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Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
Volume 4 Issue 5May 2010
In This Issue
Why does Word sometimes print a blank page at the end?
Here's my advice on this common printing problem.
Why does Word sometimes print a blank page at the end?

Clients often ask me: "Why is Microsoft Word printing a blank page at the end of my document? Not every document, just certain documents!"

(By the way, this problem can occur in other programs as well--word processing programs other than Word, email programs, text editors, spreadsheets, web browsers, etc.)

The answer lies partly with the literal nature of computers, combined with unintended extra whitespace.

What is whitespace?
When you write, you mostly likely:
  • Type a space to separate each word from the one after it
  • Press the Enter (or Return) key at least once to start a new line or paragraph, possibly more than once to leave an extra blank line or two between paragraphs
  • Press the Tab key to indent the first line of a paragraph, or to line up columns of text in a table
You may also:
  • Enter a manual Page Break to start a new page, sooner than Word may choose to
  • Enter a nonbreaking space to separate two consecutive words but "glue" them together; this prevents the "word-wrap" mechanism from separating them, ensuring that they will always be together on the same line
  • Enter other, less common types of whitespace (em spaces, en spaces, etc.)
These special characters are collectively referred to as "whitespace," since they don't use any ink when printed (white) and they separate text (creating horizontal or vertical space).

The problem
When you're working on a given document, depending on how you edit your text, over time you may unintentionally accumulate whitespace characters at the end of the document. In my experience this forgotten trailing whitespace consists mostly of paragraph breaks, i.e., blank lines. Perhaps you're in the habit of pressing Enter multiple times at the end of each paragraph to leave yourself some extra space; later, you may move your last paragraph(s) to other location(s) in your document, leaving behind those blank lines at the end. Whatever the mechanism, over time those trailing blank lines can build up, leading to one (or more) blank pages at the end of your document. When you then print the document, your very-literal-minded computer dutifully prints every page, including the blank one(s) at the end.

The solution
To fix this problem:
  • Scroll to the end of your document.
  • If possible, make the whitespace visible. In Word this is function is called "Show/Hide ¶" or "Show/Hide Paragraph Marks," which reveals these "invisible characters" on your screen using special symbols (raised dots for spaces, "¶" symbols for paragraph breaks, little arrows for tabs, etc.). These symbols only appear on the screen, you won't see them when you print your document.
  • Assuming you see excess whitespace at the very end of your document, click once to place your Insertion Point (the vertical blinking line) at the end after all the whitespace, and then carefully delete the excess whitespace, "traveling backwards" from the end until you arrive at the end of your actual writing.
  • If possible, most people then prefer to "hide" the whitespace again, minimizing the distraction of seeing those special symbols.
  • Don't forget to Save these changes to your document.
Where to go from here
  • If you have any word processing documents that print extra blank pages at the end, open one up and take a look. With this approach you can probably fix it in just a few minutes.
  • If your document prints blank pages at the beginning or middle (but not the end), you may have excess whitespace (or Page Breaks) at those places as well. However, it's also possible your printer may have a problem with its paper-feed mechanism.
  • If every page of your document prints blank pages, your printer has probably run out of ink or toner (or it has a major clog), or you've somehow managed to change the color of your text from black to white!
If you know someone who might find this helpful, please feel free to forward it.
If you have any comments about this article, send me a reply!
If you have a topic that you'd like me to write about, I'd love to hear about it!
How to contact me:
email: martin@kadansky.com
phone: (617) 484-6657
web: http://www.kadansky.com

On a regular basis I write about real issues faced by typical computer users. To subscribe to this newsletter, please send an email to martin@kadansky.com and I'll add you to the list, or visit http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

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Copyright (C) 2010 Kadansky Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved.

I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.

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