Disappearing Footnotes

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated July 29, 2021)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Jackie is having a problem with the footnotes in a document. It seems that some of the footnotes in the first chapter of her Ph.D. thesis have disappeared. She can view them in Normal view, but she needs to also view them in Page Layout view so she can ultimately print them out. Jackie wonders what is causing the problem.

There are a number of things to check. First, you should check the obvious formatting-related issues. Are some of your footnotes formatted as Hidden text? If they are and you have Word configured to not print Hidden text, the footnotes will not be visible in Print Preview.

You'll also want to check to make sure that Track Changes isn't turned on. It is possible, if it is turned on, that you've actually deleted some of your footnotes. They may still be visible in some views of your document, but wouldn't be visible in Print Preview if you are looking at the "final" document with markup taken into account.

You should also not assume that what you see in Print Layout view is equivalent to what you will see when you actually print your document. Take a look at your thesis in Print Preview and see if your footnotes all show up there. Some users have reported large discrepancies between what is displayed in Print Layout view and what shows up in Print Preview.

You could also have problems if the text of your document is within a large table in which a single table row extends for several pages. Word defers any footnotes in the row to the page where the row ends. If the row ends so close to the bottom of the page that there is not room for all the footnotes, instead of being carried to the next page, the footnotes are just ignored. This problem can be solved by breaking the row up into several rows; any row that long is bound to contain more than one paragraph, and it can be split so that there is one row for each paragraph.

It's also possible, given that this is a thesis, that the length of the footnotes is such that they are overpowering the page. I would think that Word would just take as much room as needed for footnotes, even if that left only a few lines of text on each page, but there may be some limitation. If the footnotes are that long, it might be more satisfactory to convert them to endnotes. At the very least you could try converting the footnotes to endnotes and seeing if they all show up in the endnotes. This may at least give you a starting point for figuring out what is going on.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (7831) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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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What is six minus 6?

2020-06-05 18:04:33

edwin h turlington jr

Sir I hve a similiar problem, but it is just one footnote. I published a book that is missing a single footnote. The numbering skips as though it is there, and if I use ctrl + G it goes right to the space where that footnote should be (see image).

Where is my missing footnote and how do I insert it without messing up the numbering?
(see Figure 1 below)


Figure 1. Missing / skipped footnote 87

2017-08-08 13:52:55


This has plagued me for many years. The easiest workaround I have found (just now!) is to toggle the ribbon UI twice (retract then expand or vice versa) using the carat. The endnotes (not tried it with footnotes) all reappear. Once you hit save they disappear again.

2017-02-19 13:25:06


I found that my formatting was in APA style. Under the References tab I changed the style to Chicago and my footnotes remained! Success!

2017-01-23 22:34:57

Art Spitzer

Dear John Bray,

That sounds like a really useful solution! But you highlighted what "visible text"? When my footnotes disappear, the whole footnote disappears. Did you highlight the footnote call (the superscript number)? Something else?


2017-01-20 22:52:36

John Bray

I highlighted the visible text and hit command I, to make the footnote italic. Lo and behold, the missing text reappeared (not in italic mode though).

2016-06-09 00:11:45

Simon Says

For years I used Mac OS X Word 2011 and I struggled with this infuriating bug. It drove me to despair because it made the process of producing academic documents unnecessarily difficult as entire footnotes would disappear - even if they were only a sentence in length.

Despite scouring the net, the only effective workaround was to close and restart Word. Utterly impractical and absurd. Even on the latest Service Pack and updates, this problem still persists.

Eventually I tired of this and switched to using Pages on iWork 2013 and I've been trouble free ever since.

2016-02-16 11:21:23

Reda Book

I'm using Word 2011 for Mac, and have been experiencing disappearing footnotes for weeks, in a half-dozen different documents. From searching other forums, I've learned that this seems to be a Word problem, related to the autorecover / repaginate function, and which Microsoft has no plans to fix.

Even when I control page breaks in order to allow plenty of room for footnotes, lines disappear and reappear from the footnote. Since there is room on the page, nothing gets temporarily pushed to the following page, as some other users have experienced. However, I have observed that this problem seems to affect only the FIRST footnote, the others seem to be more stable. But my documents don't have many footnotes, and they tend to not be more than a few lines long, so perhaps I'm just lucky so far.

The only workaround seems to be to turn off autorecover, which seems a little risky.

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