Even the most confident editor runs into page numbering problems from time to time. A straightforward series of numbered pages is fine, no problem. But when you start customising the formatting, adding a title page, creating sections or landscape pages, you’ll need to outsmart Word to get it to present your page numbering in the correct manner. I’ve spent a lot of time troubleshooting page numbers in Word and have compiled a few tips.

My earlier blogs covered the basics of page numbering and formatting in MS Word. To round off this set of blogs, I’ll tackle some of the many things that can go wrong with page numbering: page numbers not being continuous, numbering landscape pages and section breaks misbehaving.

MS Word page numbers not continuous (i.e. non-sequential)

Issue – Sometimes, the page numbers will go along just fine for the part of the document, and then will suddenly restart at 1 (or perhaps even at 0!).

Cause – The most likely reason for this situation is the presence of a section break.

Solution – One way to fix this is to remove the section break (if it is a rogue one that has crept in by mistake). But if you want to keep the section break, simply do the following:

  • go to the ‘Insert’ tab, or click in the footer to reveal the menu option
  • click on ‘Page Number’
  • choose ‘Format Page Numbers’

Then set the page numbering to ‘Continue from previous section’ rather than ‘Start at’:

Numbering landscape pages

Issue – There is no easy way to change the location of numbers on landscape pages. For example, if you have page numbers at the bottom of the page, when you insert a landscape page (e.g. for a figure or table) the number automatically goes to the bottom of that page. Thus, when the document is printed out, the number for the landscape page ends up on the side of the page, facing sideways.

Cause – Word does not have an option for choosing where the page number should appear on a landscape page (despite many people asking for this over many years!).

Solution – The short answer is:

  • unlink the headers and footers in the landscape page and the subsequent section
  • remove the automated number from the landscape page
  • manually insert a number in a text box.

In practice, this is quite tricky, so I recommend the instructions in this excellent video.

Section breaks misbehaving

Issue – Imagine that you reach page 27 of your document, create a section break using ‘Next Page’ and expect to see the new section starting at page number 28, but instead it starts at 29.

Cause – The overall setting for section breaks can override the section breaks that you add manually. So, if the document is set to start new sections on an odd page in the whole document, it will see a ‘Next page’ break as meaning ‘Odd page’, and thus will jump to page 29 rather than 28.

Solution – Change the overall setting via Page Setup:

  • go to the 'Layout' tab on the ribbon to open the ‘Page Setup’ box.
  • click on the 'Layout' tab within that box
  • change the setting (e.g. from ‘Odd page’ to ‘New page’).

You can choose to do this for the current section, from this point in the document or for the whole document:

If you’ve discovered problems with page numbering in your document, all is not lost. With these tips you should be able to tackle most pesky problems and wrangle MS Word successfully.


If you're keen to learn more about tools to help you save time and improve the quality of your editing, you might like to take a look at my courses in PerfectIt and EndNote. You can also book a coaching call with me to hone your EndNote skills.