Twisty Question #3: How can I make a paragraph start on the next page?

In this post, I'm looking at the thorny issue of page breaks in Microsoft Word or - more specifically - page breaks for people who are scared of page breaks.

Imagine the scenario where you're typing a long document with a number of headings - you add a new heading near the end of the page, but it would look MUCH neater at the start of the next page. What do you do? For many, the answer is to just keep pressing Enter until the text has shifted down enough to go over the page - which is great...until you need to go back and make some amendments and suddenly that heading has shifted up/down so it's no longer where you want it. Pressing Enter is only a temporary fix - you can do better than that.

For some, the obvious answer is to use Word's Insert Page Break option and that's OK - it does what it says on the tin and lots of people use it very happily. However, if you peel the label off that tin and take a look underneath, you'll find that there's a bit more going on. When you add a page break in this way, you're adding a 'hard' page break - these can be tricky to move or delete, and sometimes they get tangled up in things they shouldn't - personally, I avoid this option.

So, the trick that I'd like to show is Word's Page Break Before option, for formatting paragraphs. When this option is selected, it means that the selected paragraph will start on the next page. Strictly speaking, it's intended for use when you're configuring styles - for example, you might select this option for the Heading 1 style, to ensure that all Heading 1 paragraphs automatically start on a new page.

Don't get me wrong. I am all about using styles in documents - I will never, ever discourage anyone from doing that. So, yes, if you want all of your main headings to start on a new page, for goodness sake just update the relevant style and ensure that the Page Break Before option is set - the last thing you should be doing is updating each and every instance of a heading manually (maybe I'll do a follow-up post on that later). 

However, life isn't always neat and tidy. Maybe you don't like working with styles. Or, maybe you are working with a heading style, but those headings shouldn't always start on a new page, so you need to adjust them on a case-by-case basis. Or maybe it isn't a heading at all - just a paragraph that you've decided would look better on a new page and you just want to change it quickly and reliably so please stop lecturing me about defining styles...*breathe*

Whatever your reason, this is my preferred method for quickly starting content on the next page:

Painless Page Breaks


This article was updated on September 4, 2021

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