Microsoft Word allows you to divide your document into separate sections and apply different page layouts or formatting to each section. This can be useful for many purposes – starting new chapters in a book, changing page orientation partway through, or adding different headers and footers to different parts of the document. Using section breaks allows you flexibility in customizing your Word document’s appearance.
In this article, you will learn:
- What section breaks are and when to use them
- The different types of section breaks in Word
- How to insert a section break
- Tips for viewing and deleting section breaks
- Alternatives to using section breaks
What is a Section Break?
A section break is a dividing line in your Word document that marks the end of one section and the beginning of the next section. It allows you to have different:
- Page orientation (portrait vs. landscape)
- Margins (top, bottom, left, and right)
- Number of columns
- Headers and footers
- Page numbering
In each new section created by a break, you can customize the layout without affecting previous sections.
For example, you may want the first page of a document to be landscape orientation with different margins than the rest. Or you might want to divide your document into chapters and have different headers or page numbers in each chapter.
Section breaks make all of this possible!
When Should You Use Section Breaks?
Here are some common use cases for applying section breaks in Word documents:
1. New Chapters
When working on a book or lengthy report, use section breaks to mark new chapters. Then format the header and footer differently in each chapter, with the chapter number and title.
2. Change Page Orientation
Insert a section break if you want part of your document to be landscape orientation (wider than taller) and other parts to remain portrait orientation.
3. Landscape Pages
To orient only certain pages (like tables or images) in landscape mode, put a section break before and after those pages. The surrounding pages can remain portrait.
4. Custom Margins
Use section breaks to change the page margins for portions of your document, like to make room for images with captions.
5. Multiple Columns
Divide text into two or three columns in parts of your document by using section breaks before and after those areas.
6. Different Headers/Footers
Customize headers and footers to display different content from one part of a document to the next.
7. Page Numbering
Restart page numbering or switch numbering formats by inserting a break. You may want pages numbered “i, ii, iii…” in the preface and then switch to “1, 2, 3…” in Chapter 1.
Types of Section Breaks
When inserting a section break in Word, you need to select what type of break to add. There are four options:
- Next Page – Starts the new section on the next page, leaving any blank space at the end of the previous section.
- Continuous – Starts the new section on the same page without any blank space between sections.
- Even Page – Inserts a section break and starts the new section on the next even-numbered page.
- Odd Page – Inserts a section break and starts the new section on the next odd-numbered page.
The type of break you choose depends on your specific formatting needs. The most commonly used option is Next Page.
How to Insert a Section Break
Inserting a section break in Word is simple:
- Place your cursor where you want the break added. This should be at the end of the content before where you want the new section to start.
- On the Page Layout tab, click the Breaks button. Page Layout Tab with Breaks Button
- Select the type of section break you want to insert. Section Break Type Options
- Click OK.
That’s it! The section break will be inserted in your document.
Now you can click into the new section and customize the layout, headers/footers, etc. without impacting previous sections.
Tip: You can double-click the header or footer to open it and edit just for that particular section.
Viewing Section Breaks
By default, section breaks in Word documents are not visible. The only way to see them is by switching into Draft view:
- On the View tab, click the Draft button. View Tab Draft Button
- Your document will switch into Draft view, displaying section breaks with double dotted lines. Section Break Display in Draft View
Draft view makes it easy to identify where your sections are divided and customize each one.
When you are done editing sections, return to Print Layout view to see your final formatted document.
Removing a Section Break
To delete an unwanted section break:
- Switch to Draft view to display the section break, as outlined above.
- Select the dotted section break line.
- Press the Delete or Backspace key to remove it. Or, you can right-click on the section break and choose Remove Section Break.
All formatting for that section will be removed once you delete the break.
Alternatives to Section Breaks
Section breaks are super helpful for applying different layouts and formatting to parts of your document. But they aren’t always necessary.
Here are two alternatives to consider:
If you just need to divide your content into different pages, use page breaks instead of section breaks. The page break keeps the same headers, footers, orientation, margins, etc. It simply moves whatever follows to the next page.
To insert a page break, go to the Insert tab and click Page Break in the Pages group.
For visual division only, add divider tabs instead of breaks. These are tabs you can customize with text like “Chapter 1”, “Chapter 2”, etc.
To add divider tabs:
- Place your cursor where you want the tab
- Go to the Insert tab
- Click the Tab drop-down menu
- Select Divider
This inserts a tab you can format as desired.
Here’s a quick recap on working with section breaks in Word:
- What are they? Dividers that allow different formatting in each section
- When to use them? New chapters, landscape pages, custom margins, multiple columns, new headers/footers, etc.
- How to insert? Page Layout tab > Breaks > Select type of break
- How to view? Switch to Draft view
- How to delete? Select the break and press Delete
Using section breaks to customize layouts takes your Word documents to the next level. Play around with them on your next report, book, pamphlet, or other project!
Let me know if you have any other questions.