Inconsistent Repeating of a Table Header Row

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 23, 2019)


Sometimes when creating a table in Word, Dick cannot make the top row repeat across all pages containing the table. He follows the normal procedure for setting up the repeating row, but the top row does not repeat at the top of succeeding pages. Dick wonders if there is a setting or condition that occasionally prevents the repeating row from working.

There are actually four things you need to check if your header rows aren't working as you expect them to work.

Check for Multiple Tables

Make sure that your long table is actually a single table. If it is not, then the header row won't repeat because the table doesn't really extend beyond a single page.

The easiest way to determine if you are working with a single table vs. multiple tables is to click somewhere within the table. Then, from the Layout tab of the ribbon, use the Select drop-down list to choose Table. The entire table should now be selected and if you use the mouse to scroll through the document, you should see that it is all selected. If it is not all selected, that is a sure-fire sign that you have multiple tables instead of just one.

Check the Text Wrapping Setting

It may sound odd, but the text wrapping setting for a table can affect its ability to repeat header rows. Text wrapping is used to wrap text around your table, and it appears that Word assumes such tables will be quite small. If your table is multiple pages, it obviously isn't small. Here's how you can check the text wrapping settings:

  1. Right-click your 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 None.
  5. Click OK to close the Table Properties dialog box.

Now you should be able to specify which rows in the table you want repeated.

Don't Set All Rows to be Header Rows

It is possible to set all rows in the table to be header rows, but if you do, Word will choke and not repeat any rows on secondary pages. You can check this by selecting the entire table and then, on the Layout tab of the ribbon, clear the Repeat Header Rows tool.

Don't Work with Nested Tables

You cannot apply repeating headers to a table that is nested inside another table. If you must use nested tables, you'll need to come up with a different way to "fake" your header rows rather than relying on Word's capabilities.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13703) 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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What is 8 + 1?

2020-03-16 09:14:40

Matthew Shute

Thanks Allen.

I've spent 20 minutes googling an answer to my problem. Your step 3 is the only correct solution I could find to my particular problem. I had the whole table selected and clicked on 'repeat header rows' and it all went wrong. I now know that the header row selected won't be just the top line of the table, it'll be whatever you have selected when you click on the button.

2019-11-23 09:24:46

Ken Cameron

Allen, OMG, this has bugged me for YEARS. I am so grateful for this tip. Keep 'em coming!

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