Bulletproof Paragraph Numbering, Part 2

In the ​previous lesson in this series, we went through the basics of setting up a multilevel paragraph numbering scheme for inline numbering ("inline" meaning that the number appears at the beginning of the paragraph and that each paragraph has a separate number). This is the kind of numbering that Word automatically applies (once you start the numbering scheme) whenever you press the Enter key to start a new paragraph.

So, to refresh your memory from last time, here's what kind of numbering we're covering in this lesson:


We're gradually moving up the scale in terms of complexity and flexibility here. In the last example, the paragraphs always started with the numbers themselves (1, II, c, etc.). Here, we're able to embed text like "Article" and "Section" within the numbering scheme.

We start at the same place we started last time, by clicking on the drop-down next to the multilevel paragraph number button on the Home tab:

To create the two levels shown in the illustration above, we're going to go through the Define new Multilevel List dialog twice, once for the first level (Articles) and again for the second level (Sections):

Click for full-size image (opens in new tab)

I'm just going through two levels in this illustration for the sake of simplicity, just so I can show you what's different between the highest level (Articles) versus the lower levels (Sections and on down). Here's the breakdown of what I've done, step by step:

  1. First, I make sure I've chosen the first level of the multilevel list by clicking 1 just underneath Click level to modify.
  2. To tell Word what type of numbering I want to use (1 versus I, etc.), I use the drop-down under Number style for this level.
  3. Once I've chosen a number style, I see that number embedded in the Enter formatting for number field (it looks a bit greyed-out to signify that it's a field and not a literal number). I can then click my cursor into the beginning of the Enter formatting for number field and type "ARTICLE". Once I've done that, I notice that change reflected in the preview pane above.
  4. Because I'm using inline numbering rather than headings, I want to be sure that the numbering scheme is not connected to a Style, so I choose [no style] in the Link level to style drop-down.
  5. Usually, Number alignment defaults to left; I double-check that here. You may run into situations in which you want the number to align differently (usually with long legal-style numbering like "1.02.03.").
  6. Aligned at is different from Number alignment. Number alignment is where the number itself is aligned relative to the tab stop where the trailing period, etc., would be. Aligned at sets where the beginning of the numbered paragraph is relative to the left margin. In this example, I want "ARTICLE" to start right at the left-hand margin, so I set Aligned at to 0.
  7. Next, I'm going to set the Text indent at to 0" as well. This ensures that the second and subsequent lines of each Article wraps all the way to the left-hand margin.
  8. Follow number with determines what will create the space between your automatic number and the following text. You can choose Space, Tab character, or Nothing. Here, I chose Space because Roman numerals can get quite long, and inserting a tab afterward could create some awkwardly inconsistent spacing between the numbering and the first part of the paragraph.
  9. Now that I'm completed all of the setup for ARTICLES (level 1 of my multilevel list), I'll move on to the SECTIONS portion (level 2) by clicking the 2 under Click level to modify. Notice how the preview pane to the right changes to show the indentation of the second level.
  10. Again, I choose a number style (01, 02, 03, ...) from the Number style for this level drop-down. A greyed-out field with the number "01" appears in Enter formatting for number. The next four steps are critical to creating the "Section 1.01" result I'm after.
  11. Because I want to include the number of the level from the preceding Article (in other words, I want each Section for Article I to include "1" as the number just after "Section" and preceding the period), I first make sure my cursor is just before the "01" I previously embedded, then use the Include level number from drop-down to instruct Word to include the number from Level 1.
  12. Level 1 is configured as a Roman numeral, so that's what Word puts here ... for now. (Hang in there with me through Step #14.) I then type a period to separate "I" from "01", then place my cursor before all the numbers to type "Section".
  13. I want to make sure that the first Section under Article II starts with "Section 2.01" and doesn't continue the second-level numbering from Article I, so I check the box next to Restart list after and choose the previous level (in this case, Level 1).
  14. Here's what changes "I" to "1" after "Section": check the box next to Legal style numbering. Now, you see "1.01" after "Section", not "I.01". Notice how Number style for this level is suddenly disabled. That's why I waited until now to check this box.
  15. Again, I choose Space as the Follow number with character, for pretty much the same reasons as in Step # 7.

