How to handle page numbers, running headers

How many times have you read a book then later as trying to find some statement or paragraph in it said under your breath, “What page was that on?”

Eventually you probably just give in and look up the page number in the index or table of contents. Good thing the author included page numbers!

You, too, should include page numbers in your book. Besides being useful to readers, including page numbers helps your book look professional.

Page numbers and running headers that include the book’s name and your title also are called folios.

Almost every page in your book should have a page number. Start with the introduction/preface and run through the main text, appendixes and index. Forewords and prefaces get Roman numeral pages (i, ii, iii, etc.); all other pages get Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3). You can skip page numbers, though, on the half title page, copyright page, dedication, acknowledgements, table of contents, first page of a chapter (though each first page of a chapter is counted), and the author’s bio at the back of book.

Some other basic rules for placing page numbers in books include:
• Don’t write “Page x”, just give the number
• Left pages are even numbers, right pages are odd numbers (Side note: To avoid looking amateurish, place the first page of a chapter on an odd-numbered page, even if that means you must leave the even-numbered page before it blank)
• Put page numbers on the outside margin (e.g. the side of the book away from the spine)
• Post them on the bottom of page (They can be combined with the running header, though – read on!)
• Change the font and point size so they appear slightly different than the book’s text

As noted above, you might include the page number in the running headers. Appearing in the top margin, these include either the book title on each page (typical of novels) or the book title and chapter title on opposite pages (typical of nonfiction books). Usually, the book title appears on the even-numbered page and the chapter title on the odd-numbered page, but there’s no hard and fast rule for this. Sometimes the book title and author’s name both will appear at the top of the page.

The running header can be centered rather than aligned left or right. If doing so, then consider placing page numbers at the top of the page. Align the page number to the outside margin (e.g. the side of page farthest from the spine); otherwise align them to the margin edge farthest from the spine.

Regardless of what format is used, place the running header slightly more than a line of type above the top line of text appearing on a page.

If formatting your book in Microsoft Word, you can set up running headers, but it gets complicated. Sometimes the best thing to do (especially if you have a nonfiction book or any book in which chapters have titles) is “cheat” by creating a text box for a running header for an even numbered page, copying and then modifying it for an odd page running header, and then copying and pasting each one to where it should appear on each page, changing page numbers and chapter titles as you go. This can be rather tedious, though.