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Master Page Numbering in MS Word: Step by Step

A few days ago, I was helping a friend edit their final year project on Microsoft Word. There came a time when I felt the need to add page numbers to the Word document. That’s where my troubles began. In this blog post, I’ll share with you how to insert page numbers in MS Word.

How do you add page numbers in Word?

Adding page numbers in MS Word, starting from the first page of a document, is rather easy and straightforward.

To insert page numbers into a Word document, click on “Insert,” then “Page Numbers,” and select the location where you would like them to appear.

  • By default, the “Insert” tab is found on the top left (just after the File and Home tabs). 
  • Under “Insert,” you should see a sub-tab named “Page Numbers.”
  • When you click on “Page Numbers,” you will see a number of options for placing the page numbers.
  • For example, you can make them appear at the top of the page, at the bottom of the page, or along your page margins.
  • If you select the top or bottom of the page, you can further choose to make the numbers appear on the left, right, or middle.

How do you insert page numbers in MS Word, beginning from page 2?

After I successfully added page numbers to the final year project using the method described above, I noticed that every page, including the cover page, has page numbers. Having a page number on the cover page of a final year project or any official document would definitely look odd. So I decided to make the numbering start on page 2.

To insert page numbers into an MS Word document starting from page 2, double click on the “page number,” then under Header & Footer at the top, click on “different first page.”

  • If you double click on the “Header” or “Footer” section of your MS Word document, it will open a tab at the top called “Header & Footer Tools.”
  • Under this tab, tick the “Different First Page” check box.

This caused the document I was editing to begin numbering from page 2 instead of the cover page. I was almost feeling proud and satisfied with my MS Word skills. That is, until I realized that the numbering had switched to beginning on the second page, but the numbers themselves were starting from two instead of one. 

It was ridiculous! Fortunately, after messing around with MS Word settings for a while, I found a way to fix it. I clicked on the “Insert” tab, then “Page Numbers,” then “Format Page Numbers,” set my numbering to “Start at Zero,” and clicked OK. 

How do you insert page numbers in MS Word, beginning from page 3?

So now, my page numbering began on page 2, and I found it convenient. Then it hit me: the Table of Contents was on page two of this document, and it didn’t look good to have the numbering begin there. I wanted to make the numbering start from page 3, and that’s where my nightmares began.

I am still frustrated that, even with a sophisticated word processor like Microsoft Word, I still cannot directly insert page numbers beginning with page 3. I had to read countless blog posts online and watch countless videos on YouTube to find this solution. To insert page numbers in MS Word, starting on Page 3, you have to use a feature called “Section Breaks.”

Reveal your MS Word document sections

I like to reveal my Word document sections so that when I insert a section break, I can see where it starts. To achieve this, all you have to do is click on the “Home” tab, then click on the Show/Hide icon that looks like a paragraph symbol. It will show paragraph marks and other hidden formatting symbols on the document.

Adding the “Section Break Next Page”

Once I could see all those hidden formatting symbols, it was time to add the section break. I had to add my section break at the very end of page 2 because I wanted my page numbers to begin on page 3.

To add a section break after a page in MS Word, place your cursor after the last word on that page. Next, click the “Layout” tab on the top, then click “Breaks,” and finally, under “Section Breaks,” click “Next Page.”

Why should you use the section break Next Page?

There are many types of section breaks in Microsoft Word. But what we need to achieve our aim in this tutorial is a “Section Break-Next Page.” By adding the “section break-next page” at the end of page 2 (my table of contents page), I was essentially formatting the document to be divided into two separate sections. Therefore, each section can have its own independent numbering.

Inserting page numbering to start from page 3

Now that I had my two separate sections, it was time to add numbering to the Word document. So again, I clicked on “Insert,” then “Page Numbers,” and selected the numbers to appear at the center of the footer.

But I noticed that there was still some numbering on the cover page and table of contents page. Furthermore, each time I deleted the page numbers from those two pages (which were now under Section 1), it also deleted the page numbers from the rest of the document (Section 2).

That’s when I noticed a small mention of “Same as Previous” on the footer of Section 2. Everything I changed in the document’s footer will be reflected in both sections’ footers, as the two sections’ footers were still linked.

So the last thing I had to do was unlink the two sections’ footers. To unlink Footer Section 2 from Footer Section 1 in MS Word, double tap the footer of Section 2, then uncheck the “Link to Previous” checkbox under the Header & Footer tab.

After finally unlinking the footers of both sections, I was able to add page numbering to my MS Word document, starting from page 3. I hope this blog post will help you achieve the same result.

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I've worked in the tech industry as a sales executive since 2015. Now I create content on the internet. I'm here to share my knowledge and experience.