Section breaks in Word

02 Aug

Today we’re going to be talking about adding section breaks in Word documents.

Why would I want to add a section break?

Section breaks are used if you want to have different formatting in different parts of your document. For example, you might want to …

  • have your page numbering in Roman numerals for part of your document and Arabic numerals in the rest of it
  • have some pages in portrait and some in landscape (for example if you’re including wide tables or images in your document)
  • include watermarks for branding or protection in parts of your document but not other parts
  • have different headers and footers associated with different parts of your document

Basically, if you want to change parts of your headers, footers, background or page layout for parts of your document only, you will need to divide up those parts using Section Breaks.

We’re going to use a document where one page should be in portrait and one in landscape for demonstration purposes.

What happens if you don’t use Section Breaks?

In this example, we want Page 1 to be in portrait and Page 2 to be in landscape orientation.

If you don’t enter any section breaks, even if you have your cursor on Page 2, changing its orientation to landscape …

1 without section break 1

… will change the orientation of Page 1, too:

2 without section break 2

Where is the Section Break menu in Word 2007 and Word 2010?

The good news is that the Section Breaks menu is exactly the same in Word 2007 and 2010.

Go into the Page Layout tab, and you will find the Breaks menu in the Page Setup area:

3 section break menu

Note that you can apply Section Breaks to automatically happen continuously and on every odd or even page. I’ve never needed to do that: what I have done many times is insert a section break and start the next section on a new page.

How do I insert a Section Break into my document?

Make sure that your cursor is flashing where you want your Section Break to appear (i.e. at the end of your current section). Then select Section Break – Next Page:

4 section break menu

Once you’ve done this, the section break will have been inserted at the point at which you had your cursor. But you can’t see it – it’s one of those hidden messages that is only displayed if you use the Paragraph Mark button (see this article for further information):


Once you’ve pressed the Paragraph Mark button, you will be able to view your section break:

5 section break visible

If you look at your Header and Footer, you will see that they also show that Page 1 is part of Section 1, and Page 2 is part of Section 2:

6 header and footer showing section break

This is a good way to check which parts of the document belong to which section.

What effect does inserting a Section Break have?

Now that your document is divided up into Sections, you can apply different formatting to different sections of the document. Page numbering is covered in this post, and in order to have Section 2 in landscape, all we need to do is make sure that the cursor is in Section 2, and select the landscape option:

1 without section break 1

Now that it has been separated off into Section 2, Page 2 will change to landscape, while Page 1, in Section 1, will stay in portrait orientation:

7 portrait then landscape

How do I add more sections to my document?

There is no limit to the amount of sections you add to a document, however, it’s worth keeping track of them and remembering that your formatting will need to be set individually for each section – if you’ve changed everything in Section 2 into landscape, if you add a new section, it will stay in landscape and you will need to change it back to portrait if that’s how you want it to orientate.

How do I delete a Section Break?

To delete a section break, simply turn on Paragraph Marks so you can see the section breaks (see above), put the cursor next to the break and press the Delete button on your keyboard.


In this article you have learned about Section Breaks, what they are used for, how to apply them, and how to use them to change the page orientation in your document. If you’ve found it useful, please share!

Other useful posts:

Proper page breaks

Page numbering – how to have different page number formats in different parts of your document

Changing between Landscape and Portrait (to come)

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here


Posted by on August 2, 2013 in Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

14 responses to “Section breaks in Word

  1. clara_w

    August 2, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Thanks for this! : D


    • Liz at Libro

      August 2, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      You’re welcome – glad you’ve found it useful and interesting!


      • DJ Dedinas

        November 17, 2014 at 11:31 pm

        Hi Liz,
        I hope this works. I’m captain hunt and peck when it comes to tying!!!! So lets say I’ll never be asked my opinion by the IT guy or girl. hahaha. I need to take a copied web based list of locations dump it into word which has it in portrait top to bottom, then try to convert it to Excel in a landscape spread sheet. Please tell this can be done and I don’t have to spend the next month getting carpal tunnel in two finders!!!!!!

        DJ Dedinas
        Valor Gutter Guards


        • Liz Dexter

          November 18, 2014 at 6:55 am

          Thanks for your question – I just need to check, when you say portrait and landscape, do you just mean the page orientation, or do you mean the column headings are along the top on one version and down the side on the other, so you need to rotate everything in the actual spreadsheet? Also, have you literally copied the data from a web page or are you able to download it from there and choose the format?


  2. Ava Sharlette

    January 25, 2014 at 4:17 am

    Thank you for the information. Is thee such a thing of having too many section breaks? I have this problem when my boss edits a document and then when I go into it the numbers are all screwed up. How can I stop this from happening? Thanks.


    • Liz at Libro

      January 25, 2014 at 7:34 am

      Thanks for your comment, Ava. This is what I would do: don’t add in the page numbers until the document is finalised, just before you print, send or whatever. That way, no section breaks can be added or deleted by your boss, and the page numbers will remain stable. That’s what I always do with any collaborative document. You just need to set a slightly artificial deadline for your boss, one day before the real deadline, so you have a day for formatting, not an anxious last-minute rush! I hope that helps!


      • Aba Sharlette

        January 25, 2014 at 10:48 pm

        Thanks for the quick reply. I will try it.


  3. Robert in Texas

    January 23, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    Hi Liz,
    I had learned the section break trick some time ago and use it when writing functional specifications where I may want to display a screenshot, or a table of data. A problem I am having and in the past have just ignored is my page number seems to get fouled us when I use the section break. Perhaps I’m doing something wrong? I can see maybe a renumbering scheme when I create a page break, but shouldn’t a section break continue the numbering from the previous page? By page numbering I’m referring to utilizing a page footer with automatic numbering.
    Thank you ma’am!
    Robert in Texas



    January 23, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    Oh gosh I just read Ava’s question! Sorry for the redundant question Liz! 🙂 Thank your for sharing your knowledge.


    • Liz Dexter

      January 24, 2015 at 10:43 am

      You’re welcome – glad you found the answer before I got around to replying!



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