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Tech Tips

How to Use Section Breaks to Change Margins, Page Orientation and More in the Middle of a Word Document

By Danielle DavisRoe

Do you need to insert an exhibit or other content in the middle of your document? Page breaks have their uses, but only Microsoft Word section breaks let you change section formatting — like page orientation and footers — part way through (and back again).

microsoft word section breaks

Follow these steps to take control of sections in Word, and check out “Microsoft Word for Legal Professionals” for in-depth instructions on getting the most out of Microsoft Word.

How to Master Microsoft Word Section Breaks: An Introduction


Every Word document contains at least one section. Section formatting includes formatting that doesn’t apply to specific characters or paragraphs. Paper size, page orientation, margins, headers, footers and columns are all examples of section formatting. So, if you need to change section formatting in the middle of a document, you need to break the document into multiple sections.


There are two types of breaks: page breaks and section breaks.

Page breaks do not break the document into multiple sections. Page breaks have their uses, but they won’t allow you to change section formatting part way through the document.

To show any section (or page) breaks in your document, go to the Paragraph group on the Home ribbon and click on the Show/Hide function.

Inserting Breaks

Whether you want to insert a page (non-section) or section break, go to the Layout ribbon and select the Page Setup group, then select the Breaks button. The top half of the drop-down menu contains page (non-section) breaks, and the bottom half contains section breaks.

Click on the desired type of break to insert it into your document.

Deleting Section Breaks

When you delete a section break, the bottom section’s formatting is preserved. Let’s assume you have a document with two sections. The section break separates the body of the document from an exhibit, and the exhibit has landscape orientation. If you delete the section break, the entire document will flip from portrait to landscape orientation.

How to Use a Section Break to Set a Different Margin for the First Page of a Word Document

If you need a 3-inch top margin for the first page and a 1-inch top margin for all subsequent pages, you’ll need a section break to change margins in the middle of a document — use these steps:

  1. Place the cursor at the top of page 1 of your document.
  2. Click on the Layout ribbon > Page Setup launcher, and then choose the Margins tab.
  3. Change the top margin to 3 inches and click OK.
  4. Click Layout ribbon > Page Setup group > Breaks button, then in the drop-down select Section Break: Continuous. This creates a single line section at the top of the document where your cursor is, and the rest of the document is section two.
  5. Click the down arrow key a few times, so that you’re into section two. Now click the Layout ribbon > Page Setup launcher > Margins tab. Change the top margin for section two back to 1-inch and make sure This Section is selected in the Apply To drop-down box. Since the first place Word can make this margin change is at the top of page 2, your margins will be correct for the balance of the document.

Changing Page Orientation for Exhibits

If you have any exhibits (or other pages) that need to be landscape rather than portrait-oriented, you’ll need to insert section breaks prior to each exhibit (and after the exhibit if you have portrait-oriented pages after the exhibit). You can change orientation for a section by clicking on the Layout ribbon > Page Setup group > Orientation button, then select Portrait or Landscape.

Get All the Microsoft Word Tips

Learn more in the Affinity Consulting Group book “Microsoft Word for Legal Professionals.” Written specifically for lawyers and legal professionals, it’s an easy read, full of numbered steps and screen illustrations. It represents a 22-year compilation of how to tackle just about every Word issue encountered by Affinity Consulting Group in a legal environment, as well as legal word processing tips, tricks and little-known techniques. Download your copy of the book in the Attorney at Work bookstore, or opt for a license for all your attorneys.

Want to work faster? For in-depth information and instructions on getting the most from Word, order Affinity Consulting Group’s hands-on digital manual “Microsoft Word for Legal Professionals. Individual and site licenses are available for download in the Attorney at Work bookstore.

About Affinity Consulting Group

Affinity Consulting Group inspires, enables, and empowers legal teams of all sizes to work smarter, from anywhere. The company’s holistic approach incorporates people, process, and technology. Affinity’s passionate, well-connected industry experts work hand in hand with you to help you better understand and optimize your business — from software to growth strategy, and everything in between.


Categories: Communicating, Legal Technology, Microsoft Office Tips for Lawyers, Office 365, Tech Tools
Originally published July 22, 2022
Last updated December 18, 2023
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Danielle Danielle DavisRoe

Danielle DavisRoe is a senior consultant with Affinity Consulting Group (@affinitylegal). Whether it’s teaching clients a new skill through training, speaking at CLE events, or management consulting, Danielle is 100% focused on making the lives of her clients better. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and a Juris Doctorate from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

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