How to Use the Chapter Names as Even-Page Headers in Microsoft Word


Most traditionally published books have page headers running along the top of every page (don’t confuse headers with headings; at the beginning of every section is a heading, while at the top of each page is a header).

When the author is famous, the author’s name is likely to appear on the page header. For the rest of us, it’s probably more useful to put other information here.

Many books put the chapter name on the even-numbered pages and the book title on the odd-numbered pages.

Before you get started, save your file (in two or more places, like on your jump drive and email, in case one file becomes corrupt), then save it again with a different filename. This way, you’ll have a backup of the original, just in case. A file can be messy without you realizing it and become corrupt when working with the page headers, so having a backup of the original may turn out to be valuable.

There is a trick to using different header text in each chapter of the book. It’s the same trick that’s needed to use Roman numerals and Arabic page numbers in the same file. You can find a thorough, step-by-step tutorial with screenshots by clicking here.

The main idea is to use a Next Page section break for each section or chapter where you would like the header to be different. Don’t insert an ordinary page break; going to Insert and selecting Page Break or going to Page Layout and choosing Page won’t work.

Instead, go to Page Layout and select Next Page to make the page break in a way that will tell Word that a new section is beginning.

(In Word 2003 and earlier, the menu options are somewhat different, but the main ideas are still the same. I’ll describe how to use Word 2010 for Windows, specifically, which is similar to Word 2007 and onward.)

Remove ordinary page breaks and recreate them using Next Page anywhere a new chapter is starting (or anywhere else you wish to have different header text, including no header at all, such as front and back matter).

Start at the beginning of the document and edit the headers from the first page onward. If you don’t have page headers yet, add them from the Insert menu.

Place your cursor in the header area. Check the box for different first page if you wish to have a different header in the first page of the section. It’s common, for example, for the first page of each chapter and some pages of the front matter to have no header at all.

Check the box for different odd and even pages to allow the header text of odd-numbered and even-numbered pages to be different. It’s common to have the book title on odd-numbered pages and the chapter name on even-numbered pages.

The first section should be fairly easy, especially if you didn’t already have headers in place to begin with.

When you get to the second section, where you want the headers to be different, place your cursor in the header area and look for the ‘magic’ Link to Previous button. When you click this, the Same As Previous flag will disappear. This allows you to create a new header in this section (instead of copying the header from the previous section; more precisely, to avoid having the previous section change as you type the new header).

You needed those Next Page section breaks (instead of ordinary page breaks) to tell Word where each new section begins.

Remember to start at the beginning and work your way forward one section at a time. After you adjust a new section to your satisfaction, go back and ensure that the previous sections are still correct. If not, be thankful for that handy Undo button.

If your file is messy (it won’t look messy to you on the screen if it is), sometimes Word seems to be a little fussy about the page headers. If Word seems uncooperative, try undoing everything you did in the new section. Then remove the section break at the beginning of the new section, and reinsert it. See if that helps.

Sometimes you can play with it and persistence will pay off.

If you have a richly formatted book, or if the file is otherwise messy (again, without your knowledge), occasionally persistence makes the file even messier or it can become corrupt. (If you saved all of the section breaks and headers until your file was otherwise complete and went section by section systematically through the book, it may help to avoid these troubles.)

One solution to a corrupt file is reverting back to the original you saved as a backup prior to adjusting the headers.

A messy file can be cleaned up by stripping out the formatting. For example, copy and paste everything into Notepad and then copy and paste it into a new Word document. This is not a good option for a file that has numerous pictures, equations, bullets, instances of italics, or other formatting. And if the file mostly contained plain text, it was less likely to get so messy in the first place.

Opening the backup and trying the headers again may be worth the hassle (and far less hassle than stripping out the formatting for a richly formatted book), and it may work out better the second time.

In the worst-case scenario that you just can’t get the headers to cooperate, the simple way around this when your ultimate goal is to create a PDF file is to break your Word document up into smaller files (e.g. one file for each chapter, provided that the chapter count is reasonable). Then it will be easy to make different headers for each chapter.

In this case, you’ll have to manually start the page numbering from the previous chapter by inspection. If you make any revisions to your book, you’ll have to update the page numbering.

If you split the Word file into separate files, you’ll need a Word to PDF converter that allows you to compile separate PDF files together. With the number of free PDF converters available online, there is a good chance you can find one that fits your needs that has this option (but beware of possible viruses or spyware anytime you download programs from the internet).

Many books have been prepared in Word as a single file that have different headers for each chapter. Chances are that you’ll be able to do this in Word with your book, too, without having to resort to any drastic measures.

Publishing Resources

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Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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Editing/Formatting Checklist

Here is a list of what to look for when editing and formatting a book.

Formatting checklist for a paperback book:

  • Same style and size of headers, footers, and page numbers throughout.
  • Chapter headers on even-numbered pages match the actual chapter headings.
  • Pages are numbered correctly and the style is consistent throughout the book (except for switching from Roman numerals to Arabic numbers).
  • Look for strange page breaks, line breaks, changes in alignment, changes in font style or size, inconsistent indents, and inconsistent vertical spacing.
  • Check the page references in the contents and index.
  • Match the contents entries with the chapter headings.
  • Consistent heading and subheading styles.
  • Check that all references to pages, figures, tables, equations, etc. are correct.
  • Consistent bullet formatting.
  • Examine page borders, figures, equations, tables, captions, and textboxes.
  • Quickly thumb through the book to verify the vertical justification.
  • Manually deal with hyphens, widows, orphans, and rivers when editing is complete.

Editing checklist for a paperback book:

  • Inspect the title page carefully.
  • Match the title and contributors on the cover, spine, title page, and copyright page with published information.
  • Check copyright page and front matter carefully.
  • Spelling and grammatical mistakes, and word confusion (like homophones).
  • Repeated words like the the (can also search on the word processor).
  • Punctuation, like proper use of -, –, and —.
  • Storyline, plot, character development, chronology, etc.
  • Quotes face the right way.
  • Inappropriate changes in tense and person.
  • Passive writing that may function better as active writing.
  • Too many –ly adverbs.
  • Too much use of to be (is, was, been, etc.).
  • Useless words and redundancies.
  • Overused words.
  • Long paragraphs, good variation in sentence length and structure, readily flowing text.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers