Page Numbering Inside a Word Document

Statistics reveal that over 2.1 billion people worldwide use Microsoft Office suite in different fields of work.  Microsoft Word remains one of its top most commonly used  applications. A survey  by Creative Strategies revealed that 80% of students use Ms Word in accomplishing their individual tasks.

Have you realized that many PC-users automatically qualify themselves as Ms Office proficient? Indeed many CVs are pregnant with this qualification! But how many can perform correct page numbering inside a Word document?  Maybe a few. Those proficient enough. How about you?

If your pagination knowledge is still basic, don’t worry, you can upgrade your skills today and here…for free!

 How Poor Page Numbering Can Mess You Up!

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Has improper pagination ever stained your Research Paper, an assignment, funding or business proposal? For me it has. After tirelessly working on your project paper, you scan through the pages. Then you realize your page numbering is improper! You want page numbers to begin from 3rd page. That is, after  Title Page and below your Table of Content page. But you have no idea of how to achieve this.

Maybe you are a newbie freelance writer determined to impress your first client. Your profile and portfolio show you can effectively handle technical and research projects. A client checks out your details and is satisfied. You fit the bill, and you are hired!

But now what? You cannot organize your project’s section pages…and the clock is ticking pretty fast! What do you do? You submit a poorly-paged document, and expect your client to pay for it, then fix it? Your client is unforgiving. Your paper is rejected, you are poorly rated with reviews baked in mud! Your freelance job may be on the line. You feel disappointed, discouraged. You lament. If only you knew proper pagination, this could have been a 5-star delivery!

student paper

Perhaps you are a college or a University student. You have printed your Research Paper ready for submission in hard copy. But a sad reality hits you hard and fast. Your pagination is wanting.  And you know it. Submission deadline is fast approaching. You have no logical knowledge to help you troubleshoot pagination errors. You are at a fix. No clue to quick fixes!

Streams of stress start flowing. You’ve wasted time and resources. Why not ask others for help?  Well, on this one, allow me to share a small personal story before we move on…I’m sure you’ll learn from it just like I did.

Here it goes:

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During my 2nd year at the University, we had a C++ Object Oriented Programming course or Unit. Some of my classmates were very good at coding and were always willing to assist.   I could, however, spend a lot of time trying to resolve coding problems on my own. How stupid  I was!

One day, I was working on a simple program. But my program couldn’t run! If you write a program and if fails to run, it really eats into your head! Ask any programmer. This one milked my brain dry! I checked all my codes but couldn’t detect any error.

For two days, I unsuccessfully searched for a solution. On the third day, I shared the code in an online forum for Programmers. One programmer who was online instantly noted an error in my codes.  In one of my coding lines, I had mistakenly typed in a comma instead of a semi-colon! Just imagine!

True, I succeeded in finally getting help, but after three days! A problem my classmates could easily help me resolve in two minutes. But I ignored them…I took them for granted yet they were my closest learning assets. Big mistake! You shouldn’t be like me. Don’t look far if your help is near you.

Self-learning is good, very good. It allows you to learn wide and wild! But if you can directly learn from others closer to you, and for free, always take advantage! You can then supplement with your other sources. Their tips may be your key to resolving more complex problems on your own. You will be saving on learning time. Lesson learnt? Great!

Now back to your pagination nightmares and scares…

To resolve your page numbering puzzle, you resort to a crude technique. You manually insert or correct page numbers using a pen.  And you think it won’t be easily noticed because you have used a black pen and your handwriting is cute! Good gracious! And so you submit your final craft that’s now more of a draft!

How about if your paper is to be emailed as an attachment? Now you unleash your basic monkey tricks. Well, I mean your mischievous page numbering method! ooh, it’s not even a method!  You create an extra space below each page, and type in your page numbers! Ooh my! You are above this for sure.

Of course, you are excused. You aren’t being judged harshly. This is the only option you have up your sleeve. Your intention is very positive, it’s understandable. But will you be forgiven? No! You will always reap what you sow.

Finally, what do you get? Negative comments and mediocre grades. You have failed to impress! Your lecturer or supervisor wonders if you really qualified for the course you are taking. Why? Because at your level, you ought to know better and do better, and you too know it! Does it really have to be this way? Of course not.

Let’s forget about this for now. It’s done. You did your best. People learn through mistakes. There will always be a next time. There is still time. True!

But here comes the next interesting phase:

You phase of self-consolation and self-made promises. Promises of how “next time” you’ll do better! How at your “free time” you’ll get pagination lessons from google searches or Youtube. The promise of how you will get time and to seek for help. But let’s face it, that’s all you have ever done to yourself! Promises and more promises. Surely you aren’t being fair to yourself. Are you?

Sooner or later, another project or writing task comes knocking.  You are expected to deliver urgently. And it’s a vicious cycle of “corrupted” pagination!  You really need to stop this now and act. What do you think? If you doubt your ability to overcome this challenge, let’s do a small mirror test to undress the real truth! Are you ready?

Hold an imaginary clear mirror in front of you with your eyes closed! Now…slowly open your eyes, and look straight into the mirror! Look how bright your abilities shine in front of you!

  • You are good at handling complex academic, business, and social challenges that call for logical thinking.
  • You can troubleshoot and resolve computer errors in a way many cannot fathom!
  • You can do research and get valuable information to make your project or proposal standout.
  • You are a good listener and peace-maker… both at home and at work.
  • You value good things and make good choices. You always take time to ensure you look perfect. And perfectly you look!
  • You manage your time well. You attend your lectures, business meetings, social events like the wedding….you observe prayer times…respond to important calls,…update your facebook status regularly…reply to important WhatsApp or email messages daily! Pheeeeeew! The list is endless.

Now slowly put the mirror down! You have no idea how smart and able you are! If page numbering inside Ms Word document is your constant challenge, you can surely conquer it and be smart at it today! Well, I now challenge you to grab the bull by the horns!

I’ve written this guide to help you pass over this huddle, and escape from the muddle! 

Instead of the traditional Step by Step “FIXED RULES”, I have provided simple logical explanations…so that you know WHAT to do and WHY you need to do it.

Remember, good pagination will enhance the quality of your documents, and help build your reputation as a good writer, scholar or business person. You will always feel confident and proud of your work. And you will reap good results!

Before you start, do you know the key benefits of good page numbering?


7 Benefits of Good Page Numbering

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  1. As a student, undergraduate or postgraduate, correct pagination will help improve your grades. There are marks allocated for correct formatting and page layout. This includes pagination! Proper pagination will also indicate that you are a qualified scholar!  Any time you are given an academic project, know that you are not just being tested on one single item. How well you can present an academic paper is part of your test.  Good content is only good enough if it is correctly delivered!

  2. As a professional writer or business person, it shows you are an expert in your field…and that you can be relied upon. Poor pagination implies you are an armature/not well skilled. Your document may not be taken seriously because your presentation is unprofessional!

  3. It shows you are well organized and thoughtful. If your document/Research Paper is well organized with proper pagination, it’s an indication of you being organized and keen on details. This sounds cool, isn’t it?

  4. Offers guidance on where specific contents are located for easier access and reference by your target readers.

  5. Good pagination helps in the correct quantification of a document, paper or a book’s content. This is critical when evaluating associated costs based on the total number of words per page.

  6. Correct pagination facilitates proper reference or in-text citations from your original work.

How To Start Pagination INSIDE Your Document

Let’s assume you have basic pagination skills. By basic I mean you can do pagination from the first page. You have no skills on page breaks or section breaks. Good! Let’s also assume that:

  1. You are working on an academic Research Paper or a business document that needs to be organized into different distinct sections.
  2. You need your Paper to have pagination done inside your document in specified page sections. Title page and table of content should not have page numbers.
  3. You have details of the format of page numbers you need, and where you need them within your document.

You’ll need a blueprint! This should be in form of a draft highlighting your desired page sections, and numbering format. It’s easy to remember what you have written down. Don’t always trust your memory!

Here’s your blueprint:

  1. 1st Cover Page/Title Page-No Pagination needed
  2. A 2nd Page-Abstract section with 3 pages. Numbering should be Roman numerals (i-iii)
  3. 3rd Page –Page of Content-No pagination required –This section will be for your Table of Content.
  4. 4th page –Beginning of Main Content Body- You need to use Arabic numerals for numbering (1, 2, 3…)

No matter how simple some steps may seem to you, I urge you to keep reading. You will surely GAIN from instructions I’ll be providing with simple logical explanations.

Important Note: Since there are different Page Breaks and Section Breaks options,   in this guide, you shall only consider Next-Page Section breaks. Graphic illustrations that I have used to guide you here are based on Ms Word 2013. I trust you’ll be in a position to navigate to relevant sections within your own Ms Word version.

I have deliberately included logical explanations to ensure that you don’t just follow the given steps blindly. When you get the logic right, implementation and troubleshooting will be much easier for you.

Remember: It’s the lack of  little things that sometimes make us miss bigger things

Step 1. Open a Blank Document… Name & Save It!

Sounds obvious, right? But obvious things can get tricky at times.

Here is the logic:

Have you ever spent time working on an unsaved document…then a time comes when you urgently want to close all opened files, shut down your system, and leave?

Then you are prompted by your ever watchful system:

“Do you want to save your changes to document 1?”

And maybe you have been working on several unsaved word documents…so you cannot make head nor tail of what document 1 is all about.

Then without thinking….well, since you are in a rush or your brain is already saturated, you click on  “Don’t Save”  And Boooooom! All your work is gone just like that! Reason? You didn’t name or save your document from the very beginning. Now you understand why?

Warning Tip:  Do not work on several documents at the same time. This will limit chances of you making fatal saving mistakes.

Step 2. Configure Auto-save.

Navigation: File-Options-Save

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  • Protect your work against risks such as sudden power failure, system crash or unexpected system shutdown.
  • Set document auto-save accordingly. Personally, I prefer setting for 2 minutes. This way, should there be a system problem, I’ll not lose any changes in my document.
  • Do not rely absolutely on periodic manual saving. Periodic saving is good…yes. Actually, you should periodically save your work! But relying on your memory is a risk you can avoid. Let auto-save be your trusted saviour!

Step 3. Have Your PAGE LAYOUT Right!

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Ensure that you set the required Page Layout at the very beginning. For academic writing, adhere to specified writing styles and guidelines.

You’ll have to consider setting up other required formatting styles as well. For the sake of this article, focus on margins, orientation, and paper size. Do not assume that default settings will always be ideal.  Get your Page Layout right based on the document you are creating.

You must be wondering what page layout has to do with pagination. Well, I also thought so before. Page Layout determines how your final document will appear…including page numbers!

Step 4. Have a Draft Of Page Section Breaks.

As mentioned earlier, having a sketch or draft of your desired pagination is VERY IMPORTANT. You don’t have to type and print the draft…all you need is pen and paper. Let’s use this for this guide.

Page template

Good! You now know exactly how you want your Research Paper to be organized into sections and page numbers. This is your implementation template.

Step 5.  Creating 1st  Section Break-Next Page

On your first blank page, simply type “Title Page” at the top (This is just to guide you…later you will type in all details in their correct formats and even insert tables or frames if necessary)

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With the cursor still on your first page (any position AFTER “Title Page” (MUST BE AFTER, NOT BEFORE), within the menu, navigate to  Page Layout-Breaks-Next page.

Logic: If you put the cursor before the Title Page text, it will be shifted to a new section. That’s why your cursor should be after the text.

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  1. The cursor will instantly shift from your first page to a new second-page position. At the new cursor position, type “Abstract”. Again, this to guide you so that you know the section’s content. You are following the template, Ok?

You now have two separate page sections…”Title Page” and new “Abstract Page” Easy, isn’t it?

You may ask:

“Why don’t we just press enter key from the first page until the cursor gets to the second Abstract page?” Good thinking…but that’s not right! Let’s investigate why…

Logical Explanation:

Using Enter Key will be very wrong! Why? Because you will not be creating a separate page section, but a series of continuous pages. This is not what you want, right? You want the first page to be on its own, and the next page to start afresh without any link to the first. Each section MUST be independent. But again…even after we have achieved page section break, this new page still has some links with some elements in the previous page.  You need to resolve this in the next step.

 Step 6. Unlinking  To Previous Headers and Footers

This is a VERY INTERESTING STEP. It has hidden secrets that many people with basic pagination skills fail to discover. YOU MUST UNDERSTAND THIS SECTION WELL. It talks about headers and footers. Please hang on…you will surely get the hang of it.

I’ll make this easy for you. And before you know it, the logic will stick in your mind FOREVER.

Headers and Footers are upper and lower sections of a page… where page numbers are inserted. Normally, they fool us into thinking they are pages! Hmm….let’s give them a lesser technical name. Call them Special containers above and below Ms Word document pages!

One of their function is displaying page numbers… which is our concern today. Well, they have other functions like inserting footnotes, addresses, etc.

By default, consecutive footers and headers are often linked to those in previous pages. That’s why:

  1. If you do page-numbering from the first page without any customized settings, page numbers will follow each other sequentially. For instance, if your first page appears inside a footer as No 1, the footer on your second page will “communicate” with 1st page’s neighbouring footer, and say:“Hey…I see you’ve taken Page No1 already…let me take No 2!”.
  2. You must have double-clicked the top or bottom part of your Ms Word pages. What happens? A cursor will appear active either within a footer or header..depending on which section you have double-clicked. If you type in some text or insert some images like a logo,  or address, what happens? By default, contents in your header or footer will be displayed in all footers or headers in all pages…even in new ones you create. Why? Because each neighbouring header or footer will always insist:  “You can’t have all these goodies alone! I must also have the same package…we are all equal!”

Therefore, when you separate page sections using the Next Page section break tool, as you already did, headers and footers in the new pages will still keep their links.

This is what they are telling you now:

“Ooh, you have created Page Sections using Next Page Command…that’s very much ok with us. No problem! We really don’t care how many page sections you create! You know what?! We are still in touch with our brothers and sisters in the previous pages. We shall continue relying on them for new updates including page numbering! If you give them a page number, we shall take numbers that follow…if you write any text or insert any image in inside them, we shall also copy and have similar contents…it is our right!”

This for sure is NOT what you want! Right? Since your page numbers must always appear either in headers or footers, you MUST instruct these new headers and footers to stop their communication with their partners in the previous pages! If you don’t, they will ruin your planned numbering of pages. They will have both their say, and their way!

Don’t let them “collude” with each other without your permission! You need them to only collaborate within their new boundaries/specified Page Sections…not influencing other isolated pages. I hope you are getting the logic now.

In other words, you must remove default settings for headers and footers. This is because:

  • You do not want footer & header in “Abstract page” to be linked to header and footer in the “Title page”.
  • You do not want footer and header in “Page Content” to be linked to those in “Abstract.”
  • You do not want footer and header in “Content body” to be linked to headers or footers in Page content.

Important Note:

If you have your cursor on say Abstract page…and you keep hitting Enter key, these newly formed pages will still be under Abstract section. Pages will be numbered sequentially but only on in this section. Why?

Because these new pages are within the page break boundary that you had already created…they are within the Abstract section of the page break. But to ensure they do not interfere with the Page Content section and other separated pages like Content Body, their headers and footers must be unlinked to those on other different page sections.

Is the logic now sitting pretty in your mind? Since you now understand the “WHY” you can now happily implement Step 6…unlinking headers and footers to previous sections.

With your cursor on your new second page AFTER “Abstract” text that you just typed, you need to instruct both the header and footer on this 2nd page not to be linked to their 1st-page neighbours!

Here is how:

  1. INSERT-Header-Edit-Header-Unlink to Previous

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2. A new window will appear of  HEADER & FOOTER TOOLS with “link to previous” highlighted.  The highlight simply indicates that the header in your new page is still linked to that on the previous page(by default). They are still in touch! Click on it to remove the highlight. This will unlink it to the Previous header.

So… any time you notice it’s not highlighted, know it’s on its own! Great logic! This simple knowledge will help you correct pagination issues very easily.

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3. Now close your editing window by clicking anywhere on the document’s body…outside the header section. You have just successfully unlinked/separated your Abstract page’s header to your Title page’s header!

BUT don’t forget!

You have just done this to header…perhaps you will need your document’s page numbers to appear on footers. So then…you need to repeat the same process, but this time select footer and unlink in the same way you did for the header.

Note: It’s always important to unlink both header and footer even if you only intend to use either a footer or header for page numbering. This gives you the flexibility to choose either option without any problem.

