Word: Table borders don’t hold

February 28, 2012

I got a Word 2007 document to edit the other day from one of my colleagues. As per our house style, it had a table of terms in it. However, instead of using the borderless table in the template, the author had inserted their own table, which had dashed borders.

Easy enough to fix — just set the ‘No borders’ attribute to the table. And that seemed to work, until I had to add new rows at the end of the table for extra terms I found in the document. Each new row I added had a gray horizontal internal border. I could get rid of it by reapplying the ‘No borders’ setting, but that border came back as I added more and more rows. I tried all sorts of things to get rid of it, including putting the table in a new doc then bringing it back in to the original doc. Nothing worked.

Added to my dilemma was the first row, which was in bold text. I removed the bold, but when I copied the table back in from the clean document I’d put it into, the first row was bolded again. There was no special style applied to this row, and if I added a row above it, the words I put into that new row were bolded too (and the words in the second row reverted to normal text). So something was affecting that first row and making it bold, and something was affecting the new rows too by adding a visible border to them.

The solution to both problems was easy! The author had applied a table design style to the table. Even though I’d manually removed the borders and unbolded the bolded text, the design they’d selected was still applied to new rows.

The author had applied a design to the table

To fix it, I only had to clear the check boxes on the left — there was no benefit in applying a different design as the issues wouldn’t go away with a new design.

These check boxes were affecting the first row and all new rows

Once I’d cleared the check boxes for Header Row, Banded Rows, and First Column [(1) in the screen shot above], the design changed to (2), and all the issues I was having disappeared.


  1. […] Table borders don’t hold when you change them manually: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/word-table-borders-dont-hold/ […]

  2. I think the easiest way to clean that table would have been to convert the table to text, make everything in normal style, then converted the text back to a table. Just make sure if you have any tabs, soft returns, or paragraph marks to replace them with something like ##### for tabs and @@@ for soft returns and paragraphs. It would have cleared that odd style out and allowed you to place the table in the template style, wouldn’t it? It’s how I was taught to quickly and easily clean a table of weird and odd table styles.

  3. I would normally have done that, but this was a LONG table with several merged cells. Fortunately, I found the solution fairly quickly and now have it in my bag of tricks forever ;-)

  4. I am having trouble with the borders on tables in Word….when I create PDFs the borders, or parts of them, disappear. When I print the PDF the borders are as I created them in Word, so they are still there, just not visible on-screen. This is an issue for me because I’m creating materials that will be available in an online library. The borders on the onscreen versions are so odd and inconsistent that I am not sure I even want to post them online!

    Any ideas why this might be happening?

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