My favorite program, microsoft word... has decided that if I delete the final section break (which is causing my document to have an extra blank page), it will break the formatting of the entire document before the break.

The document ends, then (with formatting shown) I can see the final section break. When I delete it, the ruler resets and my margins are all forced to the leftmost side of the page. When I try selecting all and moving it back over, many parts of the document (which contains tables, pictures, figures, etc) do not realign correctly.

Is there a way for me to delete this section break without altering the formatting before the break?

There are two other section breaks in the document, one after the cover letter, and a second after the table of contents. Then there are approximately 20 pages of content, the final section break, and a blank page I would like to destroy.

before and after deleting section break:

enter image description here

view of page ruler while cursor is in final section:

enter image description here

5 Answers 5


The source of your problem is, that although Section Breaks give the impression of being at the beginning of the section, they are actually placed at its end and they contain all the section-specific formatting for what is in the section before them. When you delete a section break, the section above gets merged into, and takes the properties of, the section below. This is of course the opposite of what you intended.

Your problem is then getting rid of section breaks, but NOT of section formatting.

The following procedure comes from the article Microsoft Word – How to remove last section break, where you will find more details and screenshots.

  • Go to the very end of the document and into the final section‘s header. If it's a continuous section break, you will first need to temporarily create a page break at the end of the document, so that you don't go into the previous section's Header.
  • Make sure that both the Header and Footer are set to “Same as Previous”. If they aren't, use the Header/Footer toolbar to set it to this. Then return to the main document.
  • Go to the penultimate section, select File / Print and then choose Page Setup at the bottom of the print properties
  • Make sure to go thru each tab without changing anything and close Page Setup window by pressing OK. This makes Word “Remember” all the settings in the dialog.
  • Now go to the final section and press F4 (an equivalent of repeat last command). This applies the “remembered” settings to the final section.
  • If there are differences in the column formatting between the two sections, you'll also need to use the F4 trick with the Format + Columns dialog.
  • You can now safely delete the final section break (and the manual page break, if you inserted one).

If you are having problems with the above procedure, a slightly different variant is found in the article Getting Rid of Section Breaks, but Not Section Formatting.

In the case that there are only slight differences between the formatting of the last section and the one before it, it might be simpler to modify the formatting of the last section so it agrees with the last-but-one section.

  • This not works if you set headers' option: "first page different". In this case when you delete the last section, the first page headers won't be preserved.
    – apr
    Feb 7, 2021 at 18:07
  • Thanks a lot for this answer. It's brilliant and I have no idea how the hell you worked it out. It's ridiculous that a bug (definitely NOT a feature) like this exists and wastes so much time. I would never have worked this out myself and it was driving me nuts! Apr 14 at 8:27

Section breaks contain hidden attributes that hold the formatting for margins, headers, footers, and other things. If you have set your page layout specification by Section versus applying them to the whole document then, blowing out any particular Section can produce unexpected results.

When you remove the last Section break, the margin, headers, and footers settings of the last section are going to migrate upward. In other words, if you have 4 sections in the document and margins, headers, and footers of section 4 are different than section 3, then when you delete the section 4 break, section 3 margins, headers and footers will assume the former section 4 settings.

So before blowing out the last section break, make sure the last sections page setup, including headers and footers is the same as the previous section.

  • Rich - thank you! Your answer does fix the issue. I am giving the official answer to Harry's answer below for any future frustrated users who find this question, as it links to some useful resources.
    – henrythedj
    Sep 27, 2018 at 20:35

I have the same problem every once in a while. Try to insert a one or two lines before and after the section break. Then delete the section break. Then delete the additional lines. That usually does the trick.

  • Not working for me this time :(
    – henrythedj
    Sep 27, 2018 at 18:23
  • Go to the end of the second to last page. Create a section break at the very end of the text.
  • Go to the header of the last "meaningful" page and click "link to previous".
  • Delete the last section break.

Just tried a trick and it worked.

I took a screenshot of the margin setting before deleting the section break. Then deleted section break, obviously the format broke. I then reset the margin according to the screenshot and everything was good as new. Hopefully this is helpful.

  • Did you try the first answer? It is much more complete. Jun 22, 2021 at 17:09

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