Word: Change the gap between a footnote and the separator line

May 12, 2016

When you insert a footnote in Word (References tab > Insert Footnote), by default it gets added to the bottom of the page along with a short line and an empty paragraph to separate it from the body of the text. The footnote separator line and the empty paragraph are styled as ‘Normal’, so if you’ve adjusted the paragraph spacing (leading) above and/or below in the style, you may get way more space than you need, as shown in the screenshot below.


It’s that empty paragraph that annoys a lot of people — it just adds unwanted space in front of the page’s footnotes, when there’s already a visual separator in the partial line. You can’t get rid of the the empty paragraph using normal deletion methods either. But you CAN get rid of it.

Here’s how:

  1. You must have at least one footnote in your document before you can do the steps below.
  2. You must be in Draft view to do this (View tab > Draft).
  3. Once you’re in Draft view, go to the References tab then click Show Notes.
  4. A mini Footnotes window opens at the bottom of the page:
  5. Change the Footnotes setting from All Footnotes to Footnote Separator.
  6. Now you can see the separator and the empty paragraph:
  7. Place your cursor at the end of separator line, then press Delete to remove the empty paragraph below.
  8. Click the X at the far right of the Footnotes mini window to close it.
  9. Change the view back Print Layout (View tab > Print Layout).

You’ve now got rid of that empty paragraph for ALL footnotes in your document.

Update August 2020: There’s quite a bit more you can do with styling this footnote area, according to this Office Watch article: https://office-watch.com/2020/delete-or-change-the-separator-line-for-footnotes-and-endnotes/

[Link last checked August 2020]



  1. Good one, Rhonda – that space has been annoying me for years (well, for a long time, really!



  2. Very helpful. Thanks. This explains things as clearly as I’ve seen.

  3. I would never have figured that out!! Thanks so much.

  4. thank you

  5. Thank you, thank you!

  6. Thank U so much!!! Really annoying space there.. and even though I consider myself quite a good user of “Word” I doubt to have figured this out by myself!

  7. Thank you very much. It is very helpful.

  8. Thanks so much for showing me how to access the style for footnotes! It wasn’t an extra line space, but rather the “leading” of the style format, as you indicated. So once I highlighted the separator line, I went to the “home” tab and “removed space after line”. That butts up the citation as it should be.


  10. Oh, THANK YOU!!!!

  11. Thank you so much! Great detailed instructions!

  12. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Very much appreciate this easy to follow instructions. My problem was solved. Right on point.

  14. Thank You

  15. Thank you…I would not have been able to fix this bug in a major proposal we are submitting today without this help.

  16. Can you set the new format as default in a document template so that anyone adding a footnote in that document will not have to change it each time?

  17. Hi Glenys

    Yes, you should be able to set this in your template and it should save for future docs created from that template (not existing docs associated with it, though).


  18. Whereas I would like to complain about why there is an empty line to begin with, at least there is a way to remove it. Thank you for providing the instructions on how to do so!

  19. Rhonda, you are a genius! I’ve been struggling with that for hours.
    Where do I send your pay raise?

  20. Hi Dan

    Glad I could help! There’s a ‘Donate’ button on each page — top right if you’re on a desktop, below if you’re on a small device.


  21. This is awesome. Thanks so much.

  22. Thank you!! Easy fix and clear explanation.

  23. Wonderful, thank you for the clear instructions, looking better already.

  24. OMG! I fancy myself a pseudo-expert in Word, but this is one thing that has eluded me for years. Most hidden Word “features” I can tease out myself but this was absolutely necessary help. Thank you! This is brilliant. I’ll have to spend a bit more time in the Draft view mode – I didn’t realize it would be the only window into some functionality. Brilliant of you!

  25. Bless you! Thank you

  26. Perfect, just awesome.

  27. You are the best. So simple!

  28. Thank you so much!! After so long I was able to solve it really quickly. And it was sooo simple!

  29. Thank you so much! It’s really helpful!!!!

  30. Thank you very much! very well done

  31. Thanks very much. I spent several hours searching in vain within Word 365 and Microsoft’s “help” pages and nothing. I made a small donation in appreciation.

  32. Argh!! I have a space between two footnotes in my PhD, and this doesn’t work for me! Any other suggestions?

  33. You are god.

  34. woohoo! Thank you!

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