Formatting a dissertation can challenge even the most savvy of writers.  With its separate front pages, different chapters, footnotes, and other special formatting, there are multiple times that require a “break” in the document’s formatting.

For example, breaks are especially helpful when you need to change the pagination style from the front pages to the dissertation text.  Equally helpful is when you insert a table and again need to change the formatting of the particular page.  However, there are significant differences between the types of “breaks” and you want to select the appropriate one for the format change required.

We’ve worked with a few private clients in the past few months who have experienced multiple formatting snafus as the result of inadvertently using the wrong type of “break” in their formatting.  Margins suddenly deviate and page numbers move to new locations.

How does this happen?  WEX editors can diagnose the cause of the problem by  viewing the document in “draft” mode.  Once identified, it’s relatively easy to correct; however, this document is written in the hopes of being proactive and avoiding this noisome problem.

Here’s a quick guide to the differences between “page breaks” and “section breaks”:

Page Breaks insert new pages in the document while maintaining the format of the previous pages. These are useful for beginning chapters on new pages.

  • Use page breaks for new pages, esp for all “front pages” (title page, abstract, etc.)

Section Breaks allow you to format each section differently. For example,  you might need to change the page numbers (from Roman numerals to Arabic) or if you want to insert an image or a table on a page of text that warrants a landscape view.  When to use section breaks:

  • Section breaks will change the margins and formatting of the previous sections.
  • Use a section break to change the pagination style between your final “front page” and the first page of the dissertation text.


  • Always put your cursor at the point for the break.
  • Use the View feature and click on Draft to see all breaks in the document.

Hope this helps!

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  • A weekly or monthly online meeting to help you write your academic papers (such as your dissertation) and prepare other writing  (such as, journal articles) for a professional audience.