Word processing and other desktop publishing programs offer users a wide variety of tools to customize page layout and formatting. Section and column breaks are tools designed to separate information on a page or across pages to emphasize certain facts or make the information easier to read. Understanding the differences between these two tools can help you separate your information as desired.
A section break divides information you’re working with into more than one section. Depending on the type of section break you use, the new section may appear on the same page, the next page or skip to a specific page. The sections before and after the break are self-contained. As a result, you can edit the formatting and layout of one section without changing the formatting or layout of the previous or following section.
Section Break Types
Depending on your software, you’ll usually work with four main types of section breaks. A continuous or same-page section break creates a new section on the same page. A next page section break starts the new section on the next page. Skip-style page section breaks, also known as odd page and even page section breaks, start a new section on an odd- or even-numbered page. To insert a section break, place your cursor at the beginning of the information you want in the new section, or on the spot where you want the new section to appear, and then select the type of section break you need.
Columns present information in vertical rows within a section. A column break differs from a section break in that the break divides information between columns. For example, if you have a list of information across two columns -- Column A and Column B -- and you want the entire list to appear in Column B, you would place a column break at the beginning of the list to move it so that it begins in Column B. To use a column break, place your cursor at the beginning of the information you want to move into the next column and then select the column break option.
Seeing the Breaks
Most word processing and publishing programs provide you with a feature that displays formatting changes you’ve made on a page as symbols or words. As you work on your project, you may find it difficult to remember where you placed a section or column break. To see the breaks, use the option for displaying formatting changes such as “Show/Hide,” “Paragraph Marks” or “Hidden Marks.”
- Microsoft: Microsoft Support -- Description of Section Breaks in Word
- Microsoft Office: Word 2010 -- About Sections and Section Breaks
- Dickinson College, Library & Information Services: Microsoft Word 2007/2010: Basic Document Formatting & Section Break
- Microsoft Office: Word 2010 -- Insert a Section Break / Insert a Column Break