How to Use the Chapter Names as Even-Page Headers in Microsoft Word


Most traditionally published books have page headers running along the top of every page (don’t confuse headers with headings; at the beginning of every section is a heading, while at the top of each page is a header).

When the author is famous, the author’s name is likely to appear on the page header. For the rest of us, it’s probably more useful to put other information here.

Many books put the chapter name on the even-numbered pages and the book title on the odd-numbered pages.

Before you get started, save your file (in two or more places, like on your jump drive and email, in case one file becomes corrupt), then save it again with a different filename. This way, you’ll have a backup of the original, just in case. A file can be messy without you realizing it and become corrupt when working with the page headers, so having a backup of the original may turn out to be valuable.

There is a trick to using different header text in each chapter of the book. It’s the same trick that’s needed to use Roman numerals and Arabic page numbers in the same file. You can find a thorough, step-by-step tutorial with screenshots by clicking here.

The main idea is to use a Next Page section break for each section or chapter where you would like the header to be different. Don’t insert an ordinary page break; going to Insert and selecting Page Break or going to Page Layout and choosing Page won’t work.

Instead, go to Page Layout and select Next Page to make the page break in a way that will tell Word that a new section is beginning.

(In Word 2003 and earlier, the menu options are somewhat different, but the main ideas are still the same. I’ll describe how to use Word 2010 for Windows, specifically, which is similar to Word 2007 and onward.)

Remove ordinary page breaks and recreate them using Next Page anywhere a new chapter is starting (or anywhere else you wish to have different header text, including no header at all, such as front and back matter).

Start at the beginning of the document and edit the headers from the first page onward. If you don’t have page headers yet, add them from the Insert menu.

Place your cursor in the header area. Check the box for different first page if you wish to have a different header in the first page of the section. It’s common, for example, for the first page of each chapter and some pages of the front matter to have no header at all.

Check the box for different odd and even pages to allow the header text of odd-numbered and even-numbered pages to be different. It’s common to have the book title on odd-numbered pages and the chapter name on even-numbered pages.

The first section should be fairly easy, especially if you didn’t already have headers in place to begin with.

When you get to the second section, where you want the headers to be different, place your cursor in the header area and look for the ‘magic’ Link to Previous button. When you click this, the Same As Previous flag will disappear. This allows you to create a new header in this section (instead of copying the header from the previous section; more precisely, to avoid having the previous section change as you type the new header).

You needed those Next Page section breaks (instead of ordinary page breaks) to tell Word where each new section begins.

Remember to start at the beginning and work your way forward one section at a time. After you adjust a new section to your satisfaction, go back and ensure that the previous sections are still correct. If not, be thankful for that handy Undo button.

If your file is messy (it won’t look messy to you on the screen if it is), sometimes Word seems to be a little fussy about the page headers. If Word seems uncooperative, try undoing everything you did in the new section. Then remove the section break at the beginning of the new section, and reinsert it. See if that helps.

Sometimes you can play with it and persistence will pay off.

If you have a richly formatted book, or if the file is otherwise messy (again, without your knowledge), occasionally persistence makes the file even messier or it can become corrupt. (If you saved all of the section breaks and headers until your file was otherwise complete and went section by section systematically through the book, it may help to avoid these troubles.)

One solution to a corrupt file is reverting back to the original you saved as a backup prior to adjusting the headers.

A messy file can be cleaned up by stripping out the formatting. For example, copy and paste everything into Notepad and then copy and paste it into a new Word document. This is not a good option for a file that has numerous pictures, equations, bullets, instances of italics, or other formatting. And if the file mostly contained plain text, it was less likely to get so messy in the first place.

Opening the backup and trying the headers again may be worth the hassle (and far less hassle than stripping out the formatting for a richly formatted book), and it may work out better the second time.

In the worst-case scenario that you just can’t get the headers to cooperate, the simple way around this when your ultimate goal is to create a PDF file is to break your Word document up into smaller files (e.g. one file for each chapter, provided that the chapter count is reasonable). Then it will be easy to make different headers for each chapter.

In this case, you’ll have to manually start the page numbering from the previous chapter by inspection. If you make any revisions to your book, you’ll have to update the page numbering.

If you split the Word file into separate files, you’ll need a Word to PDF converter that allows you to compile separate PDF files together. With the number of free PDF converters available online, there is a good chance you can find one that fits your needs that has this option (but beware of possible viruses or spyware anytime you download programs from the internet).

Many books have been prepared in Word as a single file that have different headers for each chapter. Chances are that you’ll be able to do this in Word with your book, too, without having to resort to any drastic measures.

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7 comments on “How to Use the Chapter Names as Even-Page Headers in Microsoft Word

  1. I have written a book with different sections and different headers on odd and even pages, reflecting the section and book title. However, in getting the headers correct, it has impacted the page numbers. While they are continuous throughout the book (which is what I want, starting in section 1), the even page footers are missing. Presumably, this is because I have different headers on the odd and even pages. However, there must be a way to the page numbers to show on every page while retaining different header text. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • One thing is that the headers and footers may have different Same as Previous flags, so a header might continue to be the same as the previous section while a footer may not, or vice-versa. The first thing I would do is place my cursor in the page number area and see that all the Same as Previous flags are where I want them.

      You probably need to insert page numbers on the first even page where you want them to show. You can do this from the Insert tab by placing your cursor somewhere on the first even page that you want numbered. As soon as you get the page number to show correctly on that page and once you format it to your liking, look at the previous and following pages to see if this change messed with your headers or other page numbers (it could even put them on pages that you didn’t want numbered). Once you get the first number without causing chaos, then go forward one page at a time through the end of the book. Occasionally, you may need to add or remove a Same as Previous flag or you may need to place your cursor in the page number area on a page, go to Page Number on the design ribbon, and go into Format Page Numbers in order to adjust the starting page (or continue from the previous section). Anytime you change one page number, scan the rest of the document to see if it changed anything you don’t want to change.

      Save your file in a couple of place (e.g. hard drive, jump drive, email) with a new file name just in case the file becomes corrupt while playing with the headers or footers. Good luck. 🙂

      • Thanks for your reply, some of which I’ve already tried.
        If I place the cursor in the footer and unclick ‘Different Odd and Even Pages’ in the Design tab, the page numbering comes back correctly. However, this action causes the headers on both odd and even pages to revert to the odd page text. So, I either get the correct section headers but with only odd page numbering, OR, correct page numbering but with the same headers throughout the book!

    • That happens sometimes. In the ideal world, I have a complete book with no headers or page numbers, I insert the Next Page section breaks where I want them starting from the beginning, then I go to the beginning of the document and start doing both headers and footers together as I work forward (always checking the previous sections every time I change a new section).

      It might be best to make the change to “fix” the page numbers and then rework on the headers from the beginning (again, every time you make any change, you have to see if it affected previous sections; going forward from the beginning, don’t worry about what happens to later sections, as they still need to be changed). When a change affects a previous section, it’s usually a needed Same as Previous flag (sometimes, you have to remove the current page break and reinsert a Page Layout > Breaks > Next Page break, even if that’s the kind of break that was already there). You should have the box checked for Different Odd and Even Pages.

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