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How to Work with Page Numbers in Microsoft Word

How to Work with Page Numbers in Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word offers an easy way to add different styles of page numbers to your document. If you’ve got a simple document, it works well enough. But if you’ve worked with Word for a while and use it to create more complex documents, you know page numbering can get a little flaky. So let’s take a closer look.

How to Insert Page Numbers

To add page numbers to your Word document, switch over to the “Insert” tab on the Ribbon and then click the “Page Number” button in the “Header & Footer” section.

Page Numbers Microsoft Word

A drop-down menu shows several different options for where you’d like the page numbers to appear—top of the page, bottom of the page, and so on. The last couple of options let you format your page numbers more precisely (something we’ll look at a bit later in this article) or remove page numbers from your document.

Page Number Menu

Hover over one of the first four options and a page number gallery appears. Each option in the gallery gives you a general idea of how the page numbers will look on your page.

Page Number Gallery

Once you find an option you like, go ahead and click it to have Word automatically number all the pages of your document in that style. In this example, we’ve selected the “Accent Bar” style in the “Page X” format.

Accent Bar Page Number

RELATED: How to Insert Page X of Y into a Header or Footer in Word

If you inserted page numbers at the top or bottom of the page, the header or footer area of your document automatically opens up, and you can make any addition you like around your new page numbers. When you’re ready to get back to your document, you can tap the “Close Header & Footer” button on the Ribbon or double-click anywhere in your document outside the header or footer area.

Header and Footer Design Tools

That’s the simple version of adding page numbers, and it works well enough if you’ve got a simple document—one where you want all the pages numbered, and you want them numbered using the same convention.

For some documents, though, you’ll want to get a little fancier. For example, what if you don’t want the page number to appear on the first page of the document (or on the first page of each section)? Or what if you want the page number placement to be different on odd and even pages, the way it is in a book? Or what if you have different sections that you want to be numbered differently—like an introduction or table of contents where you want Roman numerals instead of the Arabic numerals used in the rest of your document?

Well, Word has a way to do all of that.

How to Make Page Numbering Not Appear on the First Page of a Document or Section

When your first page is a title page, you might want to use a different footer or header for it than you use in the rest of your document and you might not want the page number to show up on that page. When you open your header or footer section by double-clicking somewhere in those areas, Word opens a new “Design” tab on the Ribbon in a section named “Header & Footer Tools.”

On that tab, you’ll find a “Different First Page” option.

 

The critical thing to know here is that this option applies to the section of the document where your insertion point is currently placed. If you only have one section in your document, selecting the “Different First Page” option makes the current header and footer disappear from the first page of your document. You can then type in different information for your header or footer on the first page if you want.

If you have multiple sections in your document, you can change the header and footer for the first page of each section. Say you were writing a book with different chapters and you had each chapter set up in its own section. If you didn’t want the regular header and footer (and page numbers) showing up on the first page of each section, you can just place your insertion point somewhere in that section and then enable the “Different First Page” option.

How to Number Odd & Even Pages Differently

You can also set up page numbering so that the position of the page numbers is different on odd and even pages. You’ll find that most books take this approach so that the page number appears toward the left side on the left (even) pages and toward the right side on the right (odd) pages. This prevents the page numbers from being obscured by the book’s binding and makes them easier to see as you flip through pages.

Word also has an option for that. On that same “Design” tab in the “Header & Footer Tools” section of the Ribbon, just click the “Different Odd & Even Pages” option.

Word automatically formats the page numbers to appear the way they would in a book, and you can then make any manual adjustments you want.

How to Add Different Numbers and Formats to Different Sections

Most documents use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.) in the main body of the document and some use Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, etc.) for different sections like the table of contents, introduction, and glossary. You can set up your document this way in Word, too.

The first thing you’ll need to do is create different sections in your document for these different parts of your document. So, for example, if you wanted your table of contents and introduction to be numbered differently than the main body of your document, you’d need to create a different section up front to hold those parts.

