Some tips for page range not printing correctly in MS Word

Ever had this little problem? You set up a range of pages to be printed in MS Word and somehow the printer prints a different range… or even prints nothing at all. Well it’s happened to me on more than one occasion. Here’s the answer, or at least one that explains the problem and seems to help most times.

This printing problem seems to occur if your document has sections. You may have used sections for breaking a document, for example, between chapters or between say introductory material and the main text. You’ll know if you have sections in your document (or one that’s been sent to you) if you see thin double dashed lines and the message Section Break (Next Page) over the lines . The printing problem seems to occur if different page numbering has been used in each section and this numbering may be visible in the page footer. Very often an author may skip numbering (or use use a different style like Roman numerals) in the introductory section and start the main numbering with the main text.

Word page numbering

In the case shown above (using Word 2010), looking at the overall page numbering in the bottom left corner tells us we’re on the 71st page of 75, but because there’s an introductory section with 3 unnumbered pages, we’re actually at the 68th page of the main text.

Problem is that if you didn’t know about the different sections and wanted to print the page range from here to the end of the document, printing the page range 71-75 would definitely not give the correct result. You actually want to print the page range as indicated in the page footer, i.e. pages 68-72. Just a little counterintuitive isn’t it?

So if you want to print the 3-page unnumbered page range at the beginning, well instead of indicating the range as 1-3, which wouldn’t work, what you have to do is tell Word that the range is in the first section, i.e. p1s1-p3s1, that is from page 1 to page 3 in section 1. But I’ve found that this type of section printing just doesn’t work out sometimes and I haven’t figured out why yet.

Final tip, if you’re just not sure if you’ve set up Word correctly to print the correct page range, just print the first couple of pages in the range initially rather than setting your printer going on a huge range of pages. See how that goes and then adjust the range accordingly. Hope this helps.

Of course, if you have any helpful tips on printing page ranges in MS Word, drop a comment below.

13 Responses

  1. Jeremy Dyde Says:

    Thanks for outlining the problem. I wish there was a definitve solution, like printing the physical pages requested, as opposed to what MS thinks you are talking about. Ink cartridges cost a great deal of money and when you are duplexing and, for example, for some reason or other, your printer packs up halfway thru the second side, you can waste an awful lot of ink trying to recreate the backs of those pages that have already been printed. My printer preview even shows the (correct) page to be printed first(plus three more, for some reason) and it is, in theory, printing front to back so why doesn’t the correct page print? It is not only ink involved, it is time. If the wrong page prints on the back of a correct one, you now have to print three pages again, at least, and typically have to print them one at a time.

  2. Jeremy Dyde Says:

    I should add, thanks for the tip with regard to page and section. Having been in the business for 45 years and having used Word since its inception, almost, of course I never read Help and was totally unaware of pages/sections with regard to printing. It has opened my eyes.
    I should add that I haven’t had any problem using it, once I figured out its correct usage.
    For example, in wanting to print a “page 2”, looking at the bottom of the screen it showed Page 2 Sec 14. However, trying to print that doesn’t work, it just (with my system) disappears into the ether. I had to specify p2s4 because Section 4 is the first section referred to on the previous page and Page 2 Sec 14 just happened to be where my cursor was sitting at the time.
    I now have to figure out why the section changes as my cursor moves down the page. From a header/footer point of view, I thought that my document was broken up into three sections but it looks like there are many more. My 3rd section, as far as I am concerned, shows Page 10 Sec 69 as the first entry. I’m lost.

  3. Dingbat Says:

    Thanks for the tip. It’s ridiculously stupid that Microsoft didn’t just set the default option to be printing according to the actual overall page numbers in the document rather than this p#s# garbage. Printing by page number within a given section is a nice optional feature, but it is far from intuitive.

  4. Vampy Says:

    Cheers for this – been scratching my head on this issue for days! What a truly counter-intuitive way of doing it – typical blooming Microsoft!

  5. Patrick Says:

    I’ve been pulling my hair out over this issue. I have several documents that are the exact same thing, where I have images on certain pages. Sometimes I have to print just the image pages, especially if I’ve had to modify them.

    The easiest thing I’ve found to work is to just highlight the pages you want to print, then click on File > Print (or press Ctrl + P) and under Settings click on the drop-down menu and select “Print Selection”. I had this same issue with Word 2000.

  6. kevin Says:

    I figured out the problem: the initial description is correct, however you do not need to include any information about the page numbers, only the sections. Use the s before the number, such as: s23, s44, s67, etc… and Word will recognize the pages… at least it worked for me!


  7. Scott Says:

    In Word 2007 (and probably other versions as well), you can customize the status bar at the bottom of the screen with a right-mouse click. If you turn on the Formatted Page Number and Section along with the physical page number (X of Y), you can see exactly what Word is thinking when it comes to pages for printing. I found that, through manipulation of the first page number after section breaks, Word though the first physical page of my document was page 14. It seems a simple option to print by physical page number of formatted page number would solve the confusion.

  8. Lilian Says:

    THANK YOU Scott! Saved me so much frustration.

  9. Diane Says:

    OMG I think I’ve figured it out!!! First, right click on the status bar at the bottom and select “formatted page number.” (On Word 2010 this status bar doesn’t show up on the file tab [the one you go to when you want to print], so you have to customize your status bar when you’re on any tab other than “file”.) If you use this number rather than the “page X of X” number, it seems to work.

  10. Cathy Says:

    OMG!!! Thank you Scott. For now, the Formatted Page Number tip was what I needed. The problem with Print Selection is that it does not print the header/footer.

  11. Ben Says:

    I am a Word guru. I did a mail merge to complete professional development seminar information for the top of sign-in sheets. Word uses sections. Tried to print Pages 2-29 of 44 pages – wouldn’t print anything. Tried p1s2-p1s29 realizing there were section breaks and voila! It worked! Never knew this catch existed and never specified those type of ranges. Thanks!

  12. Adam Says:

    I followed Diane’s suggestion by adding the Formatted Page Number to the status bar and I also decided to add Section to it as well. This really eases my understanding of the print range needed to get my desired pages. Print Selection doesn’t suit my needs because it excludes headers and footers.

  13. chris Says:

    since this serious flaw persists in word 2016, the least time-consuming solution i have found is to print to pdf, and then use the pdf to make physical printouts.

    even if you switch to the “formatted” page number in the status bar, you cannot successfully print a specific page range without taking the time to go through the whole document and memorize all of the sections, because word hides this information from you at the print screen.

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