Word: Blank pages when document is printed

August 14, 2012

If you have a long document with many section breaks (especially for odd/even pages and landscape/portrait orientations) it will look fine on screen and as a PDF. But when you print that document onto paper, you may find that you end up with several blank pages (no headers/footers — just blank)  scattered throughout the printout. Why?

Well, the answer is that this is ‘by design’. For example:

  • If you set a section break to start on an odd-numbered page AND the text in the previous section finished on an odd page, then the even page between those two odd pages will be blank and the two odd pages will be numbered as odd numbers (the blank even page won’t get a page number printed on it, but it’s still counted as a page). This is fine and how you expect it to be if you’re printing double-sided but it seems strange to find blank pages scattered throughout when you print on just one side of the paper. (BTW, starting a new chapter or major section on an odd page is a print publishing convention that has likely been around for centuries. Check some printed books on your shelves to see the evidence of this convention — you’ll typically find every new chapter starting on an odd [recto/right-hand] page.)
  • If you have a landscape section in amongst your portrait pages, and there’s only enough content to fit on a single landscape page, then the back of that page will print as a blank page. Again, if you’re printing double-sided, this is what you want to happen, but it’s disconcerting when you’re printing single-sided. A portrait page will NOT print on a landscape page if they are in two sections with different page orientations.

This convention has been part of Word since forever, and is a carry-over from the book printing industry.

You won’t see these ‘blanks’ on screen when you’re viewing the Word document, or in a PDF created from that Word document.

Here’s some further reading/explanation for this blank page:

  • http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/office_2007-word/how-can-i-remove-the-blank-page-after-section/a705c115-7cc8-4172-89cc-41cef30fad35: “If you are using Odd/Even pages, Word will always start a new section on the right hand (odd) page which is convention.” (Sept 2, 2010 comment from Terry Farrell, Microsoft Word MVP)
  • http://windowssecrets.com/forums/showthread.php/140608-Word-2007-extra-blank-pages-New-page-Section-break-with-Odd-Even-pages: “That’s normal and always have been so. I wouldn’t want it any other way either. Odd pages always start on the right. Once you select Different Odd/Even H&Fs in Page Layout, Odd will always be on the right and Word will always slip in a blank even page when necessary.” (comment by TerFar (Terry Farrell?), 29 August 2011)
  • http://support.microsoft.com/kb/85392: “In Microsoft Word, if the insertion point is positioned on an odd page and you insert an odd-page section break, a blank page will be generated after the section break…. This behavior occurs because Word for Windows cannot position two odd or two even pages in a row; therefore, it inserts an even or odd page between the pages. NOTE: These blank pages do not contain headers or footers. … If you insert an odd-page or even-page section break when the insertion point is positioned on an odd/even page, respectively, the resulting blank page will not contain a header or footer. Page number information about the blank page will be displayed in the status bar, and the page will appear as a blank page in print preview; however, you cannot position the insertion point on the blank page in the document.”
  • http://wordfaqs.mvps.org/blankpage.htm: “A Continuous section break does not cause a page break. A Next Page break causes the following text to start a new page. An Odd Page break causes the following text to start a new odd page. If the text before the break ends on an odd page, Word will insert a blank even page between the two odd pages. This page is completely invisible to the user (except in Print Preview with facing pages displayed) but will be “printed” by the printer. Similarly, an Even Page break may cause Word to insert a blank odd page.  … Sometimes a Next Page break will be converted to an Odd Page break. This frequently happens when a landscape page appears on the back of a portrait one, or vice versa. The reason for this is that most printers really don’t like to print landscape; rotating text and graphics is apparently a more complex operation for them. It seems to be especially difficult for them to duplex (print both sides of) pages with different orientations. Word accommodates this reluctance by changing Next Page breaks to Odd Page so the printer can print the pages on separate sheets. “
  • http://word.tips.net/T001870_Automatic_Blank_Pages_at_the_End_of_a_Section.html: “Two of the section break types result in the addition of blank pages to the document, if necessary. For instance, if you use an Odd Page section break, and the previous section ends on an odd page, then Word automatically inserts a blank even page so that the next section can start on the next odd page. … The problem with this is that Word inserts an absolutely blank page—it doesn’t even print headers or footers on the page.” (Susan Barnhill, Microsoft Word MVP)

[Links last checked August 2012]


  1. Thanks.
    In an odd twist of synchronicity, I was deep in a discussion of EXACTLY this topic with 2 colleagues, and was then informed you had posted a full explanation plus some background this very morning :)

  2. Glad I could help! ;-)

  3. The default behaviour you describe is just what I want to happen in my double sided, multi section document how ever it is NOT WORKING! Any clues as to why not?

    I have a multi section document. It is meant to print double sided and each section must start printing a new sheet of paper.
    – I have used odd page section breaks
    – I have restarted numbering from 1 for each section
    – None of my 1st paragraphs use “page break before”

    Despite doing all this the pages just print continuously.

    It has worked in previous documents on the same printer (though not recently).

    We use Cannon Image Runner printers which apparetly when printing duplex start printing on the back of the paper not the front.

    I checked the printer settings and turned off the “Skip Blank Pages Mode”.

    In desparation I also tried setting all the sections breaks to Even and then to Next Page to no avail.

  4. I have a long document. I’d like to skip a blank page (that is always on the left) and keep the page numbers going up, but with the blank page with no page number… How do I do it, please???

  5. […] CyberText Newsletter The official newsletter/blog of CyberText Consulting – technical communication specialists « I love my work colleagues! Inserting a ‘This page intentionally left blank’ message October 3, 2012 When you have odd/even pages set for a Word document, and new sections or chapters starting on an odd page, you may get a blank page for a preceding even page (see here for a full explanation as to why this is so: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/word-blank-pages-when-document-is-printed/). […]

  6. I had this problem too. After unsuccessfully scouring the net for a solution, I stumbled across this little gem:

    Developer Tab > Design Mode > Properties > ThisDocument > PrintFormsData = False.

    Not terribly intuititve, but it got my Word 2003 legacy forms & data printing alongside the rest of the document, so woohoo!

  7. I found a workaround that is pain-free and satisfactory.
    Delete your section breaks by the type ”section break and start on next page” (the type that’s causing the problems). Next do a regular page break (NOT section brake) and then insert a section break of the type ”flowing (or similar don’t have english lang word)”.
    This works! The bad side is that you have to re-do your ‘section-specific’ overhead and bottom-head information as well as page numbering.
    There seems like work arounds are the only things working since Microsoft isn’t interested in updating and fixing their products (just make a new one and make your customers buy that one instead!).

    Hope this helps!

  8. I FIXED IT!!!! Go to Page Layout Tab ; Open up the Page Setup tab; Then on Layout tab, make sure the boxes under Headers and Footers are unchecked. It got rid of my extra blank pages

  9. Thank you just about the time I was going to either pull my hair out or… break down and cry the one and even check box was the culprit in my scenario. Thank you.

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