Nearly every week, I get an email like this:
When using several different Styles in a document, I sometimes (TOO often) find that the formatting of a paragraph has reverted to an odd-size line or paragraph indent or the numbering doesn’t change back to 1, notwithstanding that I’ve selected “Restart list after …” in the Define new Multilevel list box. It seems that something is corrupted. Can you explain?
Or like this:
Hi! My biggest headache is paragraph numbering, I never know how to set it up to do it automatically and end up putting the paragraph numbers in manually. Also, how to get back to the main heading (e.g. no. 2, Communication & Procedures) then back to the sub-headings e.g. 2.1.
Which boils down to this:
Multilevel list numbering is my biggest frustration!
Even though I’ve included some paragraph numbering training in my basic Word course and have published articles elsewhere dealing with paragraph numbering specifically and various types of automatic numbering generally, it seems multi-level numbering is enough of an irritation to a sufficient number of people that I need to deal with this subject head-on.
Part of the problem with Microsoft Word’s paragraph numbering feature (single- or multi-level) is that it’s a twisted combination of Styles and Fields, so twisted it’s nearly impossible to separate them. Word has a lot of paragraph numbering Styles already built in, but following the advice of some genuine Microsoft Word experts (Ben Schorr, Jan Berinstein and the late Shauna Kelly), I’m going to show you how to create your own multi-level paragraph numbering List Styles you can save into your Normal (or other) template and use forever after.
The questions I’ve gotten are usually asking about one of three different types of multi-level numbering:
Inline multi-level numbering. This is paragraph numbering that looks like this:
Inline multi-level numbering with text. This paragraph numbering differs slightly from the above in that there is some text before and/or after the number which may or may not need to be included in a Table of Contents, like this:
Numbered headings. This numbering is embedded in headings that float above its related text, like so:
Given that we’re talking about three different types of multi-level paragraph numbering, I’ll deal with each type in a separate post. This post deals with the first type listed above, inline multi-level numbering.
(If you’ve never used Word’s built-in multi-level paragraph numbering and want a primer on how to use it, click here.)
But first, let’s talk about the basic methodology I’m going to use on all three types: creating your own list definitions to control the numbering. Because, let’s face it, the built-in ones are too hard for most people to control.
Why bother creating your own list as opposed to altering the existing lists? The problem with attempting to alter an existing list is that the changes (in my experience) seldom “stick”. Plus, the experience of defining your own list gets you familiar enough with the structure that you’ll be able to diagnose and solve problems when lists go awry.
With all three of the multi-level lists we’re going to talk about, the starting place is the same. On the Home tab, click the drop-down next to the multi-level numbering button in the Paragraph section. Because this first tutorial is covering situations where you just want to number the paragraphs, not build an outline or Table of Contents, choose Define New Multi-Level List:
That gets you this dialog box. Be sure to click More …
… so you can see and work with the entire dialog box.
Looks pretty overwhelming, right? Let me walk you through an example customization:
- I start off by unlinking level numbers from Styles in the Link level to style drop-down. In this particular example, we’re not doing headings or anything like that, so having each level linked to a Style would just muck things up.
- Now that I’m on Level 1 (which is where this dialog box will start), I choose the Numbering style for this level and add a period after the “1”. If Legal style numbering is checked, I uncheck it. Obviously, if that’s the kind of numbering you want (1.1, etc.), leave that checked.
- Next, I tell Word how I want the numbers and the paragraph positioned. In this example, I’m indenting the first line of the numbered paragraph 0.5″ (Aligned at set at 0.5″) and wrapping the text back to the left margin (Text indent at set to 0″). To start each paragraph’s text at the next tab stop, I set Follow number with to Tab character.
- To avoid having to do this entire positioning exercise down all nine levels, I click Set for All Levels, which simply increments the Aligned at and Text indent at settings 0.5″ for each subsequent level (see “C” below). “A” below corresponds to Aligned at, and “B” below corresponds to Text indent at.
- Once I choose Level 2, you notice that Restart list after is now enabled. Obviously, after paragraph 2, I want Level 2 to re-start at “a”, so I check that box and have it restart after the previous level.
- Once everything is set the way I want, I click OK.
Those settings get me this result:
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Promoting/Demoting Paragraph Levels
Pressing Enter after each paragraph should (in most instances) give you another paragraph with an automatic number. But say you want to start a Section (level 2) underneath that Article (level 1) you just created?
If you want to start a Section (or a lower level), there are three ways you can promote that paragraph to the next level (or demote to a previous level):
- Use the Increase Indent (promote) or Decrease Indent (demote) buttons on the Home tab (my preferred method), OR
- Click the Multilevel list drop-down and choose Change list level, OR
- Use the Tab and Shift-Tab method to promote and demote, respectively
That last method requires that you have a particular AutoCorrect setting enabled. Go to the File tab, click Options, choose Proofing along the left-hand side, click the AutoCorrect Options button, and make sure this box is checked on the AutoFormat As You Type tab:
So, what questions do you have about paragraph numbering so far? Anything above not explained clearly? Did I skip a feature in these dialog boxes you want to know about? What do I need to write about next? Let me hear from you in the comments below. Your comments will shape how this series goes, so don’t be shy!
Click here for the entire series.