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: Positioning the Footnote Separator.

Positioning the Footnote Separator

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 29, 2015)


When Jim prints his document, the footnotes appear as they should at the bottom of each page. Just above the footnotes and below the page's text is the footnote separator. It lines up with the indented first line of a normal paragraph. Jim would rather have the footnote separator align to the left column, rather than being indented.

The footnote separator is inserted, automatically, by Word in its own paragraph. As a paragraph, you can easily format it just as you would any other paragraph. Follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you are viewing your document in Normal view. (Click on the Normal View icon on the status bar of the document, or choose Normal from the View menu.)
  2. Select Footnotes from the View menu.
  3. If you are using Word 2000 or a later version and you have both footnotes and endnotes defined in your document, Word displays the View Footnotes dialog box. Click on the View Footnote Area radio button and then click on OK. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The View Footnotes dialog box.

  5. Using the Footnotes drop-down list at the top of the Footnotes window, choose Footnote Separator. The current separator appears in the window, and the insertion point should be within the separator.
  6. Use Word's regular formatting tools to change the paragraph indentation on the separator.
  7. Click on Close.

While the above works just fine, there is one other thing you might want to keep in mind. By default, the Footnote Separator and the other separator lines used by footnotes and endnotes all use the Normal style. If these lines start showing some strange formatting characteristics, it is more than likely because you've made some changes in how the Normal style is defined. Besides the steps already outlined, there are two other ways around this problem.

First, you can make a personal rule that you never use the Normal style for any of your regular document text. Pick another style—perhaps Body Text—or create your own custom styles to use for your text. That way the Normal style remains unchanged and you won't have unintended consequences such as you see with the Footnote Separator line.

The second approach is to define a custom style that you intend on using for your separator lines. You can then, within the footnote area, apply the style to the separator lines. In this way you can use the Normal style for other purposes, and as you change that style it won't affect the custom style you applied to the separator lines. (Of course, if the custom style is based on the Normal style, you might get some "trickle down" formatting that affects how the custom style looks whenever you make changes to the Normal style. The solution is to make sure that your custom styles are not based on the Normal style.)

Additional information about formatting the Footnote Separator and other separators can be found at the Word MVP site:

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12311) 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: Positioning the Footnote Separator.

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 five less than 8?

2013-06-05 13:05:08


This is interesting and very helpful.

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