How to Remove Section Breaks in a Word Document
Section breaks provide a method for separating styles in a Word 2010 or 2013 document. When a document containing section breaks is viewed or edited by several users, however, it may pick up erroneous formatting, such as repeated page numbers. If you don't need the breaks, fix the problems by deleting specific section breaks by hand, or by using Find and Replace to eliminate all breaks. Use the same procedure to delete other types of breaks, such as page breaks.
Click the "Show/Hide" button -- the paragraph symbol in the Paragraph section of the Home tab -- to display formatting symbols in your document. These symbols make it easier to find the breaks.
Place your cursor directly before the row of dots indicating a break and press "Del" to remove the break. Placing your cursor after a break and pressing "Backspace" won't work, as the "Backspace" key ignores breaks and deletes the next letter instead.
Click "Replace" in the Editing section of the Home tab or press "Ctrl-H" to open the Find and Replace dialog box, which can seek out and remove multiple breaks at once.
Press the "More" button -- which changes to "Less" after you click it -- to open additional options. Click "Special" and choose a type of break to find, such as "Section Break." When you choose an option, Word inserts a code representing the break into the "Find What" field, such as "^b" for a section break or "^m" for a page break. As a shortcut, type one of these codes by hand.
Click "Replace All" to delete every break of the selected type. To instead replace the breaks with another type of formatting, first place the cursor in the "Replace With" field and press "Special" to select an option, such as "Manual Line Break" -- "^l".
Tips & Warnings
- To search for and replace breaks one at a time, click "Find Next" instead of "Replace All." When Word highlights a specific break, click either "Replace" to replace it or press "Find Next" again to skip it.
- In the Find and Replace window, enter "^13" for a paragraph break or "^n" for a column break. The "^m" code, usually used for finding page breaks, can find both page and section breaks if you turn on "Use Wildcards."
- Word imposes one limitation on finding and replacing breaks: You can't replace existing text or breaks with a new section break. The "^b" code works only in the "Find What" field, and placing "^m" in the "Replace With" field always creates page breaks. To add new section breaks, insert them by hand with the "Breaks" button on the Page Layout tab.
- When you delete a break between two sections, Word uses the formatting from the latter section for the new combined section. [See Reference 2.] If you delete all section breaks with Find and Replace, your whole document takes on the formatting of the final section.
References & Resources
- Office Online: Find and Replace Text and Other Data in Your Word 2010 Files
- TechRepublic: Understand How Section Breaks Control Formatting in Word
- Office Online: Show or Hide Formatting Marks
- Microsoft Support: Description of Section Breaks in Word
- Microsoft Support: Special Characters You Can Use With Find and Replace in Word