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Make long Word tables understandable

When a Microsoft Word table is so long it runs over two pages, it can cause consternation for readers in at least two ways:

  • The header rows – those rows at the top of tables that serve to label the contents of each column – don’t repeat on subsequent pages where the table continues.
  • Individual rows, if they’re two or more lines long, can split between two pages.

The result? Readers need to keep the first page of the table handy, as well as the preceding page should they need to read a split row.

Here’s how to fix both potential problems.

Making column headings repeat

  1. Place the cursor in the heading row. If you use more than one heading row, select the heading rows.
  2. From the Table menu, choose Heading Rows Repeat.
  3. If you haven’t already, add extra formatting to distinguish heading rows. You can create a distinct style for them (recommended if you have many tables throughout a document) or you can simply bold the heading row text.

This tip is like “freeze panes” in Microsoft Excel, without the ability to set columns that stay on a page. If your table is very wide, consider setting the pages on which the table resides in landscape orientation (you can do this using a section break). If it’s a lot wider, reconsider the design of your table or split it into several tables.

Preventing “split rows”

  1. Place the mouse pointer over the top left corner of the table. A box containins a cross appears.
  2. Click that box. The whole table is now selected. This step saves you time when you want to apply a specific setting to an entire table.
  3. Right-click the table and choose Table Properties. The Table Properties dialog appears.
  4. Click the Rows tab.
  5. Uncheck the “Allow rows to break across pages” box and click OK.
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