me for years. Érico Bennemann Carvalho is right - it should have been corrected by Microsoft years ago.


2020-08-02 00:13:53

Érico Bennemann Carvalho

"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."

Funny, I've been thinking exactly the same thing. I would imagine in most cases where people delete a section break, people want to keep the formatting from before the break, not the one after. A "booby trap" should not exist in software that has been developed for this long. How come in 20+ years of Word their developers have not deigned to fix this glaring usability issue?


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