How-To Geek

How to Use Breaks in Microsoft Word to Better Format Your Documents

Have you ever struggled to get the formatting of a long document looking like you want in each section?  Let’s explore the Breaks tool in Word and see how you can use breaks to get your documents formatted better.

Word includes so many features, it’s easy to overlook some that can be the exact thing we’re looking for.  Most of us have used Page Breaks in Word, but Word also includes several other breaks to help your format your documents.  Let’s look at each break and see how you can use them in your documents.

Where are all the breaks hiding?

If you’re using Office 2007 or 2010, you can insert a Page Break from the Insert tab.  All the other breaks are listed in the Page Layout tab.  Click the Breaks button, and you’ll see all 7 of the page and section breaks you can use in Word.


Ok, now you’re ready to add breaks to your document.  Here’s what each one can do:

Page Break

imagePage Break is the one most of us have used, and you can add one from the Insert tab or the Page Layout tab.  As you likely already know from experience, page breaks only start you on the next page; all formatting will be kept the same from your original page to your new one.  Use this when you want to just start typing on a new page but want the formatting to all stay the same.

Column Break


Have you ever been writing a multi-column document and wanted the last line on the column to go to the next line?  You could just press Enter a couple more times, but then your formatting will be messed up if you edit your text.  A better way is to insert a Column Break.  This will move you to the next column, leaving your previous text in the first column.  If you go back and add more text to the first column, it’ll just go on down in the same column unless you add enough to overflow it.

Text Wrapping


Want to have caption text around a picture?  Select the text beside the picture, and select Text Wrapping.  This will let you keep this text together with consistent formatting, and will flow the rest of the document around this section.

Next Page, Section Break, and Even/Odd Page Breaks


The most important break, in our opinion, is the Next Page break.  Unlike the standard Page Break, this option moves you to the next page and gives you entirely separate formatting in the new section.  The Even and Odd Page breaks let you insert a section break and go to the next even or odd page, respectively, so you can easily format your documents for left and right pages in a book.  Alternately, the Continuous break does the same thing without putting you on a new page.

Want to switch from 2 column text to single column, or want to apply a new font scheme to only the cover page?  This is the break you’ll want.  Now you can format a full document with cover, contents, and references, all with their own unique formatting but saved in the same document.

Using Section Breaks with Footers

Formatting footers correctly takes a bit more work.  By default, your document footers will have the same content even on pages with section breaks.  To change this, double-click a header or footer in the new section of your document, and click the Link to Previous button to turn linking off.  Now your footers and headers will be fully unique between your document sections.


You can also choose to just keep your first page or your odd and even pages with different footers and headers.  To do this, check the appropriate box on Options in the Footer and Header Design tab.


Now you can take advantage of all the different types of document breaks to get your documents formatted just like you need.  Microsoft often mentions that 90% of it’s users only use 10% of the features in Office.  Hopefully this will help you take advantage of a little more of Office’s features to make it easier to format documents.

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!

  • Published 12/13/10

Comments (11)

  1. Hatryst

    Seriously, everyone must know this, its really good…
    And hopefully HTG will let us know the remaining 90% features in the coming days !!
    Cool ! ;)

  2. Fodaro

    Ahh… that sorts out a few problems. You never can know too much about Word.

  3. moreeg

    Another useful paging feature (maybe another 1/2% of the remaining 90% of Word we don’t know or use) is the ability to page based on styles. This is useful in long documents with headers, sub headers, sub sub headers, sub sub sub header etc where you would want to start a new page with every main header or chapter (e.g. Header 1).

    All you need to do is bring up the Style sheets, find “Header 1” or any style where you want the break, click on > modify > Format > Paragraph > Line and Page Breaks and tick the Page Break Before box.

    If you have multiple chapters this is much easier than applying a page break on each new chapter separately and will ensure that any new or inserted chapter will start on a new page.

  4. Sujit Kumar Sarker

    This is not new but usefully.

  5. Matthew Guay

    @Sujit Kumar Sarker – Nope, not new … It’s likely been in there since Office ’97 or so. But still useful ;)

    As they often say, 95% of users only use 5% of Office’s features. We’re trying to help everyone discover the other 95% :)

  6. arsh

    Thnx dear u r such a gr8 guy
    u know these things saves ur a lot of time
    and make the work interesting.

  7. thenonhacker

    Thanks HTG for this!

    I know the advanced features of Word, that I find I don’t need Publisher or PageMaker for many publishing tasks. Thing is, these features can only be learned by reading the help file or articles like this one.

    So please continue featuring useful tips like this!

  8. thenonhacker

    Additional Tips:

    Add these buttons to your Quick Access Toolbar:

    – Para Keep Lines Together (If you want the entire paragraph to appear on the same page, and not be separated on another page)

    – Para Keep With Next (Useful for keeping headers next to the paragraph after it)

    – Para Page Break Before (most of the times this is better than just inserting a Page Break, because it never adds extra space on the next page)

    (Under “Commands Not In The Ribbon)

  9. BB

    Very nice article, thanks. One thought; is there a way to do a Conditional Break – i.e. to force a new page if you’re a certain distance from the bottom of the page, but if you’re near the top, with plenty of space, it won’t force a new page?

  10. Shabeer Khan

    Really interesting, there is a lot to learn…..

  11. jfs

    @BB – that’s what the automatic page break does, no? It will start a new page when you’re the distance of the bottom margin plus the footer from the bottom of the paper. If you want a section of your document to have a large gap at the bottom of the page, set up that section (using section breaks) and then use page set up to set a bottom margin for that section only.

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