Working with tables is an essential skill for creating professional Word documents. Whether you’re building a financial report, formatting a research paper, or even designing a flyer, chances are you’ll need to wrangle tables. Two key table formatting skills are merging and splitting cells. Master these techniques to customize your Word tables and make them work for your content.
In this tutorial, you’ll learn:
- When and why to use merged and split table cells
- Step-by-step instructions for merging and splitting
- Tips for avoiding common table pitfalls
Ready to become a table pro? Let’s do this.
When Should You Merge or Split Cells?
Before diving into the how-to, it helps to know when merging and splitting cells is useful.
Merging allows you to combine two or more adjacent cells into one larger cell. This is handy when you want to:
- Create wider columns for broad headings
- Span multiple rows to make a large cell for long text
- Design tables with hierarchical rows
For example, you may want to merge cells to create a covering table title or a spanning sidebar.
Whereas merging joins cells, splitting divides them. Splitting cells creates new cell boundaries within an existing cell. Reasons you may want to split cells include:
- Add columns in the middle of the table
- Create rows within cells to organize chunks of text
- Make “header” cells that are separate from the content cells
Splitting gives you more granular control over table sections when you need it.
Now that you know why you’d merge and split, let’s look at how.
Merging Table Cells in Word
Merging cells is a snap in Word. Just select the cells you want to combine and fire away.
Here are the step-by-step instructions for merging table cells in Word:
- Click into the table and highlight the cells you want to merge. To select cells, click and drag from one corner cell to the opposite corner cell. For example, to merge three cells across two rows, click the upper left cell and drag to select all three cells.
- Go to the Layout tab on the Table Tools toolbar. Table Tools Layout Tab
- Click the Merge Cells button. Merge Cells Button Word instantly merges the selected cells into one larger cell. The text is retained in the new merged cell.
That’s it! The cells magically become one.
A few notes on merging best practices:
- You can only merge adjacent cells, meaning they must be directly next to or above/below each other.
- Merging deletes cell boundaries but does not delete any text. Content is retained in the new merged cell.
- To later unmerge, just select the merged cell and click Split Cells on the Layout tab.
Ready to try it? Select some adjacent cells and merge away!
Splitting Table Cells in Word
Just as merging combines cells, splitting divides them. Need to organize chunks of text or add columns mid-table? Splitting does the trick.
Follow these steps to split cells in a Word table:
- Select the cell(s) you want to split. To select, click and drag from corner to corner as you did when merging. You can select a single cell or multiple adjacent cells to split.
- Go to the Layout tab > Split Cells button. Split Cells Button
- When prompted, enter the number of columns and/or rows to split the cell(s) into. For example, to split a cell into three columns, enter 3 for Columns and 1 for Rows. Word then equally divides the width (and height if you specify rows) into the number of cells entered.
Key notes on splitting cells:
- You can split cells into up to 63 columns and 63 rows.
- Splitting does not remove or change text, though text may reflow between newly split cells.
- Blank cells are inserted when splitting – their borders help distinguish the new cells.
- To remove splits, merge the split cells back to their original state.
Go ahead – split some cells and organize your table how you wish!
Handy Table Tips
As you can see, merging and splitting table cells is easy in Word. But tables come with their own unique set of best practices. Here are a few handy table tips:
Add rows and columns carefully
- Adding rows and columns changes cell references used in formulas and links.
- Instead of inserting, consider adding rows and columns at the end of the table.
Reset cells often
- As you merge, split, and resize cells, formatting like cell widths can get skewed.
- Select the entire table and click Distribute Rows and Distribute Columns on the Layout tab to fix alignment issues.
- You can only merge directly adjacent cells. Make sure selected cells are next to each other.
- To merge non-adjacent cells, merge the cells in between to connect the outer cells.
Watch the layout
- When splitting cells, pay attention to how text flows into the new cells.
- Balance and organize content between split cells by manually adjusting cell widths.
You just learned the ins and outs of merging and splitting cells in Word tables.
Here’s a quick recap of the key points:
- Merge cells to create wider columns, hierarchical rows, and spanning sections
- Split cells to organize text, add table sections, and create header rows
- To merge, select cells > Layout tab > Merge Cells
- To split, select cells > Layout tab > Split Cells
- Enter the # of columns and rows when splitting
- Adjacent cells can be merged; non-adjacent cells cannot
- Use table best practices like resetting formatting and watching layout
Kudos, you can now customize tables with advanced merging and splitting techniques! Level up your Word skills and format tables like a pro.
Now get out there and make some Word magic!