To do this, place your insertion point at the very beginning of your document (if you haven’t already created that preliminary content) or place it right before the first page of your main content (if you have already created the preliminary content).

Switch over to the “Layout” tab on the Ribbon and click the “Breaks” button.

Page Breaks in Microsoft Word

In the drop-down menu, click the “Next Page” option. As the description says, this creates a section break and starts the new section on the next page.

Next Page Page Break

Now that you’ve created the separate section, you can change the format of the page numbers there. The first thing you’ll want to do is break the link between your new preliminary section and the next section where the main body of your document starts. To do that, open up the header or footer area (wherever you have your page numbers) in the main section of your document. On the “Design” tab in the “Header & Footer Tools” section of the Ribbon, click the “Link to Previous” option to break the link to the previous section’s header and footer.

Unlink Previous Section in Microsoft Word

Now that you’ve broken the link, you can fix the page numbering the way you want it. This takes a few steps.

Start by opening up the header and footer area of any page in that preliminary section. You’ll see that the page numbering persists from before you created the new section break.

Right-click the page number and choose the “Format Page Numbers” command from the context menu.

In the Page Number Format window, select the type of numbers you want to use for the section from the “Number Format” drop-down menu. Here, we’ve gone with standard lowercase Roman numerals. Click “OK” when you’re done.

And you can see that our page numbering in that section has changed to Roman numerals.

There’s one more step you’ll need to take, though. Scroll down to the first page in your next section (the one with the main body of your document). You’ll see that the page numbering likely doesn’t start off at page one. That’s because it maintained the same numbering it had before you created that additional section.

It’s an easy fix, though. Right-click the page number and choose the “Format Page Numbers” command from the context menu.

In the Page Number Format window, select the “Start At” option and then set the box at the right to “1” to start the section off on page one.

That’s all there is to it. Now you should have two sections with different numbers and formats.

Controlling Page Numbers Using Fields

Word numbers all your pages, but those numbers remain hidden unless you tell Word to display them. By inserting a field code anywhere on the page, you can tell Word to reveal the page number. This option gives you fine control over page numbers. It also lets you put numbers anywhere you need and not just in the headers, footers, and margins. For example, you could put them in a text box if you wanted to.

Place your insertion point where you’d like to insert page numbers and then press Ctrl+F9 to insert a pair field brackets, which look like this: { }. Then, type “PAGE” inside the brackets like this:

Controlling Page Numbers Using Fields

You can also use a few switches along with the PAGE command that gives you some control over the style in which your numbers appear. Use one of the codes below to give your numbers the look you need.

{ PAGE \* Arabic }
{ PAGE \* alphabetic }
{ PAGE \* ALPHABETIC }
{ PAGE \* roman }
{ PAGE \* ROMAN }

To finish, right-click anywhere between the brackets and choose the “Update Field” command from the context menu.

Update Field

Here’s an example of a page number we’ve inserted into a text box at the bottom right of our page.

Fixing Broken Page Numbers

If your page numbers are broken in a document—maybe they appear non-sequentially or restart seemingly at random—it’s almost always because of problems with sections.

For Word, a document isn’t really a thing when it comes to formatting. Word breaks things down into sections, paragraphs, and characters—and that’s it.

To fix broken page numbering, start by identifying the sections in your document. The easiest way to do this is to switch over to the “View” menu on the Ribbon and then click the “Draft” button to enter draft view.

In draft view, Word shows you exactly where section breaks occur and what kinds of breaks they are.

When you’ve identified the location of your section breaks, switch back over to the Print Layout view (so you can see headers and footers easier). This is where you’ll need to start doing some detective work.

Make sure that that the sections where you want continuous page numbering have their headers and footers linked together and that sections where you don’t want continuous numbering have that link broken. You can also use the methods we’ve covered in this article to make sure the page numbering of sections start at the right number

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