Tips for Indie Authors – Section Breaks and Page Numbering

Those of you who work in Microsoft Word may have hit a few bumps in the road when preparing your masterpiece for CreateSpace or another print-on-demand service.  In this post,  I’d like to offer some basic tips for working with section breaks and page numbering in Word.

What is a section break and why do we use them?

A section break splits your document into sections, which in turn allows you to:

  • Set up different headers/footers for different parts of a document
  • Use of different page numbering styles in different sections (and restart/continue numbering from a previous section)
  • Use different page layouts within a document (orientation, columns, margins, and so on)

For fiction writers, page numbering is the most common reason for using section breaks.

sectionbreak1How do I add a section break?

The Break options are located on the Page Layout tab of ribbon.  If it is important that your new (next) section starts on an odd page, select Odd Page. If not, select Next Page.

If your document already has section breaks and you want to see where they are located, click the Show/Hide paragraph marks and other hidden formatting symbols button paramarkon the Home tab of the ribbon. breakshowing
Note: If you are on an odd page and you select Odd Page, a blank page will be inserted.

That was easy enough. So what’s the big deal?

For most people, the troubles begin when they start to modify the headers or footers in their new section.

By default, the headers and footers of your new section are connected to the previous section.  This means that if you set the numbering in your new section to use numerals (1,2,3) instead of roman numerals (i, ii, iii), then it makes the changes to the other sections as well.  So you fix one section only to discover that you have messed up the settings for another section. You fix it there, only to discover that your new section is now messed up.  A vicious cycle takes root, making you want to scream or cry in frustration. (Been there, done that.)

A few simple precautions can help avoid this problem.  When you double-click on your header/footer to open it, the header/footer information includes the section number and if it is linked to the previous section, Same as Previous appears.     header1

In addition, the Link to Previous option is enabled on the Header & Footer Tools ribbon.lintoprev
Before attempting to make changes to the layout of your new section, you need to disable the Link to Previous option for the header or footer that you want to edit. Doing this does not remove the existing content – but it does allow you to make changes in a section without affect the previous one.

Important: If the section you need to edit is located between two other sections, disable the link option in the section that follows as well. If you do not do so, the changes in section 2 will be applied to section 3, and so on, until there is a section where Link to Previous has not been set.

pnumbersPage numbering

The page number options are located on the Header and Footer Tools ribbon.

To change the number format, select Format Page Numbers.  In the dialog box that is displayed, you can set the type of numbering (1,2,3; a,b,c; i, ii, iii; and so on).  You can also define the numbering to start from a specific number or to continue the numbering from the previous section. numb2

A common use case for non-fiction documents is to use roman numerals for the front matter (TOC and such), and then start the “meaty” content from page 1.  To do this, the numbering in Section 1 of the document would be set to roman numerals, and set to start at i.  After disconnecting the linking between Section 2 and Section 1, the numbering can be set to start from 1.

Tip: If your book/work is contained in multiple files, use the Start at option to set the numbering accordingly. For example, if your first file ended on page 92, the next one might need to start on page 93.

Cover page 

So you don’t want a page number to appear on your cover page, how can you make it go away without messing up the numbering on the next page?  pagesetup

  1. With your cursor on the cover page, on the Page Layout ribbon, select Page Setup.
  2. Click the Layout tab.
  3. Select the Different first page checkbox.
  4. Verify that This section is selected from the Apply to dropdown list.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Now you can delete the number from the bottom of the cover page without affecting the layout of other pages/sections.

Changing Page Orientation

Section breaks also enable us to insert pages with different layouts – for example, landscape vs. portrait orientation.  A word to the wise – if you need to insert a section with different layouts, always insert two section breaks (one before and one after the content) and disconnect Link to Previous in the new section and the section that follows before making any changes to layout!

Have any tips of your own? Feel free to comment and share your ideas.

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