Getting rid of unwanted lines in Word tables

8 Oct 2010
tables in Word

Simon Jones explains how to remove extra lines in table cells at page breaks in Word 2007

A reader named Rex emailed me recently with a question about the way tables work in Word: “I’m getting unwanted lines in Word 2007 when a table row breaks across pages. I have a table with horizontal borders above and below each row. Some of the cells contain multiple lines of text.

"When a cell becomes too large vertically to fit the page it continues on the next page, but Word adds two horizontal lines in the middle of the cell: one line is at the bottom of the page where the break occurs, and the other line is at the top of the next page, just before the cell continues. If I turn off borders between cells, these added lines go away, but I need the borders between cells. How can I get rid of these two extra horizontal lines in the middle of the row?”

This problem occurs because of the way Word handles borders in tables – it doesn’t omit the bottom border on the first part of a broken row, or the top border on the continuation of the row on the next page, so these cells have their bottom and top borders repeated.

tables in Word

This may be what some people want, but Rex – and I imagine many others – prefer it to be obvious that the row at the bottom of one page isn’t complete and continues on the next page. In some applications, such as SQL Server Reporting Services, cells and rows have separate top and bottom borders, so you can turn off the bottom border on one row and still see the top border on the row below.

In Word, however, the bottom border of a cell is the top border of the cell below, so you can’t lose one without losing the other. You could avoid breaking rows across page boundaries, by setting the row properties so that rows aren’t allowed to span pages: select the whole table, click Table Tools | Layout | Table | Properties | Row, and untick the box that allows rows to break across pages.

This avoids the problem with broken rows, but can leave ugly gaps at the bottom of a page where a whole row has been moved onto the next page.

One workaround is to draw empty, borderless textboxes that obscure these unwanted bottom and top borders in your table.

It works, but it will have to be the last thing you do because any changes to the document or its formatting might change the position of the table, moving it up or down the page or onto a different page so that it may no longer match up with the floating textboxes.

tables in Word