How do I combine Word documents without losing the formatting?

21 Dec

I’ve written about how to combine Word documents in this article. But what if combining documents loses the formatting?

I had a question in a comment from someone who had used my method to combine several chapters of a textbook. But the formatting all got lost. What should she do?

How to combine Word documents and not lose the format

Before you combine the documents into one big document, add a Section Break at the end of each document you want to combine.

I’ve covered this in more detail in this article, but here’s a summary with a screenshot from Word 2013.

  • Go to the Page Layout tab
  • Find the Breaks section and drop it down using the little arrow
  • Select Section Break – Next page

Once you’ve done this to all your documents, combine them. You might find you have some extra blank pages at the end of sections: turn Paragraph Marks on (see this article for how to do that) so that you can see your Section Breaks. Carefully delete the blank pages but leave the section breaks there.

This should retain your individual formatting in each individual document that you’ve combined.

If you’ve found this article on how to combine Word documents without losing the formatting, useful, please comment or share using the buttons below. Happy document-combining!

Other useful articles on this website

How do I combine several Word documents?

How do I insert section breaks in Word?

Viewing paragraph marks and other mark-up


Posted by on December 21, 2017 in Copyediting, Short cuts, Word, Writing


Tags: , , , ,

9 responses to “How do I combine Word documents without losing the formatting?

  1. Kristin Baird

    April 16, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    I am following the directions to the letter and all is well for four of the documents but one in particular (the second one I add) loses formatting such as typeface and spacing. The other issue I have is the page numbers….1 of 5, 2 of 5, etc. all run together even though the individual text of the footer stays with the document. Any ideas?


    • Liz Dexter

      April 17, 2018 at 7:29 am

      Unfortunately this is a bit of a Dark Art and doesn’t always work as planned (maybe I should make that more clear in the article!). I’m guessing that hidden formatting codes in the documents are making them mess around. I would certainly just take pagination out of (copies of) the originals. As for the one document that plays up, I’d be stripping out all formatting before I went through to combining (copy text, paste into notepad or similar, copy and paste into a new Word document, reformat, then combine). Which is not what you want to hear. Good luck!


  2. Mimi

    November 25, 2020 at 2:29 pm

    This doesn’t work.


    • Liz Dexter

      November 25, 2020 at 2:31 pm

      Hi there Mimi. Let’s see if we can help you get this to work. What’s happening when you try? Are you using Word for Windows on a PC, which is what these instructions are for? I hope I can help you, but I can’t of course promise.


  3. Elizabeth

    December 16, 2020 at 2:39 am

    Thank you for this, I was trying to pull together over 100 documents to create an interactive table of contents, which method would work best… each document will need to be edited as its own identity – not sure that part matters much. Any advice or best practice would be greatly appreciated.


    • Liz Dexter

      December 16, 2020 at 9:58 am

      If you need to edit for consistency, I would combine the documents first then do the edits, if that helps!


  4. RJ

    February 17, 2022 at 5:17 pm

    Thank you for this its a great help. i only have one issue one document keeps picking up the previous documents header and footer, any idea how i can fix it?


    • Liz Dexter

      February 17, 2022 at 5:22 pm

      Click on the offending footer and Format headers and footers and make sure you have unchecked it being the same as the previous. YOu might need to tick and untick to make it realise you mean business! I hope that helps.



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