Word Captions Formatting Goes Crazy!

I am having problems with a document that uses Word captions and heading styles. I can make the file look perfect on screen. However, when I go to print the document (or even print preview), the formatting changes.

Images that I have previously deleted from the document reappear, text that should be a normal style changes to captions (both of these styles are customised), and spaces appear before or after cross-references to figure captions.

I believe it has something to do with the captions as the problem also occurs when caption fields are updated. I have tried saving the file as a pdf to avoid the issue but the same problem occurs. Manually making and saving changes to the document does not help as the problem reoccurs each time I print or export it. Please help!

Submitted by Helen from New Zealand

Update: I found a solution for another reader who was experiencing similar caption problems. Jump to my discussion with Craig.

ANSWER: It sounds like several unrelated problems are happening at the same time. I’ll try to help without seeing the actual document. (You didn’t mention which version of Word you are using, so I’m assuming you are using Microsoft Word 2007 or 2010.)

Using print layout view

You want what you see on screen to be the same as what prints, so make sure you work in print layout view. Click the View tab on the ribbon. In the Document Views group, make sure Print Layout is selected. That won’t fix the problem, but if you are using some other view, it may be why everything looks fine on screen then messed up in Print Preview.

Stopping caption fields and images from updating

Word is automatically updating the fields when you print. Additionally, I think the images that reappear may be linked images. Even though you deleted the image, there may still be some sort of reference to it inside your document. When you print, Word is updating the link.Verify that caption fields and linked objects are not updating each time you print.

Here is how to do it:

  1. Click the Office Button, then Word Options. In Microsoft Word 2010, click the File tab, then select Options. Select the Display tab.Under Printing Options, deselect Update fields before printing and also deselect Update linked data before printing.
  2. Click OK.

Now test and see if that stops the captions from updating and images from reappearing when you print the document or convert to PDF. (If the deleted images still reappear and you are working with Master and Sub documents, delete one of the images in both documents and see if that stops the problem.)

Stopping text from unexpectedly reformatting

In Microsoft Word, the formatting data is contained in hidden text markers at the end of each paragraph. If you used a soft carriage return (pressed Shift+Enter) at the end of a paragraph of Normal styled text, then formatted the next sentence as a caption, the whole paragraph will pick up the custom caption style. To see hidden markers, press Ctrl + *.

Now look at end of the paragraph that keeps changing to the custom caption style. Is there a paragraph symbolParagraph icon there, or does it look like a left-pointing arrowSoft carriage return icon? If it looks like an arrow, delete the arrow, then press Enter to create a hard carriage return.

You may need to reapply your custom styles to the paragraph and caption. Check and make sure that each paragraph ends with a paragraph symbol and not two or three soft carriage returnsSoft carriage return icon.

While the hidden markers are still showing, go through your document and delete stray spaces and tabs.

See the discussion, Removing White Space for more help. Stray spaces and tabs cause all kinds of problems with document layout. From my experience, stray spaces is the number one reason for weird formatting errors. Using multiple soft carriage returns instead of pressing Enter for a hard carriage return is probably number two!

I hope these suggestion solve your problems. If so, please leave a comment and let me know what worked so other readers with the similar problems can be helped, too.

Have you had a similar problem? Or do you have an additional answer? Please contribute in the comments section below.


(These comments were from a previous commenting system. If you want to add to the discussion, use the comment box at the bottom of the page. Thanks!)

Thank you but problems persist

by: Helen

Thanks so much for your quick reply. I managed to solve the problem with normal text reformatting to caption style. Unfortunately though I was unable to fix the other problems despite trying all of the things you mentioned. I was already using print layout and the update fields and linked data options were already unselected when I checked this. I am not working with Master and Sub documents and I think that I have now removed all stray formatting spaces tabs etc. I’d be grateful for any other suggestions you may have as to what could be causing these issues. I am using Word 2007.

More Possible Fixes for Word Caption Problems

by: Sue

At least we ruled out the most obvious problems. Troubleshooting a broken Word document is often a process of elimination by trial and error. Have you tried opening and printing this document on a different computer? If you have access to another machine with Word 2007 installed, please see if the formatting problems appear in Print Preview or Print. If not, we can rule out that the document is corrupted. If strange things still happen, you can attempt a repair to see if that corrects one or more of your problems.

NOTE: Make a backup copy of the file before doing a repair.Follow my instructions for performing an open and repair procedure. Now check and see if any of the strange behavior has disappeared.

If not, I have a few more questions:

1. Did you hand code any of the caption or cross reference fields? If so, there may be an syntax error that is causing problems with the captions.
2. How big is the file in megabytes? How many megabytes of images? I need to figure out the size of just the text portion of the file.
Please keep me posted on your progress. I would really like to figure out what is wrong with this particular document because it is exhibiting weird behavior that I have not seen before.

by: Helen

Hi again!

Unfortunately neither trying another computer or repairing the file worked. In answer to your questions

1. Yes, I have made quite extensive use of cross-references to figure and table captions. These seem to be part of the problem as when I print preview gaps appear in the text before some (but not all) of the in-text cross-references. Sorry, I may not have explained this clearly enough in my first post.

2. The file is currently 579kb (although I will need to insert some large image files later). I wasn’t sure how to check the size of all the images as some of them are imported directly from a graphing program (SigmaPlot10). Instead, I tried to copy and paste special unformatted text into a new document. This made the file size 40.1kb.Other things that may or may not be relevant. I am using EndnoteX1, the images that reappear are maps exported as .emf files from ArcGIS, and there are a couple of autoshapes acting as placeholders for future images. This file will also need to be compiled with others at a later date (it is a chapter for my Masters thesis).

