I'm working on a large document in Emacs (23.2.1) org-mode (7.8.06) which I export to LaTeX. At present, the outline/structure of the document has been created, but not any of the content. The LaTeX version (which consists of \section, \subsection, \subsubsection and items mainly) has broken pagination, a blank page and text that runs off the page.

I shortened the document by moving \end{document} around to try to find the problem. In some cases, the document rendered correctly. This seems to be related to too many "section" types headings in LaTeX with no content.

To test this, I added


to my document and then inserted \blindtext "content" for most of the sections/subsections. The document now renders correctly.

The documentclass is article and the only package loaded is hypperref.

Are there any known issues with pdfLaTeX/pdfTeX where a document contains only/mainly section headings and not much, if any, content? The only relevant error message pdflatex generated was:

Overfull \vbox (333.44125pt too high) has occurred while \output is active [5] [6]

I'm using pdfTeX, Version 3.1415926-1.40.10 (TeX Live 2009/Debian).

An example can be found here. The only required package is hyperref.

  • You probably have a gigantic tabular that can't be split across pages: use longtable loading the package with the same name.
    – egreg
    May 30, 2012 at 10:11
  • No table or tabular in the document.
    – SabreWolfy
    May 30, 2012 at 10:14
  • A full example is necessary. Have you a minipage somewhere?
    – egreg
    May 30, 2012 at 10:18
  • I've added a link to an exmaple at the end of the question.
    – SabreWolfy
    May 30, 2012 at 10:31
  • Maybe this issue should be communicated more clearly in the Org Mode documentation. Jul 16, 2019 at 22:29

2 Answers 2


A document that consists only of headings, e.g., \section, \subsection, etc. does not have any legal breakpoint. Thus you get a single huge page. Or more exactly you get a single empty page followed by another page containing all your headings because LaTeX has (for technical reasons) a legal breakpoint at the beginning of a document. This breakpoint is never being used as long as there is another breakpoint in the remainder of the first page.

LaTeX doesn't break between a section and the first line (or rather 2 lines) of a following paragraph, and if a heading is followed immediately by another heading a break between them is also disallowed to avoid having a heading at the bottom of a page.

So you need to get some breakpoints into it, either by putting some bits of text in or by putting \pagebreak[1] before some or all \section commands.

Once you fill your document with real text you can then remove them again.

  • Could the empty page be discarded at shipout time? What is the legal break? a whatsit? Jun 18, 2012 at 8:20
  • @Bruno the legal break is the mark mechanism initialization if I remember correctly. Discarding the empty page would be difficult as it is next to impossible to identify if this is an deliberately empty page or one that just "happened". It might be possible to suppress the legal break point, but as this is the only situation where it is taken, my position is that it is better left alone. Jun 18, 2012 at 8:25
  • you saved me lots of time. Your answer is perfect. But is it too much to ask why latex is designed this way? I mean, respectfully, how were we supposed to know this? The only this that saved me was \newpage
    – Denis
    Dec 28, 2019 at 6:57
  • @Denis not sure what you mean by "know that". I guess you should know that LaTeX doesn't break between consecutive headings because typographically it is an absolute no-no to have a heading at the bottom of a page. NEVER, even if there is another one following. So LaTeX doesn't do that. What is a bit surprising is that the start of a document is a legal break point, but as I said that is rather technical and difficult to explain in the 170 chars that I have left, and nothing should really happen in a real document, well ... except when the document only contains headings. Dec 29, 2019 at 0:46

Normally you don't want a page break directly after a \section title. So LaTeX inhibits it there. It can't know that you want them now and so you get overfull pages as LaTeX can't find a point to break the page. And an \mbox{} or some arbitrary text after some of the heading commands.

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