Deleting “Blank” Pages

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How to delete a “blank page” in Word

Users often ask how to get rid of a blank page that is being printed at the end or in the middle of a document. How to approach this problem depends on whether or not the page is actually blank. A simple test will help you decide: Can you see the page? That is, in Print Layout view or Print Preview, does Word display the empty page? If so, it is not really “blank.” Read the next section to find out how to deal with it. If the page is not displayed, even in Print Preview, unless you’re displaying facing pages, then the page really is “blank” and is being created by Word; see “True blank pages.

“Blank” pages that aren’t really blank

Except for the blank even or odd pages that Word inserts as needed before an Odd or Even Page break (see “True blank pages”), most “blank” pages aren’t really blank. If a page “prints,” it’s because there is something on it. Obviously, that something is invisible to the user. Usually the invisible something is one or more empty paragraphs. Although you can delete the invisible empty paragraphs without making them visible, you can get a much better idea of what’s going on in your document if you display nonprinting characters. To do this, press Ctrl+* or click on the Show/Hide ¶ button on the Standard toolbar (in the Paragraph group of the Home tab on the Ribbon in Word 2007 and above).

Figure 1. The Show/Hide ¶ button on the Standard toolbar

When you do this, you’ll suddenly see a lot of markings that may be unfamiliar to you if you’ve never before displayed nonprinting characters (or “formatting marks”). You can get more information about them in the article “What do all those funny marks, like the dots between the words in my document, and the square bullets in the left margin, mean?

The one you want to concentrate on is the paragraph mark: ¶. Every time you see that mark, it indicates an empty paragraph. Delete all the empty paragraphs and you’ll most likely get rid of your “blank page.” The following sections will explain a few situations in which deleting empty paragraphs will not work or will not suffice.

Table at the end of the document

If there is a table at the very end of your document, Word will insist on having an empty paragraph after the table. You will not be able to delete this paragraph because the paragraph holds the formatting for the entire document (or the last section if there is more than one). The end-of-table marker cannot hold this information because it contains information about the formatting of the table.

If your table completely fills the “last” page, the empty paragraph will result in a “blank” page following it. Although you cannot remove this paragraph, you can make it disappear. One way to do this is to make it very small. Select the paragraph mark and format the font size to 1 point. You may need to make the paragraph line spacing 1 point as well. Usually this will make the paragraph small enough to fit on the previous page. If it does not, you will need to make the paragraph Hidden (see below). If you make the paragraph Hidden, it will not disappear until you again hide nonprinting characters (by pressing Ctrl+* or clicking the Show/Hide ¶ button).

To format the paragraph mark (or any text) as Hidden, select it and press Ctrl+Shift+H; sometimes this doesn't "take" for paragraph marks, so you will need to use one of these other methods:

  • In Word 2003 or earlier, click Format on the Menu Bar, then Font; then check the box for Hidden and click OK.

  • In Word 2007 or above, access the Font dialog by clicking the dialog launcher (small curved arrow) in the bottom right corner of the Font group on the Home tab. Check the box for Hidden and click OK.

  • In any version, you will usually find Font… on the context menu if you right-click. Check the box for Hidden and click OK.

Blank page in the middle of a document

If your blank page occurs in the middle of a document (and is not caused by an Odd/Even Page section break), there is a remote chance that it is caused by a plethora of empty paragraphs, but more often it is the result of a manual page break. This is one reason manual page breaks are discouraged: when formatting changes (either because of editing or because the document is opened on a system using a different printer), the manual page break may immediately follow a natural page break, causing a blank page.

Even without displaying nonprinting characters, you should be able to see a manual page break that has been inserted using Ctrl+Enter or Insert | Break: Page break (in Word 2007/2010/2013, access the Breaks gallery from the Page Setup group on the Page Layout tab on the Ribbon). It will be represented by a dotted line across the page labeled “Page Break.” (In Word 2007 and above, the indicator will extend only part of the way across the page.) You can easily select this and delete it.

