Different Margins on First Page

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How to have different margins on the first page

Users often ask how to have different (usually larger) margins on just the first page of a document or section. This is really not at all difficult, but this article assumes that you already know how to access the header or footer of a document in your version of Word and how to add content to it. If not, you should first read my article on using headers and footers.

Different margins = different section

You may know that margins are a section property. In order to change the page margins (or the paper size or orientation, the number of columns, or, in most cases, the content of the header or footer), you must insert a section break. For this reason, you may believe—and many people will be quick to tell you—that if you want to have different margins on the first page of a document or section, you must insert a section break. Not so!

One section > three headers and footers

You should also know that any document or section can have up to three separate headers and footers. On the Layout tab of the Page Setup dialog (see Figure 2), there are check boxes for “Different first page” and “Different odd and even.” In Word 2007 and above, the “Different First Page” and “Different Odd & Even Pages” check boxes are conveniently placed on the Header & Footer Tools | Design tab that appears when you open the header or footer (see Figure 3).

Figure 1. Header and Footer toolbar in Word 2003 showing button to access the Page Setup dialog

Figure 2. The Layout tab of the Page Setup dialog showing "Different first page" check box

Figure 3. The Header & Footer Tools | Design tab in Word 2007 showing "Different First Page" check box

If you check both, you will have (in order, assuming your section begins on an odd page) a First Page Header/Footer, an Even Page Header/Footer, and an Odd Page Header/Footer. If you check only “Different first page,” you’ll get a First Page Header/Footer and a primary Header/Footer that will appear on the second and subsequent pages.

Different first page = different first page margin

Okay, so you can change the content of the First Page Header/Footer to be different from the Header/Footer that appears on the rest of the pages. How does that mean that you can change the top or bottom margin?

The secret is that, when you increase the size of the header (or footer) beyond the top (or bottom) margin, it will push the document content down (or up). This does not actually change the page margins except for the page on which the header or footer appears, so if you make the First Page Header/Footer larger, the margin remains unchanged for the remaining pages.

This doesn’t mean that you have to add actual text content. You can (as is often suggested) insert a text box or table cell to push the effective top margin down. But in most cases this is not necessary. Even if you are leaving the header completely empty (to allow for printed letterhead, for example), you can create extra space just by adding Spacing After to the header paragraph in the Paragraph dialog. If you know how much space you need to add, in inches or centimeters, you can type this amount into the Spacing After box, and Word will convert it to points (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Paragraph dialog showing Spacing After in inches

If you do have text (a letterhead, for example) in the header, you will want to add some Spacing After, anyway, to create “breathing room” between the header and the document body. Ordinarily, this space is created by the difference between the header margin and the top margin, but if you are pushing the header down below the top margin, you have to create the space artificially.

Different side margins

Sometimes it’s not just the top or bottom margin you need to increase on the first page but the left or (less often) the right. In such cases, you can use a text box or frame anchored to the First Page Header, as explained in my article on “How to put a header anywhere on a page.” You will find examples of this application in the “More complex letterhead” section of my article on creating letterheads.

This article copyright © 2009, 2011, 2013, 2018 by Suzanne S. Barnhill.