I'm working with a document that has completely screwy section breaks. I can find and remove or change both continuous and next page section breaks, and if I add a section break, it shows up in the formatting as expected and the numbers adjust accordingly, so the basics seem to be working properly.

However, even when there is no section break apparent in the formatting, the header/footer section numbers skip forward every so often; sections 2 and 4 are on consecutive pages, and I can't find any formatting to explain it. Sections 13 and 30 are similarly connected.

I finally did a find and replace to remove ALL section breaks, planning to add back in the 2 sections I actually want. Word confirms it can't find any additional section breaks (either through advanced find and replace or through the "next section" button in the header/footer ribbon). Yet the footer on the last document page says section 45 and claims to be page 192 of a 137 page document. I scrolled back up a bit: document page 113 is in section 13, and document page 114 is in section 30. The revealed formatting shows only paragraph breaks, which I guess are somehow concealing 17 sections.

I really just need two sections--it does not need to be a complex document. But there's a lot of fine-tuned formatting already in place that I want to hold onto if I can.

Any Jedi section-break-revealing ideas?

Thank you!

  • Do you maybe have some hidden text (containing the missing section breaks)? – DavidPostill Oct 19 '14 at 21:12
  • Turns out not, but that led me to the solution (edited into original post). Thank you for the idea! – Anne H. Oct 19 '14 at 22:16
  • A good question and a good answer. Instead of sticking the solution inside the question, could you move it to an answer? (you are allowed to answer your own question.) That will make everything more helpful to others with the same problem. – fixer1234 Oct 19 '14 at 22:22
  • Definitely; I didn't realize I could post an answer, but that makes sense. Thanks! – Anne H. Oct 19 '14 at 22:49

Thanks to a comment about hidden text, I was reminded of a known problem with track changes and automatic ToC/ lists of tables: sometimes even if you are looking at the final version (no markup), it will skip some entries no matter how many times you redo the field codes, so a list of tables will include 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11. Once you accept all changes, if you autoupdate the list again, it will be correct.

With that in mind, I accepted all changes, and lo and behold the section breaks were corrected. I made no new changes, but the document structure finally reflected what the formatting codes said should have been there all along. There must be some logic as to which changes Word implements at which stage of the process, but it seems pretty arbitrary to me.

Thanks again!


I had the same problem, but the solution above (accepting changes), didn't fix it. I still had an extra section, but no visible section break. I selected "outline" view, from the view tab, and was then able to see the section break and remove it. (I inherited this document from someone else . . . it was very confusing).


I had a similar problem with section breaks embedded in the body of the page. They would either remain after appearing to be deleted, or they were invisible entirely. Eventually, I discovered a solution for deleting them individually (I really didn't want to delete all section breaks in the document).

First, locate the page where the section break occurs. Then copy the text of the entire page into a text editor to strip out all the formatting. Then copy that and paste it back into the document over the original text. That's it. The section break should be gone.


I solved what may be a similar problem related to a sudden page numbering change, whereby page 13 was followed by page 2. I couldn't find a way to make it follow the previous page number, but noticed that the sections marked in the header & footer skipped suddenly from Section 6 to Section 8. I finally realized that I'd inserted a couple of Continuous Section Breaks to allow me to have a piece of text in two columns rather than one.

Once I removed the continuous breaks the pagination reverted to normal (I placed the 2-column text in a table instead). Hope this helps.

  • I edited your post to clarify that you aren't asking a new question. However, the original question describes searching for and removing all section breaks, so it doesn't seem likely that your approach would be an applicable solution in this case. – fixer1234 May 19 '16 at 17:35

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