Master Page Numbers in Microsoft Word 2010

Page Numbers



There are several problems that one must solve when numbering pages in Word, and this can be the source of much frustration:

  • You change the page number on one page, and it changes the style or numbering on one or more other pages.
  • You insert a page number on a page, but the formatting doesn’t match that of the other pages.
  • You try to make the front matter have Roman numerals, but all the page numbers switch from Arabic to Roman.
  • You discover that the same page number appears twice in a row.
  • You add page numbers and the file freezes on you. Worse, it won’t open back up.

WHY doesn’t it work? WHY can’t it just be easy?

Calm down. Take a deep breath.

It is possible to number the pages exactly how you want them. The problem is that the way to do it isn’t intuitive. You have to use section breaks, and you have to implement the page numbering a certain way.

If you follow the procedure that Word is looking for, you can master pagination in Microsoft Word.


Before We Begin

Microsoft Word is somewhat more prone to file freezing or corruption when making changes to page numbering.

What does this mean to you?

It means you should back up your file before you edit Word’s pagination.

Save your file with a new filename (like Book v2.docx) and save it in two different places (like jump drive and email). If you’ve already spent months typing hundreds of thousands of words for a book, the worst that can happen is that you have to start over… unless you wisely back up your file in multiple places.



Follow these steps in Microsoft Word. This outline is specifically for the 2010 version, but 2007 and 2013 are nearly identical and 2003 follows the same ideas (but the toolbars are different).

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? At the end of the procedures you can find some screenshots of the key steps.

