Formatting eLearning Documents: Give Me a Break

Let’s continue our Formatting eLearning Documents series with a little discussion on another area that interacts with the Table of Contents (ToC). The ToC depends on page numbers, and page numbers are a function of the header/footer, and the header/footer is related to page breaks.

Sound confusing?

Basically, when you correctly format a page break it allows you to easily format your page numbers. If you have a title page or ToC and you want your numbers to start on the first page after the title pages, it’s especially important to use page breaks. It’s also a best practice for collaboration, editing, and accessibility. I’ll talk about that more below.

Page Breaks

First, let’s discuss page breaks. What’s a page break?

A page break is simply a Word function that allows you to start a part of your document on a new page. For example, when you finish writing your content in the middle of a page and need to start, say, the Appendix on the next page, the page break function lets you skip to the next page (without pressing “enter” a bunch of times). Simple enough, right?

Using a page break also helps with accessibility. The repeated ‘line breaks’ from pressing enter a bunch of times will get read over and over by a screen reader. We definitely want to avoid that.

But the page breaks function does more than save you from repeatedly pressing the enter key. First, it helps with editing and collaboration. Second, it allows you to start page numbers on a different page other than the Title page or ToC.

Let’s look at that first reason, editing and collaboration.

If you press “enter” a bunch of times to start a new page, it looks the same as using the page break function. However, a proper page break improves collaboration. I often receive documents over 100 pages that have not used a single page break. (Ed. Note: this makes me want to cry.) So, when I delete a paragraph, all the titles shift (and are now halfway up the previous pages).

Using a page break keeps titles at the top of your new pages even if you delete or add to your document, so it’s a lot easier for editing and collaboration.

Layout -> Breaks -> Page

Another common problem happens when you have a title at the end of a page and you press “enter” once or twice to push it onto the next page. PC and Mac computers, smart devices, and browsers all view Word documents differently. You may think you pushed that title to the next page with the enter key, but when someone opens your document on a Mac, the title is still there at the bottom, only now there are two or three spaces between the last sentence and the title.


It’s a safer design option to give it a page break. Or, better yet, give it a proper heading. I talk about creating hyperlinks and headings here. Did you know that if you use the headings function in Word, it automatically moves your title to the next page when it’s at the bottom of a page? Cool, hunh!


Let’s look at the second reason, page numbers.

By default, Word starts page numbers on the first page of the document. If you want to add a title page and ToC, you need to tell Word what to do. The easiest way is to create a section break called Next Page. This looks a lot like a page break. But, secretly you’re telling Word that this is a different section, so you can later unlink these sections.

For example, if your Title page and ToC are in Section 1 with no page numbers, you can start your page numbers in Section 2. I’ll discuss this more when I talk about the Header/Footer function and page numbers below.


There are lots of different kinds of page and section breaks. However, I found the two types discussed above are the most helpful for eDocuments and collaboration.

Header / Footer

Now that we’ve learned about page breaks, let’s talk about how this affects the header and footer.

For eLearning purposes, the main use of a Header/Footer is to format page numbers. However, some documents use them for the title of the document. Just remember, for accessibility, you want to make sure the Header/Footer does not contain important information as some screen readers do not read these areas.

In your Header/Footer, “Link to Previous” is an important button. If you want to be able to change the text or page numbers on your Header/Footer but you do not want it to change in the previous section, you need to unlink your sections.

You can unlink your sections after creating your section breaks (via the Next Page button). Click on the Header/Footer of your section—you’ll find the tools for your Header/Footer in the “Design” ribbon.


Now, we can finally add our page numbers.

Page Numbers

You will usually find the tool for page numbers in the Design ribbon for your header/footer. If you want your page numbers to start in Section 2, go to that section’s header/footer and open the Design ribbon (usually by double-clicking on the header or footer).


By default, your page probably will not start with “page 1” because you are starting your numbers in Section 2. Make sure you tell Word to start your numbers at 1 by going to the Format Page Numbers section.



So, let’s walk through an example.

Scenario: Your document needs a title page and ToC with a logo in the header and no page numbers in the footer. The page after the ToC begins the content. This has page numbers (starting with page 1) in the footer and no logo in the header.

Let’s get to work.

First, we need to create a section break between your ToC page and your content.



Now, your title page and ToC are in Section 1, and your content starts in Section 2.

Go to the header in Section 2. The “Design” ribbon should appear. You need to make sure “Link to Previous” is not selected. Most likely, you need to click on this item.


Do the same thing in your footer in Section 2.

While we’re in the Section 2 footer, why don’t we put in those page numbers. The “Design” ribbon should still be open. Go to the “Page Number” selection and insert the page number.

For the title page, go to the header in Section 1. The “Design” ribbon should appear. It should not be linked to Section 2, now. Add your logo to the header.


Looks good!

It may sound a bit complicated at first, but correctly formatting your page breaks, headers/footers, and numbers helps in the long run with collaboration and a clean, sensible eDocument.

Have you found other tips and tricks with page breaks, headers/footers, and page numbers? Let us know below!

Moore, Wendy


Guay, M. (2010, December 13). How to use breaks in Microsoft Word to better format your documents. Retrieved from

Johnson, A. (2016, July 29). Accessibility in Microsoft Word. Retrieved from

Author: Wendy Moore

Wendy was the former Curriculum Editor with eLearning and has learned more than anyone needs to know about APA Style and Microsoft Word. Wendy lives with her husband and their three children on a few acres of country land in Spring Arbor, Michigan.

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