Format Section: MS Word

Dennis Faas's picture

A newsletter or article usually begins with a larger title or headline. To have a headline span the width of several columns in MS Word, it must be formatted with a different number of columns.

Formatting Pages with Section Breaks

Whenever you have different page-level formatting applied to a single document, you need to break it into different sections with something called a "section break." In doing so, sections of a document can be formatted with different margins, page orientation, number of columns, headers and footers, page numbering, et cetera.

For example: in a newsletter with several pages, you may have a number of different sections: some with a two-column format, some with three columns. Other, longer reports may require you to have a beginning section containing the preface, table of contents, and so on, that use lowercase Roman numerals for page numbers, with the rest of the report beginning on page 1.

Alternatively, you might have a very wide table with information spanning the months from January to December, and you want to have that page in landscape orientation, even though the rest of the report is portrait.

When you want to combine page-level formatting (such as orientation, margins, headers and footers) in one document, you must insert a section break to divide the document into different sections, each with its own formatting.

Applying a section break has one other important function. When a multi-column document is not long enough to fill a page, you wind up with one long column and a partial column. That's a rather awkward way to end. It's better to have two or three short columns, all the same length. To force Word to balance columns so that they end at the same length, insert a section break.

Using Different Column Formats

It's simple to apply a different number of columns to one section of text.

  1. Select the text you want to change, such as the title or headline of an article.
  2. Click the Columns button and drag to define the number of columns for the selection.

Behind the scenes, Word applies the new column format to the selected text and inserts a section break between it and the other text. Section breaks appear as double-dotted lines in Normal view or in Print Layout view when you click the Show/Hide button.

After your document is divided into different section, you have another choice to make when you apply page-level formatting. For example, if you want to change the margins, the Page Setup dialog box offers an Apply To box where you specify whether you want to apply the settings to this section or the entire document.

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