  1. Insert a section break anywhere you want the style of page numbering to change. For example, if you want to number your first page on the fifth page of your manuscript, you need a Next Page section break at the end of the fourth page. If you’d like to switch from Roman numerals (v, vi, vii, viii, ix, x) to Arabic numbers (11, 12, 13) on the eleventh page, insert a Next Page section break at the end of the tenth page. Remove the ordinary page break (if that’s what you have presently) and instead go to Page Layout > Breaks > Next Page to insert a section break instead of an ordinary page break. This section break tells Microsoft Word that you wish to change the header or footer style (your page numbers are either part of the header or footer, depending on where you place them).
  2. Press the Show/Hide button (it looks like ) on the Home toolbar. This will help you identify page breaks, section breaks, and blank lines, for example. (If your page numbers aren’t lining up between different sections, this will help you see if you accidentally pressed the Enter key while formatting the page numbers in one of the sections, for example.)
  3. Start at the very beginning of your Word document and work your way forward one section at a time. Very often, sections link to previous sections (though you can choose to unlink them), so if you make changes to one section, it often affects every section that follows (sometimes it also affects previous sections). Problems are best minimized by starting at the beginning and working forward one section at a time. After you make any change, immediately review all the previous sections to double-check that none of the previous page numbers have changed. You can save a great deal of frustration by nipping problems in the bud. It’s worth checking. It might seem like it’s a lot of extra work, but in the long run it might be much less work.
  4. If you don’t already have page numbers, go to the page where you’d like to add them and find Page Numbers on the Insert toolbar. Choose one of the options (it’s possible to customize it after inserting them); the simpler options are less likely to result in freezing or file corruption, but nothing is foolproof. Return to the same place and click Format Page Numbers. This gives you the option to change the starting number, continue from the previous section, or change the style from Roman numerals to Arabic numbers, for example. You can highlight the page number and change the font size or style. You can also place your cursor just before or after the page number and type characters (such as ~ to make your page numbers look like ~17~).
  5. You can remove page numbers the same way as you add them. Just go to Insert > Page Numbers > Remove Page Numbers.
  6. Remember to check the previous sections each time you add, remove, otherwise make changes to page numbers. You don’t want previous sections to change. It’s okay if following sections get changed; you’ll be able to correct that once you get to those later sections. If previous sections do change, hit the Undo button at the top of the screen (what a handy button!). Then you need to unlink the current section from the previous section before trying to make these changes. See the next step.
  7. The magic button is called Link to Previous. It’s actually a checkbox. Simply place your cursor in the page number area to open the Design toolbar for page numbers. Uncheck the box to remove the Same As Previous flag and that will allow you to modify the current page numbers without affecting previous page numbers. (Changes you make might affect page numbers in following sections, but that’s okay—you’ll be able to fix those when you get there. It’s the previous sections that you need to check on repeatedly. You don’t want previous sections to change.) Sometimes you do want the current section to follow the same style and numbering as the previous section. In these cases, you want the Link to Previous checkbox to be checked.
  8. When you want a new section to have different page number formatting from the previous section, remember to uncheck the Link to Previous box and verify that the Same As Previous flag disappears before making the changes. Otherwise, previous sections will change, too. It’s easy to forget. Remember also to go back and check all the previous sections anytime you make changes. Once in a while, a previous section (sometimes, it’s way back) changes even though the Link to Previous box is unchecked. So it pays to check. Also, remember to insert a Next Page section break (see Step 1) instead of an ordinary page break anywhere you’d like to make changes to the page numbering style. Not sure if you have a section break where you need it? See Step 2.
  9. Place your cursor in the page number area on a given page to open the Design toolbar. Two of these options can be quite useful. One is the option to have different page number styles on odd and even pages. For example, this helps you place page numbers near the outside edges, which would be the right side for odd-numbered pages and the left side for even-numbered pages. Another option is to have a different style on the first page of each chapter. Many books don’t number the first page of the chapter, so this option allows you to remove the page number from the first page of each section without disturbing the other pages. Well, if you suddenly remove the page number from the first page of the chapter, you may need to go in and reinsert the page numbering on subsequent pages of the same chapter (in addition to just checking the box for a different first page).
  10. Note that the two-page view in Word does NOT show you an actual book view. In a real book, such as one you self-publish at Amazon using CreateSpace, odd-numbered pages appear on the right-hand side and even-numbered pages show up on the left-hand side. Word shows it backwards. Just ignore the way that Word shows it; don’t try to adjust your page numbering based on Word’s incorrect two-page view. If you would like to see how your book will really look, save your file as a PDF file and open it with Adobe Acrobat Reader (you can get the Reader for free from Adobe’s website). Then go to View > Page Display > Show Cover Page in Two Page View, then View > Page Display > Two Page View.
  11. If you’re having trouble getting two different sections to display page numbers the same way, try clicking the Show/Hide Codes button (see Step 2) and comparing the formatting marks in both sections. Also check the settings in the Page Setup Dialog Box (click the funny-looking, arrow-like icon in the bottom right of the Page Setup group on the Page Layout toolbar to open this dialog box); check all three tabs there—Margins, Paper, and Layout. Especially, check the From Edge values in the Layout tab (which should be the same for every section if it’s applied to the Whole Document).
  12. You can change the position of page numbers relative to the body text using the From Edge values (see Step 11). The right combination of margins and From Edge values should allow you to get the body text and page numbers to look exactly how you want them to appear.
  13. Note that headers and footers are set differently. For example, if you unlink one section’s header from the previous section, the footer may still be linked to the previous section. So, for example, if you have both page headers at the top and page numbers in the footer below, unlinking the page numbers won’t unlink the page headers. This is important to keep in mind when you’re trying to format both headers and footers in the same document.
  14. If at first you don’t succeed, vent some of your frustration, get some rest and relaxation, and try again. See the suggestion in Step 15.
  15. Unfortunately, once in a while Word seems to go haywire. That is, you’re sure did everything right, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Sometimes, it helps to undo the last change, remove the section break, reinsert the section break, and then try again. It’s also possible for a Word file to become corrupt, in which case it’s best to start over with your back-up file. Didn’t back it up like I recommended? Ouch!
  16. If you just can’t hammer the square peg through the round hole, there is an alternate solution, which can really come in handy for self-published authors formatting books for print-on-demand services like Amazon’s CreateSpace. You can break your file up into smaller files. Before you do this, see if you can find a Word to PDF converter that allows you to join multiple PDF files together (e.g. Adobe Acrobat XI Pro offers a free trial period, and also offers a monthly subscription; Nuance PDF Converter Professional offers this feature; and there are also many free converters available on the internet). When you publish with CreateSpace or Ingram Spark, it’s best to submit a PDF anyway. If you’re able to join PDF files together, then you can break all the separate sections of your Word document into separate files. The trick is to ensure that all the page sizes, layout, and formatting is consistent across all of your files. Then you just need to get the page numbering right in each individual file, which is easier than getting it right in several different sections of a large file.
  17. If you’re also self-publishing an e-book, remember to remove page numbers (and all headers and footers) from the e-book version of your file.




Link to Previous

Show Codes Arrow

Page Setup Location

Page Setup

Page Headers, too

Headers and footers in general work the same way as pagination.

For example, if you would like to have even-page headers show chapter names and odd-page headers show the book title, you can do this by formatting the page headers the same way as page numbers are formatted. It’s also common to exclude the page header from some pages, such as some of the front matter and the first page of each chapter. It would be wise to see what header and page numbering styles are common for the type of book you’re publishing before you decide on the formatting.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing