Word: Issue with multiple blank pages

May 8, 2009

I had a frantic call from one of my client’s employees who had a Word 2003 document that several authors had worked on. The styles were up the creek, the outline numbering was out of whack, headers and footers were going crazy, the formatting was appalling. She could deal with all that as she knew that at some stage it would get fixed — either by her or with someone else’s help — and her priority was to get the content right. What she couldn’t deal with was how her less than 80 page document had suddenly blown out to over 300 pages and all those extra pages were blanks!

I vaguely recalled seeing something like that years ago, but couldn’t remember what caused it or how I fixed it. So I asked her to send me the document to take a look at it. What a mess. But my priority was to try to fix the excess blank pages issue. These are the things I tried — all to no avail:

  • Turned on all hidden formatting looking for something that would explain why something went wrong between Sections 21 and 23.
  • Looked for section breaks and associated headers and footers to see if there was something obvious there.
  • Switched to Normal View to try to delete the offending blank pages (I couldn’t delete them in Print Layout View — and I couldn’t delete them in Normal View either. In fact, I couldn’t even see the blank pages in Normal View.) I also tried Outline View and turned on the Document Map.
  • Googled for a solution .

When none of those worked, I turned to the tried and true ‘Maggie’ method! Doing a Maggie on a Word document will often save it when nothing else works. I believe it’s named after a Word guru called Maggie Secara who documented the method (please correct me if I’m wrong).

So what’s a Maggie?

To Maggie a Word document means to copy everything in it EXCEPT the very last paragraph mark (make sure you turn on the Show/Hide icon to see the paragraph marks) and then paste it into a new document. It has saved many a Word document from complete corruption.

And it worked on this document! It didn’t fix the styles or formatting (they were author error), nor the dancing headers and footers, or screwed outline numbering, but it did get rid of those hundreds of extra blank pages.

I still have no idea what caused them and may never know, but the Maggie trick saved yet another Word document, and saved the sanity of the employee who had cried out for help in desperation. And made me look good! ;-)


  1. I don’t remember if it came from Word-PC or Techwr-l. I’m thinking she figured it out with Word 2000, seems longer ago than that, tho.

    Here’s an explanation I kept. Why I didn’t keep the listname and date intact, I don’t know. The Steve she refers to is Steve Hudson, the Word Heretic.

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Secara, Maggie

    At the time the word was coined (I’ve never been a verb before) the real joke was that all too often poor Steve would have spent hours working out an elaborate scheme (usually involving VBA) to solve whatever problem had been posed, then I’d pipe up and say, oh gee, have you tried this! And it would be the answer. Not always of course, but often enough. Then there was the time I made Steve’s day completely by coming up with a whole new problem, begging for help, to which he replied “have you tried a maggie” and of course, it fixed everything.

    It’s not always the answer, true. But it IS magic. (“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”) And it’s a place to start, it’s got a great beat, but you can’t dance to it.

  2. Thanks for that! Ah, Steve Hudson! He was a force to be reckoned with in the world of Word, and on Austechwriter, the Australian technical writers list, as well as many others.

  3. Another concrete hint about Maggie-ing a document is that if there are section breaks, sometimes (not always) you have to copy over the stuff between, but not including, those breaks individually. A lot of code is kept with (in?) the section breaks too.

  4. Never heard of a “Maggie” before, but I know that for horribly corrupt Word documents that do weird, inexplicable things, copying everything to a Notepad document, then copying from Notepad to a new Word document and reformatting everything (even in an 80-page document!) is usually easier and faster than trying to find out why the heck Word is doing something flaky. I had to do that with a 300-page Word 2007 document after spending a week + trying fix seemingly random occurrences that kept munging styles and formatting.

    Thanks for the explanation you provided, and the comments from others who have had similar experiences.

    Write on!

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