Figure 2. How a manual page break is represented in Word

If you don’t see a manual page break, the likelihood is that the page break is being caused by paragraph formatting. Whenever a page ends short for no apparent reason, examine the paragraph(s) at the top of the following page. Go to the Line and Page breaks tab of Format | Paragraph and see whether “Page break before” or “Keep with next” is checked. Although this type of formatting alone will not result in a blank page, it frequently accounts for a partially empty page and could result in a blank page if the “blank” page contains a single paragraph mark formatted as “Page break before,” followed by another “Page break before” paragraph on the next page. (In Word 2007 and 2010, access the Paragraph dialog by clicking on the dialog launcher arrow at the bottom right corner of the Paragraph group on the Home tab of the Ribbon.)

True blank pages

Does your document have more than one section? You can find this out by pressing Ctrl+End (to go to the end of the document) and looking at the status bar. If the number following “Sec” is greater than 1, you have more than one section. When your document has more than one section, they are separated by section breaks. You can see the different kinds of section breaks in the Insert | Break dialog. (In Word 2007 and above, access the Breaks gallery from the Page Setup group on the Page Layout tab on the Ribbon.)

Figure 3. The Insert | Break dialog

A Continuous section break does not cause a page break. A Next Page break causes the following text to start a new page. An Odd Page break causes the following text to start a new odd page. If the text before the break ends on an odd page, Word will insert a blank even page between the two odd pages. This page is completely invisible to the user (except in Print Preview with facing pages displayed) but will be “printed” by the printer. Similarly, an Even Page break may cause Word to insert a blank odd page.

Sometimes a Next Page break will be converted to an Odd Page break. This frequently happens when a landscape page appears on the back of a portrait one, or vice versa. The reason for this is that most printers really don’t like to print landscape; rotating text and graphics is apparently a more complex operation for them. It seems to be especially difficult for them to duplex (print both sides of) pages with different orientations. Word accommodates this reluctance by changing Next Page breaks to Odd Page so the printer can print the pages on separate sheets. But you don’t have to put up with this laziness; you can make the printer shape up and do what you want!

If you find that your Next Page break has morphed into an Odd Page break, don’t make the mistake of trying to delete and reinsert it. This may result in loss of formatting and rarely accomplishes what you want. Instead, with the insertion point below the section break (in the section that begins with the wrong kind of break), go to the Layout tab of Page Setup and change the “Section start” back to “New page.” (In Word 2007 and above, access the Page Setup dialog by clicking the dialog launcher arrow at the bottom right corner of the Page Setup group on the Page Layout tab.)

Figure 4. The Page Setup dialog showing the "Section start" dropdown

Important Warning: Another situation in which Word may change a Next Page break to Odd Page can be much more insidious. If you are restarting numbering in each section (so that the first page of each section is 1), and you have either "Mirror margins" or "Different odd and even" (headers and footers) enabled (or possibly even if you don't), Word will assume that you are intending to duplex the document and will force an Odd Page break because it knows that page 1 is an odd page, and it will insist that the odd page be printed on the front (recto) side of a sheet.

What makes this situation particularly insidious is that the Layout tab of Page Setup may still show the break as "New page," and the section break marker may still say "Section Break (Next Page)," but the "next page" will be a recto one, preceding by a blank verso (even) page if necessary. This can be especially difficult to troubleshoot if the document is one you did not create, even more so if the page number is not displayed (printed) on the page, so that you may not realize that numbering has been restarted.

The most disastrous result of all this, however, is that, despite the fact that, in your view, the new section begins with page 1, Word considers that preceding blank page part of the new section, so if you try to use Page X of Y numbering in that section, you will get a Y value that is one larger than the last page number; for example, in a section with pages numbered 1 to 6, you'll get Page 1 of 7, Page 2 of 7, all the way to Page 6 of 7 on the last page. Whether this is an argument against restarting numbering or against using Page X of Y or just against not trying to combine them with an Odd Page section start I leave it to you to decide!

Blank pages not caused by Word at all

If you are getting a blank page at the end of every document you print and have exhausted all other explanations, check the printer Properties to see whether there is a “separator page” option that has been enabled.

This article copyright © 2004, 2008, 2011, 2014 by Suzanne S. Barnhill.