Once you click OK, you'll see that Article I pops up. Type some text in there and hit Enter.  You'll see Article II. 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)
  • Click the Multilevel list drop-down and choose Change list level
  • 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:

The end result of your paragraph numbering scheme looks something like this:

Here's a quick (8:43) video showing you the process from start to finish:

[Click the button near the lower right-hand corner to maximize the video window]

Now it's your turn

Here's what I want you to do now:

  • Come up with your own numbering scheme, one that you use frequently in your documents. Maybe my "Article" and "Section" example doesn't resonate with you. Find an example in your recent documents that you'd love to automate in future documents.
  • Plot out how your numbering scheme would be structured:
  1. How many levels deep do you need?
  2. What indentation should each level have? Does it change consistently at subsequent levels (e.g., each level advances in 0.5" increments)?
  3. Would it be better to follow each number with a tab or a space? Would the numbers get so long that using tab would create visual inconsistency?
  4. Is there any text before or after the number that remains constant at all levels?
  5. Do you include the number from one or more previous levels? Is it legal-style numbering (1.01, etc.)?
  6. Does the numbering in the second and subsequent levels need to "start over" when the level immediately above changes?
  • Start a new document (CTRL-N) and experiment with creating a new multilevel list style. Type in some sample text and see if anything malfunctions or otherwise doesn't respond the way you'd like.
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About the Author

I spend an inordinate amount of my time playing with computers and attempting to explain technology to lawyers and law office staff. It's not always easy, but someone's got to do it.

Basic Multilevel Paragraph Numbering

[…] Click here for Part 2 of this series. […]

Jennifer Thomas

One thing to remember when typing the word is to consider if the document will use Cross References because the cross reference to that number will display exactly as you type it in the field. For example, if you type ARTICLE (in all caps), then your cross reference is going to display as “… see ARTICLE 3”. If would rather see it as “… see Article 3” in the cross reference but you still want Article capitalized when used in the numbered paragraph, then click the Font button and choose All Caps – that gives you the right display in both cases.

    Deborah Savadra

    Great point, Jennifer; in fact, I had someone email me that very question earlier this week. It’s always good to be thinking ahead about how you’re going to be using these features throughout the document!

    The only thing I would add to that would be to possibly embed the “all caps” feature into the Heading Style (IF you’re attaching the numbering level to a Style, which is not the case here), but that’s something I’m going to cover next week.


You really are outdoing yourself here.
This is my daily throbbing headache, so I turn to work with a document that has already got these and try hard not to meddle it until completion.
Thank you Deborah, you just don’t know how many lives you’re saving by doing what you do.
Very, very much appreciated.


Dear Deborah,
I honestly wish you’d do these and realm do it in a form of a whitepaper so that I (or many others) can download for a,later good read, and a very much informative one as the run around are way too much sometimes during the course of the day.
Thank you kindly

    Deborah Savadra

    Working on it! Only so many hours in the day!

Basil Chocklingum

Deborah – great stuff and most helpful. Do you have anything on Ribbon Customization for Word 2010?

Robert Walsh

Wow you hit it out of the box! The instructions plus the video is awesome. Even a hard head like me understood it. I have a couple of questions. 1) is there a way to save the multi number style for later use with other documents?; 2) most of my documents are long commercial documents. As such, I rely on the Navigation pane to get around the document. I notice using the method of creating the numbering in your article does not provide for the navigation feature. Is there a fix for that?; and 3) is there a way to set up paragraph spacing at the same time as the numbering is set up. If not, it would be helpful to me if you could add a section on how to do that so all the spacing is done automatically.

Thank you again for the excellent tutorials and for taking user input to make the product better – what a concept.

    Deborah Savadra

    1) Yes. I’m still testing to ensure that my method of transferring PC-to-PC works, but once you’ve created your new numbering scheme, you can save it to the List Library like so:

    save numbering scheme to List Library

    2) Using the Navigation pane requires using outline levels, which in turn require linking to Styles. I plan to cover that in the next post.
    3) Still investigating that. Doesn’t seem to be a way to do that unless I link it to a Style of some kind, which is a possibility, or create a new List Style, which I’m also looking at. Once I get a technique nailed down, I’m going to cover that in a future post and then (I hope) work that discussion into the prior examples so it’s a “once and done” thing.

    Thanks for your input!

Phyllis Dubrow

Hi, Deborah —
Thanks for this. It’s helpful to see how you use some of the menu options that I’ve never used.
From my own (limited, for sure) experience:
1. When I want to follow the number with TWO spaces, rather than a tab or a single space, I’ll put them in in the “Enter formatting for number” box and put “Nothing” in the “Follow number with” box.
2. I still don’t know — and wonder — what the “ListNum field list name” is for.
3. I also don’t understand what the “Level to show in gallery” box is for.
4. When I use “Article I,” I have it centered on a line, by itself. It took me a long time to figure out that that the Number alignment STILL is left — because it’s only the numeral that is centered, not the whole “Article I” phrase.
4. I do use “Link level to style” — because I do a lot of editing as I’m writing. That way, I can click on the Style in the Styles ribbon — and have the number formatting jump to whatever level I want. It seems easier, to me.
5. What makes me tear my hair out is when the formatting seems to revert back to some default — notwithstanding what I put in the Position box. And it’s often that the inches are strange numbers — like. .31.

Thanks, much, for making clear what you’ve covered. I look forward to more.

