Bulletproof Paragraph Numbering, Part 3

This time, we're going to deal with multilevel numbering with text that may (or may not) need to eventually be included in a Table of Contents. When I say some of the text "may or may not be included in a Table of Contents", that's because (unlike the numbering to covered in the previous tutorials) each level of this numbering will be linked to Heading Styles. This adds a new level of complexity to the proceedings, but it also switches on some pretty cool features and capabilities, such as:

  • Including headings in an automated Table of Contents (mentioned that already)
  • Reviewing the document's structure within the Navigation View
  • Moving entire sections of a document around without cut-and-paste (again, via the Navigation View)
  • Automatically updating cross-references between paragraphs/sections (for instance, if you renumber Article II to Article III, any related references to Article II get updated including, if you like, noting whether the new Article III is "above" or "below" the reference)
  • Being able to repeat the entire text of a particular numbered heading elsewhere in the document (example: "see Section 3.01 Calculating Allocations") without having to manually adjust those references when titles change
  • Revising the font/paragraph styling of a particular level heading in one series of steps (rather than going through the entire document and revising each heading manually)

Have I missed any benefits? Probably. Once you start embedding automated fields like paragraph numbering into your documents, you can find all sorts of ways to automatically update and cross-reference. If you're producing long, complex documents, this comes in really handy.

How is this different from the type of automatic paragraph numbering I covered in the last lesson? Look at the difference between this:

... and this:

Some of the differences will be obvious; some, not. In the first example, every paragraph is numbered. In the second example, only the headings are numbered, while the related paragraphs underneath are not.

What's not apparent from casual observation is that the second example actually uses the Heading Styles to create the numbered text. If you've been following along with this series, you'll remember that I've very carefully avoided linking any of those numbering levels with a particular Style. In this example, the numbering will be explicitly linked to Heading Styles to create an outline. That's what's going to enable a lot of the benefits noted above.


As with all of these multilevel numbering schemes, we start in the same place: on the Home tab, by clicking on the drop-down next to Multilevel Numbering:

That takes us back into the Multilevel Numbering dialog box:

Now, obviously, the settings shown above are going to have to change to get the result shown here:

What we'll do differently with the first and second levels ("ARTICLE #" and "Section #.##")  is link them to Heading Styles in the Define new Multilevel List dialog box:

Let me point out a few things that are different here:

  1. I've linked Articles with Heading 1 and Sections with Heading 2 (see red box above).
  2. I've made sure in Level 2 ("Sections") to check the box next to Restart list after and chose Level 1 so that the Sections will re-start at ".01" whenever there's a new Article level (see blue box above).
  3. I've positioned the Number alignment, Text indent at and Aligned at all at 0". If I want to center "Article" between the margins (as a lot of people do), I'm going to control that within the Heading Style (more on that later) (see green box above).
  4. I've set Follow number with to Space. If you know that your numbering isn't going to cause horizontal spacing issues, you can set yours to Tab character.

Linking those first two levels with Heading Styles also effectively "turns off" the feature that automatically inserts a new numbered paragraph whenever I press Enter. On the plus side, that enables me to insert unnumbered paragraphs within the text easily. It also makes the task of starting the numbering series up again a bit less obvious, but here are three methods for restarting your list:

Linking the list levels to Headings also brings up the question (related to one that appeared in the comments in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series) about how you control paragraph settings like justification, line spacing and spacing between paragraphs. The bad news is that you can't do that within the Define new Multilevel list dialog box. The good news is that you can control these settings through the associated Style:

I want to take a moment to say thank you to all of you who posted such detailed questions and suggestions for improvement in the comments to each of the previous posts. 

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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.

Multilevel paragraph numbering with embedded text

[…] Click here for Part 1 of this series. Click here for Part 3 of this series. […]

Steve Stovall


Robert Mauger

Thank you. I’m glad I asked the question and glad that you were able to take what I (and probably others) puzzled through and work through it yourself to turn it into useful advice. It makes far more sense to me now. Now if only Word itself would read up on these headaches and make this as intuitive as I feel it should be.

    Deborah Savadra

    I’m glad that helped!

Robert Walsh

Deborah – I see said the blind man! Doing this in 3 different steps made it very easy to see how this all comes together. Thank you so much. I practiced it and think I can do the basics now. I really never understood how easy the Styles were to modify. I can see how that creates a lot of power and flexibility. I hope you are able to do just a concentrated seminar on Styles. I think once I really learn that, I will be able to do 95% of what I want to on long complicated documents. I had a couple of observations.

1. On the first screen show, you show “Define List Style” grayed out instead of “Define New Multilevel List”. That threw me for a second. You may want to modify that.

2. In one of your examples you said you could separate the text in a heading with other text using a “hard return/pilcrow”. How do you do that?

3. Once you get a numbering scheme with linkage to styles just the way you want it, is there a way to name that and use it in the future on other documents? On documents that you receive from someone else that may not be formatted properly, is there a way to impose that numbering scheme on the new document so it looks and acts they way you are used to. Many times we get in documents that are set up like someone typed them and there is no methodology to them.

4. In one of your examples above, you said you can link section numbers, etc. in the document so if the Article or Section changes, they will as well. Can you show us how to do that. That would be a huge time saver.

Thank you again for helping long time Word users like me finally understand how to do something as basic and fundamental as paragraph numbering.

    Robert Mauger


    As for #2, I think the answer is just to hit the “Enter” key. That tends to work for me.

    #3, what I’ve done after working on a project I want to use again is to delete out most of the text specific to the document and save the file as a template “Contract.dotx” in a template folder so I can use the styles again. Make sure that all your styles are saved with the “New Documents Based on this Template” box checked.

    As for applying them to someone else’s work, I’d also like a good overview of that. From the Style Window there’s “Manage styles” and in the lower left a box that says “Import/Export.” But it seems that you can only move styles to a new Template. Moving them back from a template to an existing document doesn’t seem possible, or at least intuitive. So usually the way I get around that it to just copy the text out of someone else’s document into my own document with the Styles I want. There’s got (ought?) to be a better way.

      Robert Walsh

      Thanks for the feedback. On #2, I guess that was a bad question. I was really looking for a way to separate the Heading and the text that comes after that .i.e “Section 1.01 Agreement. This Agreement is between Party X and Y. ” That way the only thing that shows up on the TOC is the Section 1.01 Agreement, and not the rest of the text, which could be extensive.

        Robert Mauger

        That makes more sense. I fought and figured this out once. I think maybe you can highlight just the portion that you want to be part of the heading and then click on the appropriate style button. Maybe? But I don’t try any more. If I want it to be part of the TOC, I just make it a separate line.

        Deborah Savadra

        Bob: That’s going to be something called a style separator. See my response to Heather’s comment.

    Deborah Savadra

    Thanks again for your comments, Bob!
    (1) Done – thanks for catching that!
    (2) I must have mentioned that in one of the videos – I can’t find the example you’re citing.
    (3) Good news: you can save it (see my answer to Laura’s question earlier). Bad news: there no longer seems to be a way to “name” it in the gallery. I’m still investigating to confirm/correct.
    (4) I think what you’re referring to is the “Restart list after” checkbox. See the video in post #2 at 5:42.

Basic Multilevel Paragraph Numbering

[…] Click here for Part 2 of this series. Click here for Part 3 of this series. […]

Creating a New List Style in Microsoft Word

[…] Style separators (see my response to Bob’s comment) […]

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