What is the Difference Between Page Break and Section Break

As you type in Word, text forms sentences that expand into paragraphs that fill up the page.

As Word always starts with a predefined page, once it fills up, Word moves over to a new page.

Similarly, when you delete text in one page, Word fills up the gap by moving in text from subsequent pages.

Therefore, depending on some parameters like font size, and line spacing you have chosen, Word decides the amount of text in a page, and automatically inserts a page break to separate two pages.

However, everything is not automatic, and Word also allows you to insert different types of breaks to control the flow of text in your Word document.

Word offers three types of breaks—

  • Simple Page breaks
  • Page breaks
  • Section breaks

subtypes of them, as in the table below:

BreaksSimple Page BreakPage BreaksSection Breaks
FunctionSeparates the content between pages keeping the flow.Separate the content between pages breaking the flow.Split the document into sections.
UtilityStarts a new page. Following paragraph starts at page top.Start a new page. Following paragraph starts after a blank line at page top.Start a new section. Each section can have its own header/footer and formatting
InsertionKeyboard/MenuMenuMenu
TypesNonePage, Column, Text wrapping.Next page, Continuous, Even page, Odd page.

Inserting breaks in a document allows you to print it in the desired manner. It also helps to retain the format while you change the fonts, or the page orientation.

Word uses hidden characters to depict breaks, and normally they remain invisible. However, for understanding the difference between different breaks, it is easier if the breaks were visible.

The easiest way to do this is to open the Word document, click on the Home tab on the top menu bar, and click on the Show/Hide button within the Paragraph section.

So, how do you choose what break to insert and where? Let us find out.


Simple Page Break

When you have a document where the text flow is continuous, and you want a break to allow the next paragraph to begin on the next page, you insert a Simple Page break. You can do this in two ways—using the menus or the keyboard.

To insert a Simple Page break using menus, click on the Insert tab on the top menu bar to change the ribbon.

Place the cursor at the beginning of the paragraph where you want to insert the break.

Click on Page Break in the Pages section, and Word will insert a page break on a new line after the cursor.

Word will also move the next paragraph to the beginning of the next page.

You can achieve the same effect by pressing Ctrl+Enter simultaneously on your keyboard, after you have placed the cursor at the beginning of the paragraph where you want the break to appear.

What happens if your text flow is continuous, but columnar?

Inserting a Simple Page break moves the next paragraph to a new column on a new page.

Notice that you are not adding a heading in between the paragraphs. What if you had to?

To add a heading in between the two paragraphs, separate them with a Page break.

Page Break

When you want the separated paragraph to also have a new line for adding a heading, use the Page break.

Click on the Layout tab on the top menu bar to change the ribbon.

Within the Page Setup section, click on the tiny triangle on the right side of Breaks to open the Page Breaks and Section Breaks menu.

If you click on Page, Word will shift the paragraph following the cursor to the beginning of the next page, and will also add a new line in front, allowing you to add a heading there.

What happens if your text is columnar? You must use the Column break.

Column Break

Next in the Page Breaks menu is the Column break. When your document contains columnar text, you can break up the columns with a Column break.

Word moves the next paragraph following the cursor to the beginning of the next column and adds a new line to allow adding a heading.

What happens if you have an image along with the text in your document? For such a case, you must use the Text Wrapping break.

Text Wrapping Break

The next type of Page break in the menu is the Text Wrapping break.

This type of break is for keeping the image and its caption within a paragraph—allowing the paragraph containing the image to wrap around it, while separating it from the text in the next paragraph.

Place the cursor at the end of the paragraph containing the image, and click on Text Wrapping in the Page Break menu.

Word shifts the next paragraph down until it no longer wraps around the image.

Now, let us see how Section Breaks work.


Section Breaks

As we saw earlier, Word offers four types of Section Breaks. We will check them out one by one. 

Next Page Section Break

When a part of your Word document has content that requires a different formatting from the rest, you can isolate it with a Next Page section break and apply the special formatting on it.

For instance, most of your document is continuous and the pages are in portrait mode, but you need to insert a wide table in between, and the table looks good only in landscape mode.

You can insert a Next Page section break after the last paragraph, add the table in landscape mode, add another Next Page section break after the table, and continue the text in portrait mode.

You have basically isolated the page containing the table with two Next Page section breaks.

What happens if you do not want a separate page for changing the format?

When you want the change of format to be applicable, say on a paragraph within the page, you need to apply the Continuous section break.

Continuous Section Break

This is the second type of section break in the menu. This break maintains a continuity in the text flow, but allows you to change the formatting to a section in the same page.

For instance, by isolating a certain section of the text, say, one or more paragraphs, with a Continuous section break at either end, you can change them to columnar text.

The last two types of Section Breaks, Even Page and Odd Page, pertain more to printing than to the visible aspects of a document.

Let us consider the Even Page Section break first.

Even Page Section Break

When you insert an Even Page section break, Word creates the break at the cursor and pushes the rest of the text to the next page, and numbers it with an even number.

If you were already on an even-numbered page when you inserted the break, the next page will be the next even number, and Word will skip the odd numbers in between. 

What happens if you want the new page to have an odd number rather than an even one? You use the next type of break, the Odd Page Section Break.

Odd Page Section Break

This is the last type of break Word offers. This is identical to the Even Page section break, only it numbers the new page with an odd number rather than an even number.

To illustrate, if you have pages running serially in your document as:

[Page #1] [Page #2] [Page #3] [Page #4] [Page #5] [Page #6],

When you insert an Even Page Section Break between Page #3 and #4, the sequence will change as below:

When you insert an Even Page Section break between Page #2 and #3, the sequence changes as below:

When you insert an Odd Page Section Break between Page #3 and #4, the sequence changes as below:

When you insert an Odd Page Section break between Page #2 and #3, the sequence change as below:


Conclusion

Use the different page breaks and section breaks judiciously, and you can make your document not only aesthetically pleasing, but also suitable for printing it the way you want. Our discussion above should help you understand the difference between different types of page breaks and section breaks.

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