Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Understanding Sections.

Understanding Sections

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 27, 2015)

If you have used Word for any length of time, you are aware that there are three general types of formatting you can use for a document: page formatting, paragraph formatting, and character formatting. In general, page formatting is set only once for an entire document. That is because your paper size seldom changes in the middle of a document. There are, however, other page formatting settings that you may want to change from time to time, even in the middle of a document. For instance, you may want to change the top margin on a particular page, or you may want to change the way that headers or footers appear on a particular page.

The way Word handles such mid-document page formatting changes is through the use of sections. A section is a portion of a document to which a certain set of page formatting properties should be applied. If you find yourself with the need to change anything having to do with page layout, simply create a new section and change the formatting for that section alone.

You insert a new section in your document by choosing Break from the Insert menu. Word displays the Break dialog box. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Break dialog box.

You can select any of the following types of section breaks:

  • Next Page. This type of section break causes Word to immediately skip to the next page and begin the new section.
  • Continuous. This section break causes Word to continue with the current section formatting until it makes sense to switch to the new section formatting. If the new section formatting can be applied immediately, it will be. Otherwise, it will take effect on the next page.
  • Even Page. When this section break is entered, Word immediately skips to the next even numbered page, inserting a blank odd-numbered page, if necessary.
  • Odd Page. This type of section break causes Word to immediately skip to the next odd numbered page, inserting a blank even-numbered page, if necessary.

Select the type of section break you want and then click on OK. The section break is inserted, and you can format the new section (or old) as you desire. You can always tell which section you are in by looking at the status bar. Just to the left of the Page number is the notation Sec 1. This means you are in section 1 of your document. If the notation is Sec 3, you are in section 3. (You get the idea—you can have as many sections as you need in your document.)

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1920) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Understanding Sections.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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