INSERT-footer-edit footer-Click highlighted “link to Previous”…and finalize by clicking anywhere in the body.

At this stage, your 1st and 2nd pages are not only separated, but they also have independent footers and headers.  If you do page numbering on “Abstract section” it will not affect “Title page” numbering. Super-duper!!!

But don’t start page numbering now yet…it will be fun after you complete preparing all your the page sections. Page Content section is next.

Step 7. Creating -2nd Section Break- Next Page 

It’s now time to create a “Page of Content” section. With your cursor after your already typed “Abstract” navigate to Page Layout-Breaks-Next page. The same process we used to create the abstract page from Title page. Remember? This time, the cursor will move to a 3rd-page section. Type “Content Page” at the new cursor’s position.

Guess what you need to do next? Yes. Unlinking headers and footers just as you have done above. Awesome!

Step 8 Creating 3rd Section Break-Next Page 

 With cursor AFTER your already typed “Page of Content” Navigate: Page Layout-Breaks-Next page. At the new cursor position (4th page), type “Content Body”. You’ll note we are basically using same procedures already captured.

 Step 9: Unlinking to Previous header and footer

Continue unlinking headers and footers as explained above.

Are you done? If yes, then you have successfully done the necessary configurations, and you are now ready to insert page numbers just as you want them. You have set all the rules…you are in full command of your document’s pagination.

But wait a minute! We have only created 4 pages! Why not 2 more pages for Abstract and 3 more pages for Body? Good question.

Do this now:

Place your cursor anywhere below Abstract title and press enter key until your cursor moves to the next page. You will now have two pages all under the Abstract section. If your document will need three abstract pages, keep pressing to the 3rd page.

Warning: Be careful when later you will be deleting items from page sections that you have created and configured. As you delete data from one section, lower pages move up. You may end up deleting page section breaks from pages below without knowing. This will directly affect your pages, and you may need to do page breaks afresh.

Now you can begin inserting Page Numbers, and enjoy fruits of your pagination labour! Since Title page doesn’t require pagination, start with your Abstract section.

 Step 10. Pagination Settings-Abstract Page.

With the cursor on the Abstract page…any part within the page. Navigate: Insert-Page Number-Format Page Number

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Select desired number format and Page numbering. Roman numerals in this case. Then Click OK. At this level, you’ve just issued page format instructions…let’s insert the page numbers next.

Step 11. Inserting Page Numbers -Abstract Page.

Navigate Insert-Page Number-Bottom Page-Select the preferred display.

From Page Number menu option, you can decide on where to insert your page numbers either within footers(bottom of page) or headers(top of the page). Preview window appears allowing you to choose your preferred options.

Your selected page format will be visible in either your footer or header (depending on your choice). Click anywhere inside your document. Your Abstract section will now have page numbers just as you desire.

If your Abstract content exceeds the 2nd page, a 3rd page will be created with its page number. If your Abstract section started at i | Page, its additional second page will automatically be:  ii  | Page and the 3rd page will now be iii  | Page

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Since you don’t need pages on Content page…we shall skip it just as we did with Title Page…easy work!

Let’s now to go to the beginning of your Content Body section now for the final pagination.

 Step 12.  Pagination-Content Body.

Repeat step 10 but this time, select different page number format-Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3….). When done,  select exact location where you need to insert the page number as you did for the Abstract section.

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Finally!

You have successfully done section breaks and pagination. Good work. With more practices, pagination will be a walk in the park!  When proficient, you will require less than 5 minutes to do you section breaks. You will be smart at it, just as you are smart in other fields. Whenever your page numbering is not right, just check if it has to do with headers having a link to previous pages.

You can now begin working on your document. But…you may be wondering if this is all you need to know. Absolutely not! Learning has no end. I’m ever learning myself.

As you work on your document, you will require headings and sub-headings in your content’s body pages. These are to be well captured in Table of Contents.

It is, therefore, necessary that you know how to create Table of Content which will occupy your already created Page Content Section. This I shall tackle in a future post.

Meanwhile, you can keep track of all my latest posts  HERE  Just remember, learning has no end.

If you have any comments, questions, or more input, feel free to share here. Two or more heads will always be better than one…and there are always more ways of trapping a notorious rat!

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