• 3-minute read
  • 13th July 2018

Microsoft Word Tips: Adding Chapter Headers

Breaking up a longer document, such as a dissertation or manuscript, into chapters will make it much easier to read. And if you do this, adding chapter headers will help your reader navigate the document quickly and easily. But how does this work in Microsoft Word? Let us explain.

Chapter Headers in Microsoft Word

Adding chapter headers to a Microsoft Word document requires three things:

  1. Using a Heading style for your chapter headings
  2. Adding section breaks between chapters
  3. Generating the chapter headers

This might seem complex, but each step is simple. Read on to find out more.

Step One: Applying Heading Styles

The Heading styles in Word are used for headings and subheadings. Chapter titles are the main headings in a document, so they would usually be formatted with Heading 1. Whichever style you use, though, to prepare for applying chapter headers you should:

  • Select a style and customize it as required
  • Go through your work applying the chosen style to all chapter headings
Heading styles.

Make sure to only use this style for chapter titles (you can use the other Heading styles for subheadings within chapters). This will let Microsoft Word tell the chapter titles apart from other text.

Step Two: Adding Section Breaks

Next, we need to add section breaks between chapters. Usually, you will want each chapter to start on a new page. You can do this throughout your document as follows:

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  • Find the first chapter title
  • Place the cursor before the heading
  • Go to Layout > Page Setup on the main ribbon
  • Click Breaks and select Next Page from the dropdown menu
  • Repeat for each chapter in the document
Adding a section break.

Doing this will tell Microsoft Word where each chapter starts and ends.

Step Three: Creating Chapter Headers

All we need to do now is tell Microsoft Word what goes in each header. To do this, we first need to make sure that the headers in each section are separated from one another. To do this:

  • Go to the first chapter in your document
  • Open the header by going to Insert > Header & Footer > Header > Edit Header on the ribbon
  • With the header selected, go to Design > Navigation
  • Deselect Link to Previous
  • Repeat for each section of the document
Unlinking sections.

And finally, to create the chapter headers themselves, all you need to do is:

  • Open the header in the first chapter
  • Go to References > Captions > Cross-reference
  • Select Heading from the menu as your reference type
  • Pick the relevant chapter title and click Insert
  • Repeat for each chapter of your document
Adding chapter headers.

This will insert the text formatted with the selected Heading style at the top of each page in each section. You can also apply the same header throughout multiple sections by leaving the Link to Previous option selected for each section after the first.

If you later update your chapter titles, don’t forget to update your chapter headers! Getting your work proofread is a great way of making sure you don’t miss issues like this, so get in touch today.

Comments (11)
Abdullah Malik
11th February 2021 at 15:16
I was trying the same method, but didn't get fixed with header. Fianlly i read this and found that i was making a mistake as all of my headers were linked to previous. As i uncheck this option all of the headers got fixed. Thansk for the post Regard, Abdullah Malik
Hussain Umer
23rd September 2021 at 19:42
Thanks for the help
J M Sharma
11th December 2021 at 04:09
Thanks, your advice here helps a lot. It works well.
Thomas Armstrong
11th August 2022 at 04:00
I must have consulted a dozen sites or more without getting closer to formatting the chapters of my novel. Then I found your site, and while it took awhile following your directions, it worked finally! Thank you!
    24th August 2022 at 12:08
    You’re welcome, Thomas! Glad we could be of help!
12th October 2022 at 03:00
That method in (3) is a little cumbersome, also needs rework if a previous chapter gets extended into the area of pages of the next chapter. Better go to: Insert->Text->Quick Parts->Field In the field settings select StyleRef as category and e.g. Heading1 This will automatically add the right Caption in the header depending on its position in the document within a section. You can still set different references after adding a section break.
    14th October 2022 at 11:49
    Thanks for this tip, Lucas!
25th January 2023 at 18:05
Hi, how do I format my chapter headings 5 lines below the top of the page without creating blank spaces in Navigation?
    2nd February 2023 at 12:20
    Hi Bill! When you’re customizing your Heading Style, select Format at the bottom left of the dialog box, then select Paragraph. Go to the Spacing section and change the point size in the Before box. Line spacing is calculated at 12 pt per line, so for five lines you would set this at 60 pt.
Michelle N Kent
23rd February 2023 at 03:22
I would like to create chapter titles with the chapter number on one line and the introduction on the next line, with both chapter number and title considered part of the heading for purposed of the table of contents. e.g. (centered), Chapter 1 Introduction How might I make this work?
    26th February 2023 at 17:27
    Hi, Michelle! You just write your chapter title as you have above, on two lines. Then create your Heading style (there’s a link to the Microsoft site on how to do this in our article above), making sure you set it to “center aligned,” and then select both lines of the chapter title before you apply the Heading style.

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