Word: Changing a section break’s type

February 18, 2009

You get a document. Someone has added section breaks, but they are all over the place — odd breaks, even breaks, continuous breaks, etc. You want to change a section break’s type from say ‘odd page’ to ‘next page’, but no matter what you do in Word the darned thing won’t change. There has to be an easier way than inserting a new section of the type you want and copying across all the content from the section you no longer want.

There is! And it’s super easy!

Word 2003

  1. Click inside the section you want to change — i.e. below the marker for the  section break you want to change.
  2. Go to File > Page Setup on the menu.
  3. Click the Layout tab.
  4. In the Section start drop-down list, select the type of section you want to change it to (‘New page’ is the same as ‘Next page’ under Insert > Break).
  5. Click OK.

Word 2007/2010

  1. Click inside the section you want to change — i.e. BELOW the marker for the  section break you want to change.
  2. Go to the Page Layout tab.
  3. Click the Launch icon Dialog launcher at the bottom right of the Page Setup group to open the Page Setup dialog box.
  4. Select the Layout tab.
  5. Select the type of section break from the Section Start list, then click OK. The section changes immediately.

[Updated 3 July 2009 to reflect Brad’s comments below; if it still doesn’t work try the suggestions from Steve (22 July 2011) and Cassandra (17 August 2014)]


  1. your Word 2007 trick doesn’t work (with me…): it will insert a NEW break instead of changing the exisiting one. The Word 2003 trick is perfect.

  2. I had the same problem in word 2007. Like the previous post suggested, click one character AFTER the section break you want to change, so you know you are in the correct section.

    Then, on the page layout ribbon, click the page setup down/right arrow (in the bottom right corner of the page layout ribbon). This opens the page setup window. Click the Layout tab. In this tab, there is a section heading and a section start option. It might say “New Page” or something. You can click that drop-down list and change it to a different type of section break.

    It works!


  3. Perfect, Brad! I’ll change the Word 2007 instructions to reflect your method. Thanks!

  4. Thanks – the MSW 2007 instructions work perfectly.

  5. Brad, you are an absolute star mate. I have been trying every concievable option, checking the microsoft website and generally pulling my hair out till i saw this.

    Like all Microsoft things it is incredibly easy once you know how, it’s Just incredibly well hidden and poorly documented also!

    Just wish they would implement the dead easy page deleting, re-arranging and inserting they use in powerpoint in word…would make life so much easier!

    Anyway, Cheers again.

    Manchester, England

  6. Darn me, this works on a Mac Word 2008 too (Format > Document, Layout tab, bingo!). Here am I using Word for 18 years and I never spotted that intuitive aspect to the interface. Dare say it has been there as long as Section Breaks have. I shall get my SE30 with Word 5.1 out of the cellar and try it out.

    Diolch yn fawr!

  7. Damn, easy when you know how! Good work, that man.

  8. Er, good work that lady! (Rhonda, I spotted your reply to Brad and mistook him for the author, not that it was your response – sorry)

  9. Thank you so much! This problem was really driving me demented, and the solution is spot on. Thank you.

  10. I am always pleasajtly surprised at the detailed assistance from my Antipodian colleagues (Bruce White, ShaunaKelly etc). I will read more soon. Thanks in advance.

  11. Neither one worked for me. Did you guys have footnotes as well? I want continuous section breaks, and when I went to the section start, it had continuous, which is what I want, but the section in the document is on a new page. I even turned on show formatting and it shows as a continuous section break, but acts like a new page section break. Any other ideas?

  12. Hi Jeff

    Put your cursor somewhere in the first line of the text/heading that starts on that next page, then check the Paragraph settings — it’s likely you have ‘Page Break Before’ checked. You never see that when the formatting is turned on, except for a little black square off to the left side of the text/heading, which tells you that one of those Paragraph line and page break settings is turned on.


  13. Hi Rhonda, thanks for answering. I checked and it was not checked. What I discovered was that I was inputing continuous section breaks, and it was acting like section breaks to start the next section on an odd numbered page. I have a document with 114 sections, and it did that on all but one of them, which happened to be just a few lines at the top of the page with no footnotes in it. That one it did right – just continued on the page. but the other 113 it popped me to the next odd numbered page. So almost certainly it has something to do with the footnotes. My goal is to have a header with chapter number and name that runs within each section – some only one page and some up to 30. To do that I had to add section breaks and that is where the problems started. There are an average of about 12 footnotes per page.

    Any other ideas? Thanks. Jeff

  14. Hi Jeff

    I rarely use footnotes, so I can’t help you a lot with that. However, I just looked at the Footnote and Endnote dialog box in Word 2003 (should be similar in 2007/2010), and the numbering options have settings for restart new page or section, as well as continuous. Have you tried all these settings? (Hint: Make a copy of the doc first, and test on the copy, just in case you break something badly!)


  15. Thank you CyberText!

    I can confirm this worked on my project.

  16. Jeff:
    Did you ever resolve this? I am having the same problem, and I am using footnotes.

  17. I finally solved the problem by going into options and and to the advanced layout options and clicking on Layout footnotes like Word 6—


  18. I’m on a Mac with Word Mac 2008. The layout tab is found under Format>Document (instead of Page Layout), but the rest works like a charm! Many greatful thanks!

  19. Thanks for those Mac instructions, Shelby.


  20. Works on Word 2011 for Mac as well, thanks very much! Saved me a couple hours.

  21. Awesome!

  22. It is so great when I can find an answer to a very annoying issue that is easy to understand and it works!! Thank you!!

  23. Brilliant! Your coffee is on its way and I can now get back to my copy-editing job!!

  24. Great stuff! After spending 40 minutes fighting with word – I found this post and fixed my problem! Thanx a million!

  25. hi, this really helped me ad saved my skin. thanks a lot

  26. Thanks! The 2007 method works in 2010 as well.

  27. Wow, you saved me! I was fighting this stupid page break for an hour!

  28. Thank you so much. This is still helpful. Why doesn’t it work the other way? I wish they would fix this bug!

  29. You saved the life of a computer that was about to be hit with a meat hammer. You have also reduced my blood pressure many points. Thanks very much.

  30. It only soft-of worked. Now it puts a blank page before my page so it starts as a left page instead of a right hand page, which is how I need it to appear. What am I doing wrong?

  31. Wow, I discover this AFTER arm wrestling a manuscript to the mat by inserting section breaks to create totally empty pages before chapter starts. Fortunately this was for a document that would be printed, so it doesn’t matter how you get it to look the way it needs to. If this had been for an eBook, I’d be bald. Now it’s working. Now I know. THANK YOU!

  32. it really works!! tq

  33. there is only one paragraph typed in and I want to insert a page break after the paragraph but its not working. there appears to be a big space between the subheading and the paragraph and I cant fix.

  34. Steve! You are a Saint! I was ready to throw my laptop out the window, or, better yet, kill someone @ Microsoft because breaks have NEVER worked in a way that is even remotely intuitive.

    The fact that the problem could be solved within Word 2010 by going through File>Options>Advanced, on to the very bottom of the Advanced window to find the last line (i.e., ‘Layout options’) and then ferreting through the laundry list of bandaids and fixes to find and check the box next to “Lay out footnotes the way Word 6.X … does” should be an embarrassment to the developers. It indicates that things are getting worse vs. better with subsequent downgrades … oops, I meant upgrades :)

    Definitely deserves *&%$^%#*)*!!! response.
    P.S. I have never found any useful information through the Microsoft support website … it’s always through fellow tortured ones, sharing our pain and euphoria, that I have found the solutions / answers I am seeking!

  35. Hi CyberText. Not sure who actually created the article at the top, but you’re a hero! Like many of the other contributors here, I was stumped and forced to create complicated workarounds, but the solution you provided is so easy. It should be obvious but isn’t.

  36. You saved my life!

  37. Mine too…
    God bless you!

  38. Thank you!!!! This finally solved my problem. I was ready to pull my hair out.

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