Phyllis Dubrow

    Deborah Savadra

    1. That’s a good idea.
    2. I still don’t know, either. Still investigating that.
    3. Ditto. Sounds like it just controls how it displays in the Gallery, and I’m not sure why that would be important to anybody.
    4. Yes, that’s confusing. The only time I think anybody would use right-aligned is for legal-style numbering, and the only time I can think of to use center would be for centered numbers in headings with no text. Perhaps someone else has a different scenario where one of those would be appropriate. Linking levels to styles will be scenario #3, to be covered in the third post.
    5. I hope to deal with troubleshooting in a fourth post.

    Thanks for weighing in!


Good afternoon Deborah, I really appreciate the time you take to educate us. Without your tutorials to give me sanity, I don’t know what I’d do. Seriously. On that note, I do have a question for you. Our office typically uses headings when setting up multi-level lists and links them to styles. Unfortunately, as you know, doing that causes the style type to be linked when you go to modify styles. Unfortunately, I have some very picky attorneys I work with who have exact specifications to their headings that don’t always work with Words functionality. For instance: ARTICLE 1. They want the text that follows ARTICLE 1. to be on the same line as the heading. They also want ARTICLE 1. to be bolded and underlined, HOWEVER, they don’t want the period bolded and underlined following ARTICLE 1. –> They also don’t want the text underlined and bolded. As you can imagine, this proves very difficult since the paragraphs and characters are linked due to the fact that it is associated with a heading. With your vast storage of knowledge, can you think of a simpler way for me to set this up? They want headings to show up in and outline, or if necessary a TOC. I hope that makes sense. Please let me know if it does not.

    Deborah Savadra


    It sounds like “ARTICLE #” (where “#” is the automatic number) would need to link to a Style (probably a Heading Style or at least something that has an outline level attached to it), and everything from the period following the “#” through the text following the period would not be part of that same Style.

    What I’m a little confused on is whether the text following the number would need to be part of the TOC/outline. If you have something like this:

    ARTICLE 1. DEFINITIONS. The parties define the terms …

    Would the TOC contain just “ARTICLE 1”, “ARTICLE 1. DEFINITIONS”, or something else?

    In any event, it sounds like style separators would be involved. (For anyone not wanting to add a command to the Ribbon, there’s also a keyboard shortcut, CTRL-ALT-ENTER, assuming you or a plugin haven’t overwritten it with another function.)

    (For some reason, your attorneys’ specifications reminded me of the pie and ice cream ordering scene from “When Harry Met Sally”.) ?

    I’ll definitely cover Style Separators in a future post, because that is a “thing” and a useful one at that. Thanks for giving me a concrete example to go from!


      Deborah, thank you for asking that because I think you are probably right and I was not clear enough in my example. It would absolutely look like that: ARTICLE 1. DEFINITIONS. The parties define the terms.
      The TOC would contain : “ARTICLE 1. DEFINITIONS”

      Right now we are having a quirky problem when we go to update the TOC (F9) where it pulls all the text after Definitions as well so we have to delete it out. It’s not a problem for the main heading as much as the second heading SECTION. I’m not sure why it pulls all the text following ‘SECTION’ but only occasionally pulls text following ‘ARTICLE.’ It’s quite quirky. And yes!!! LOL You are right, it is very: “When Harry Met Sally” and I always think of that scene when I encounter particularly persnickety people! Thanks for the laugh and help, again!


        Also, I have one attorney who would prefer:
        ARTICLE 1. ( ARTICLE Bolded, Underlined but no period underlined and bolded)
        ARTICLE 1. DEFINITIONS. Text (Text not underlined)
        Another example:
        4. (4 is Bolded)
        4. Definitions (Definitions is Bolded and Underlined)
        4. Definitions. (The Period is Bolded but not underlined)
        4. Definitions. Text (The Text is plain no bold or underline)

        It makes me want to pull my hair out!

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Jim Uschold

Tying to convert from WordPerfect. — How do I do single level paragraph numbering where the number is centered over the text. This is basic numbering for a complaint or answer, etc.

The number (roman in this case) should be followed by a hard return and then a tab and I start typing. A hard return gets a new number, another hard return, another tab, and then I start typing again.

If I align at 3.25″, I get the centering, but how do I follow that with a hard return and a tab? (not options on “follow number with”).


    Deborah Savadra

    Technically, because you’re inserting a hard return between the number and the text, it’s not “paragraph numbering” in Word’s eyes, since a hard return is what separates one paragraph from another. You might try the technique here: http://legalofficeguru.com/numbered-headings-styles/

William D. Elliott

I’m not able to have the level 2 numbering change when I change to the next level 1. Article 2 changes but not the level 2 under Article. It remains from Article 1. Yet, my settings seem correct, namely, to start over after every Article 1.

    Deborah Savadra

    Tough to diagnose this blind, but I understand your frustration. A couple of questions occur to me:

    • Are you using Heading Styles to drive the Articles and Sections?
    • How did you embed the Article number into your Section numbering?

    One of those two may bear looking at. I’m going to contact you privately about getting a screen shot of what you’ve done.

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