Page numbers (or folios)

The traditional practice is to have the numbering of pages starting on the first page of Chapter One. This is relatively simple in Word, but there are a number of stages to get where you want to be.

The first thing to do is work out what you want in your prelims and add all that in before you do anything else – see here for suggestions as to suitable content.

Shown below are the completed prelims for a book using a page break command to force content onto a new page when required. Circled is the ‘show invisibles’ option on the ‘Home’ tab. This helps you to see what you’re doing.

showing invisibles in Word

To make your main text start at page one you need to split the document into sections.

Select the Layout tab.
Place your cursor at the very start of Chapter One to the left of the left of the heading..
From the Breaks drop-down menu choose

creating a section break

The ‘invisibles’ will now show ‘Section Break (Next Page)’.

section break visible

Next double-click in the ‘footer’ area for Chapter One. (your cursor will now be in the footer area)
You will see that your Chapter One now is the first page of ‘Section 2’
The tab just above the ‘Footer’ panel shows ‘Same as Previous’
Click ‘Link to Previous’ in the ribbon (top of screen) to deactivate that link.

footer area for section break

The ‘Same as Previous’ tab should now have disappeared. From the drop-down menu under Page Number select Bottom of Page (Plain Number 2)

footer link removed

You’re not quite there because it will not show as page number 1 – in my case is says 7
You will have to go to the Page Number drop-down menu again and Format Page Numbers.

format page numbers

You now have a small dialogue box where you need to select Start atrather than Continue from previous section – then click OK

continue from previous section

Your Chapter One opening page now shows as page 1
But your next page has no page number
This is because we need different odd and even pages to make the centre margins work.

Repeat the process for the next page by putting your cursor in the footer area.
Click on Link to Previous in the Ribbon to deselect it.
Go to Page Number (on Ribbon) > select Bottom of Page > Plain Number 2 as before
Your pages should all now be numbered from your opening page to the end of your book.


We need to format the page numbers as they may be in the wrong typeface and font.
Simply double-click on the page number and a dialogue box will appear.
Change the typeface and size to the same as your main text.
All the odd-numbered pages will change.

format page numbers

Do the same for the first even-numbered page.
All the page numbers will now be in the correct typeface and size.


Your page numbers may be tucked up far too close to close to your text.
This is a function of the specified bottom margin and the Footer panel size.
Both can be adjusted quite easily and without affecting anything else on your document.

If you set up your page margins from this site you will have a Bottom Margin of 1.8 cm and a Footer of 1.5 cm. This means is there is only 0.3 cm (3mm, 1/8″) between the bottom of the text and the page number. To make the page number drop lower, all we need to do is change the Footer size.

Choose the Layout tab on the Ribbon
Then Margins > Custom Margins
We still want Different odd and even ticket, but change the Footer to 0.5 cm

Your page number is now in a much better position.

final tweaks to folios

NB There are built-in minimum margins in Word, sometimes depending on what printer you use, so some of these measurements may be trial and error. All margins can be tweaked at the end of this whole process, so there is no need to start from scratch if a margin looks slightly wrong.

Setting page size and margins

Micrwosoft Word may not look quite the same as shown here given that there are different versions of Word and different operating systems, but the principle stays the same. Assuming you have written your novel on the standard A4 page size (or US equivalent) and in a default font and typeface like 12pt Times – the next step is to set the page size and margins. I will go through this using a B Format page size and nominal margins.

It looks daunting, but this really is a stage-by-stage guide and you start by getting the page size correct

1) Select Layout on the ‘ribbon’ (the menu at the top of your Word window) and the Size tab. On the drop down menu click on More Paper Sizes.

Microsoft Word set page size

2) This will bring up a dialogue box with the ‘Paper‘ tab on top of the panel already selected. From the drop down menu choose Custom Size. Then type in the page width and height – in this case I’ve used the B Fornat sizes (you can use mm, cm or inches as you prefer – I’ve used cm).

Setting the page size in Microsoft Word

3) Click the ‘Layout‘ tab on top of the panel. Make sure the box that says ‘Different odd and even’ is checked as this applies to the whole page layout and allows you to have a wider centre gutters on a double page spread (i.e. an open book).

Microsoft Word, odds evens, headers, footers

The other thing you have to do here is set the Header and Footer spaces (they are usually set as defaults of 1.25cm). On a novel you rarely use a Header, so set that to 0, but you will want to put page numbers in so set the Footer to 1.5cm. When you get to refine the layout you may want to change the Footer space or even add a header; this is a simple process that can be tweaked later.

5) Now click the ‘Margins‘ tab on top of the panel.
This where you set the margins and add the extra space for the gutter. Word sets the margins for left and right the same on every page, so you enter the width you need for the ‘outside margins’. Then you add the extra you need for the inside margins in the gutter space. (leave the gutter position as ‘Left’)

Page design in MS Word

Example: If you want an outside margin of 1.5cm and an inside margin of 2.0cm you must set both to 1.5cm and then add an extra 0.5cm gutter so that the inside margins will become 2.0cm.

That will have set the page and margins in your Word document, but it’s still in 12pt Times with whatever default line spacing you had at the start. It will not yet look like a proper paperback book, so you now need to change the typeface, font, spacing, add folios and adjust indents, justification and chapter headings. It sounds harder than it is.

pages and margins

The margins appear larger on the outside of a pair of pages because Word is not strictly a publishing programme and is not set up to display your book with page one as a right hand page. It will work fine when it’s all done.