Thanks so much for your time and for taking such an interest, it is very much appreciated!

EPS files causing trouble in Word 2007

by: Sue

Your file is way under the limit for the text portion, so that is not an issue.

I researched your problems and found some interesting information.

There is a discussion on the Adobe website about problems with using EPS files in Word 2007. It is a long discussion but I think you may very well find a workaround: http://forums.adobe.com/thread/439881

I have never used EndNote, so I cannot offer any technical advice for using it with Word 2007. However, do make sure you have all of the updated security patches installed: http://www.endnote.com/support/enupdates.asp.
You might also contact EndNote technical support to see if there are any known issues with Word 2007 that might cause some of your problems.

You did not mention if the placeholder auto shapes are working correctly. Even though your specific problem is not addressed, this discussion on Suzanne Barnhill’s site (she is a Microsoft Word MVP) may offer insight into graphics problems: http://sbarnhill.mvps.org/WordFAQs/InvisibleGraphics.htm

There is also an interesting article on the Word MVP site about cross references to headings. This may or may not offer a solution for the formatting problems with the cross-references:

I hope you can find the help you need from these resources.

Final Solution

by: Helen
Just to update you on my progress with the Word 2007 issues I was having. I took a brief look at the links you sent me but I couldn’t find the information I needed.

In the end, I just copied the whole document and pasted it as unformatted text into a new document. I then reformatted and re-inserted all images, tables, captions, cross-references etc by hand. This was a real pain and took several hours but I think it would have probably been quicker in the end than trying to troubleshoot the broken file.

Do overs

by: Sue

Actually, starting over is sometimes the best solution when you cannot find the problem in a reasonable amount of time.

Troubleshooting is a tedious process. Always eliminate the most common problems first. Then if that does not fix the problem, test other solutions if you can.

It is a judgment call of when to quit troubleshooting and just start over, which usually depends on the length of the document and the due date. Sometimes there is no time to test beyond eliminating the obvious before you have to take drastic action.

If you use versioning, you can (usually) avoid losing all of your work if something goes wrong.

Thank-you for sharing your solution, Helen.

Any solution yet?

by: Craig

Hi –

I don’t suppose that in between Helen’s original post and this one you’ve found a solution to de-bugging the added lines before certain in-text cross references? Like Helen, I have made quite extensive use of cross-references to figure and table captions. These seem to be part of the problem as when I print preview gaps appear in the text before some (but not all) of the in-text cross-references. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to which ones it inserts space before. I’m using Word 2010.

A Possible Solution!

by: Sue

Hi Craig:

No, I have not run across this specific issue. But I was finally able to recreate it!

How are you creating the captions? With References > Insert Caption, or are you creating bookmarks then cross-referencing the bookmarks?

I was only able to recreate the problem when using bookmarks. First I typed the caption text, then inserted a bookmark. Then I wrote a few sentences and added the cross reference. All was fine when updating the field and in print preview.

Then I set the cursor at the beginning of the CAPTION text and pressed Enter (like we sometimes do if we want a little extra space between the image and the caption). What this does is insert a carriage return INSIDE the bookmark.

Next I looked in print preview and the extra line appeared! I also tried updating the field, and again, the extra line appeared.

Then I deleted the extra space before the caption and updated the cross reference and it removed the space.

I really think this is the cause – extra spaces are accidentally getting inserted into some of the bookmarks.

Try it and let me know if this fixes the problem.


by: Craig

I was creating the captions through References > Insert Caption and then the cross reference would be through Reference > Cross reference. I’m afraid that I don’t know what a bookmark is in word.

I was formatting my thesis as per grad studies formatting rules and if the caption was too large to fit on one page it had to go middle of the page immediately preceding the figure or table. So I would go to References > Insert Caption and then hit enter a few times at the beginning to center the caption in the middle of the page.

You were bang on the buck. Brilliant!! Thank you so much!! That was slick .. I wouldn’t have figured that out anytime soon. I was ready to hard code them or take the even longer route of chiseling it out by hand onto stone tablets.

I guess I was making bookmarks. huh. Thanks again so much !



by: Sue

I’m so glad that solved the issue! Thanks for letting me know, Craig.

Bookmarks are found on the Insert tab > Bookmark. You can cross reference a bookmark just like you cross reference a caption. Additionally, you can create hyperlinks to bookmarks (within the same document or from one document to another).

But as you found out, you have to be very careful not to add tabs or line breaks inside the bookmark (or caption) once it is inserted or your cross reference may pick up the stray formatting.

same in 2003

by: Lois

I’m working on the pre-historic Word 2003 but have found the same problem – my captions were even cross-referencing PAGE BREAKS, alonside the adjacent text, sometimes the complete figure, and also carrying the caption formatting – so i’d get a page break, or a diagram pop-up in the middle of a paragraph – this meant that I quite easily diagnosed the problem, but i struggled to find a work around. In addition, i found some of my x-references were going mad with the numbers, for example Table 1 was x-ref as Table 11, Table 2 as 22 etc – this is because somehow, I’d bookmarked them twice- probably as I tried to fix the earlier problem.

Then I found this forum with your suggestions. What I ended up doing was searching in the “hidden bookmarks”, and using trial and error to identify those which were in use, and those which were causing problems. The lesson I’ve learned… insert captions when you’ve finished everything else – its a pain, but seems the only failsafe workaround. Its nice to know MS have made a good job of fixing the problem for future editions too!