How to Avoid a Disappearing Page Number in Microsoft Word

395604 How to Avoid a Disappearing Page Number in Microsoft Word

Adding page numbers to a Word document seems easy enough – until they start to disappear or restart unexpectedly. This frustrating issue is often caused by section breaks, different first page headers, or other advanced formatting. Here’s a comprehensive guide to understanding and fixing disappearing page numbers in Word.

What Causes Disappearing Page Numbers?

There are a few common culprits behind disappearing page numbers in Word:

Section Breaks

Section breaks allow you to divide a document into sections with different layouts and formatting. However, they can wreak havoc on page numbering:

  • Word treats each section like a new document, restarting page numbers by default
  • Numbering schemes don’t automatically carry over across sections
  • It’s easy to accidentally add extra section breaks while editing

Different First Page Headers

The “Different First Page” header option restarts page numbering after the first page. This is useful for title pages but can cause subsequent pages to number incorrectly.

Manual Formatting Changes

Manually changing page numbers or styles without adjusting section properties can lead to inconsistent numbering.

How to Prevent Disappearing Page Numbers

Follow these best practices when adding page numbers in Word:

Use Continuous Section Breaks

Continuous section breaks maintain numbering across sections instead of restarting it.

Link Headers and Footers

Link headers and footers so numbering carries over between sections.

Mind the Layout

Pay attention to section layout to avoid accidentally adding breaks while editing.

Format Carefully

Change numbering formats through the Page Number Format dialog instead of manually.

Troubleshooting Disappearing Page Numbers

If page numbers have already disappeared in your document, here are some troubleshooting steps:

Identify Section Breaks

Display formatting marks to locate unexpected section breaks. Delete any extras.

Check Section Properties

In each section, open the header/footer and verify page number properties are set correctly.

Format Page Numbers

Use the Page Number Format dialog to uniformly apply numbering across all sections.

Remove and Re-add Page Numbers

If fixes don’t work, removing and re-adding page numbers may resolve issues.

Step-by-Step Guide to Fixing Page Numbers

Follow this simple procedure to fix disappearing or incorrect page numbers:

  1. Display Formatting Marks – Go to Home > Paragraph Dialog Box Launcher > Show/Hide to view section breaks, hidden text, etc.
  2. Check for Unneeded Section Breaks – Examine the document for extra section breaks and delete any found.
  3. Open Header/Footer Area – Double click in the header or footer region of the first page of a section.
  4. Unlink Header/Footer if Needed – The Design tab will appear. If “Link to Previous” is visible, unlink the header/footer.
  5. Open Page Number Format Dialog – Select Page Number then Format Page Numbers.
  6. Set Page Numbering to Continue – Under Page numbering, choose “Continue from previous section”.
  7. Adjust Other Settings – Tweak number format, starting number, and other options as needed.
  8. Close Header/Footer – Click outside the header/footer region to close and save changes.
  9. Repeat for Other Sections – Fix numbering issues in each section by following steps 3-8.

And that’s it! With these steps, you can banish disappearing page numbers for good and finally get your document’s numbering under control.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Here are answers to some common questions about fixing page number issues in Word:

What if I delete all page numbers and re-add them but the problem persists?

There may be underlying corruption in your document preventing page numbers from working properly. Try repairing your Word installation or creating a new document and copying your content into it.

Can I prevent page numbers disappearing just by linking headers/footers?

Linking headers/footers only synchronizes their content between sections; it doesn’t fix page numbering problems. You need to set continuous page numbering in each section.

How do I add a title page section without messing up page numbers?

Add a Next Page section break between the title page and main document body. Format the next body section to continue numbering from the previous section.

What’s the quickest way to troubleshoot the cause of wrong page numbers?

Display all formatting marks so you can visually identify any layout issues causing problems, like extra sections breaks or mixed up headers/footers.

Why do my landscape page numbers disappear in Word?

Landscape page sections require special handling to display visible page numbers. See this guide for details.


While page numbering mishaps in Word can be terribly frustrating, they can usually be resolved with a few strategic troubleshooting steps. By mastering section formatting techniques, enabling formatting marks, and judiciously fixing page number settings, you can wrangle even the most stubborn numbering issues. Pay special attention to section breaks, header/footer linking, landscape pages, and title pages when adding page numbers. With practice, you’ll be able to fix disappearing page numbers in minutes and prevent them from happening in the first place.