Footnotes Spanning Columns

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How to have single-column footnotes in a multi-column document

Important Note: This article is for Word 2010 and earlier. If you have Word 2013 or later, see “Improvements in Word 2013 and above.”

A limitation of columns is that they don’t play well with footnotes. Footnotes in a multicolumn document will be wrapped to the column width. Moreover, if the footnote occurs in a multicolumn section in a single-column document, that section will insist on being on a page by itself even though you have used Continuous section breaks before and after it.

The workaround for this is so clumsy that you may well decide it is not worth it, but if you must combine footnotes with columns and insist on full-width footnotes (and especially if the multicolumn section is part of a primarily single-column document), here’s how to solve the problem:

  1. Insert the footnote in a single-column section as close as possible to the desired location of the actual footnote reference mark (so that the footnote will be on the same page and in the correct order). Note that this must be in a single-column section after the multi-column section; if you insert it before, Word will push the multi-column section to the next page.

  2. Where you want the footnote reference mark, insert a cross-reference to the number of the footnote you just inserted.

  • Word 2003 and earlier: On the Insert menu, select Reference, then Cross-reference. In the Cross-reference dialog, select Footnote as the Reference type and Footnote number (formatted) in the Insert reference to dropdown.

  • Word 2007 and 2010: On the References tab, in the Captions group, or on the Insert tab, in the Links group, choose Cross-reference. In the Cross-reference dialog select Footnote as the Reference type and Footnote number (formatted) in the Insert reference to dropdown.

  1. Select the actual footnote reference mark (in the single-column text) and format it as Hidden (Ctrl+Shift+H).

Figure 1. The false footnote reference as seen with nonprinting characters displayed.

Figure 2. The false footnote reference as seen in Print Preview.

The drawback to this workaround is that you will not be able to double-click on the visible footnote reference mark to get to the footnote, but if the document is to be printed, the appearance will be as desired.

Improvements in Word 2013 and above

If you have Word 2013 or above, you will not have to use the workaround above because those versions allow you to choose how you want your footnotes aligned. In the Footnote and Endnote dialog (shown below), there is a new dropdown for Footnote layout: Columns that allows you to choose between matching the section layout (that is, using the same number of columns as the section) or having a specific number of columns. That can be convenient even in single-column sections when you have many short footnotes and want several of them to appear on the same line to save space.

See also:

The strait and narrow – using columns

Why do my footnotes sometimes end up on a different page from their references in the text?

I want the numbers in my footnotes not to be superscripted, and I want the numbers to be followed by a dot and a tab

This article copyright © 2000, 2017 by Suzanne S. Barnhill.