Page numbering in Word – formatting page numbers

Hilary Cadman Update Leave a Comment

Adding page numbers in Word is an ideal way to help a reader navigate a long document. But adding relevant page numbers to sections within the document isn’t the end of it. The visual layout of page numbers is important for making your document clear and easy to read.

When it’s done well, page numbering is barely noticeable. But if there are mistakes or the numbering is hard to read, it detracts from your document.

The previous post in this series explained how to use different types of page numbering in different sections of a document. This post looks at fine tuning of page numbers: placing them on the page, adding text and creating mirror margins to format page numbers in Word.

Placing page numbers

Word has lots of options for placing, aligning and formatting page numbers, as we’ll see here:

  1. Open a Word document and click on the ‘Insert’ tab on the ribbon.
  2. Find ‘Page Number’ (in the Header & Footer group) and click to view the dropdown list of options.
  3. You’ll see that page numbers can sit at the top of the page, at the bottom or even at the side. Click on the arrow against one of the options (e.g. Bottom of Page).
  4. This opens another box where you have multiple options for formatting your numbers (e.g. plain text, ‘Page X of Y’ or inside shapes) and for the alignment of your numbers. Here are just some of the ways your page numbers can look at the bottom of the page:
  5. Selecting an option automatically inserts the page number in your selected format and takes you straight into the header or footer. There, you can easily change the font, size or colour of your page number using the features on the Home tab.

Adding text to page numbers

It is easy to add text to your page numbers – for example, to have numbers in the format A-1, A-2, etc. Simply go into the header or footer and place your cursor in front of the page number, then type in your text (in this example, ‘A-‘). Word then automatically includes that text in front of all the page numbers.

If you want different text for different sections of the document, you will need to add section breaks, then unlink the headers or footers (as explained in the previous post).

Creating mirror margins

In Word, it is possible to ‘mirror’ the page margins, to achieve a two-sided layout in which the left-hand page mirrors the right-hand one. When using this layout, you need to set up the page numbers in a particular way – just follow these instructions to see how to set up a mirrored layout with numbers on the outside edge at the bottom of the page.

  1. Open a Word document, go to the Layout or Page Layout tab, and select ‘Margins’.
  2. Select the option ‘Mirrored’:
  3. Now double click in the footer on a right-hand page (one that will have an odd number in the final document). This brings up the ribbon where you can tick ‘Different odd & Even Pages’:
  4. Next, click on the Insert tab, then ‘Page number’, then ‘Bottom of Page’, and from the options select ‘Plain number 3’:
  5. You will now have a number at the bottom of your odd-numbered pages, but nothing on the even pages (because you instructed Word to make the odd and even pages different). Now double click in the footer on a left-hand page, and insert a page number as at Step 4, but this time select the option ‘Plain number 1’, to place a number at the bottom left of your page:
  6. You should now have a document with mirrored margins, and page numbers to match.


Finally, it’s a good idea to go back through your document (perhaps after a short break to refresh your brain) to check that the page number format is consistent throughout each section. If you spot any inconsistencies in your format or numbering, I may have a fix for you – my next post will cover some tips for troubleshooting page numbers.

When you’ve explored these options and learned how to format page numbers in Word, you’ll really appreciate how the automatic updating to page numbers comes in handy as you arrange your document. And when you format your page numbers in a visually appealing and consistent way, your readers will thank you for making their reading experience smooth and easy.



If you're keen to learn more about tools to help you save time and improve the quality of your editing, you might like to take a look at my courses in PerfectIt, EndNote and a variety of editing tools. You can also book a coaching call with me to hone your skills in MS Word or EndNote.

Hilary CadmanPage numbering in Word – formatting page numbers

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