Avoid unnecessary page breaks by using Word styles

Using styles, Word can control page breaks better than you. Learn how to use styles to insert hard page breaks.

Inserting hard page breaks is one of the easiest ways to mess up an otherwise sound document. That's not always the case, but anytime you force line wraps or page or section breaks you create the potential for trouble and sometimes the source of that trouble is hard to troubleshoot. Styles are the solution and before you spit on the ground, hear me out.

In a simple document of just a few pages, a hard page break probably won't matter. In long documents, it almost always will. As you rearrange and modify your document, those hard page breaks will confuse and confound you. They might even make you feel stupid if folks are standing over your shoulder waiting for you to fix the problem.

When business or formatting rules require a page break, find a way to attach that break to a style and forget about it. For instance, you might have a long document with several layers of headings. Furthermore, you want all of your top level headings to begin on a new page. That's a common flow requirement, and a style can handle it. To illustrate, let's assume that you're using Word's built-in Heading 1 style to format your top level headings. Let's modify Heading 1 to accommodate your new page requirement:

  1. Click the Home tab.
  2. In the Styles quick gallery, right-click Heading 1 and choose Modify. If Heading 1 isn't in the quick gallery, click the Styles group's dialog launcher. In the resulting Styles pane, find Heading 1 and choose Modify from its dropdown list. In Word 2003, choose Style from the Format menu; select Heading 1 and click Modify.
  3. From the Format dropdown, select Paragraph.
  4. On the Indents and Spacing tab, make sure the Spacing Before setting is 0.
  5. Click the Line And Page Breaks tab.
  6. Check Page Break Before.
  7. Click OK twice. In Word 2003, also click Close.

Now, every time you apply the Heading 1 style, Word will automatically insert a page break, but that break will belong to the header. That means, you can easily move the header without worrying about the page break. Inserting hard page breaks is an easy habit to break if you let styles insert the break for you. It's more efficient and error-proof!