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Bulletproof Paragraph Numbering, Part 4

Unless otherwise noted, all instructions and screenshots are from Microsoft Office for Windows.

Some of you have asked, in the comments to previous installments of this series, how to save your favorite numbering scheme for future use and how to embed paragraph formatting (line spacing, spaces between paragraphs, etc.) into your numbering scheme. Doing either of these things requires that we back up a bit.

While you can save a list numbering scheme like the ones we’ve covered so far in the List Gallery by right-clicking it in the Lists in Current Documents section and choosing Save in List Library:

word-2016-paranum-save-in-list-library

… that doesn’t allow you to name your list something that you’ll remember, nor does the Define New Multilevel List dialog allow you to directly change paragraph formatting or other settings you may want to embed in a custom numbering scheme.

To do those things, we’ll need to deal with Styles and Define a New List Style.


The method I’m about to outline owes a lot to a method proposed by Ben Schorr, a law firm technology consultant who’s now creating user education content at Microsoft. It involves several steps, so hang in there with me.

The 50,000 foot view

Before I delve into this admittedly multi-step procedure, let me give you the 50,000 foot view of what we’re about to do:

  1. Define one or more Styles that contain the requisite paragraph formatting (spaces between paragraphs, etc.). We’re going to let the numbering scheme take care of the indentation and only embed into the Style(s) those elements that we can’t define within Define New Multilevel List. If you prefer to use any of the Heading Styles for any numbering levels, you can simply modify those, but I’ll show you how to create brand-new Styles for numbered paragraphs.
  2. Use Define New List Style to name our preferred numbering scheme and ensure that all future documents based on our Normal template (and any templates based off the Normal template) can access this numbering scheme.
  3. Within Define New List Style, go to the Define New Multilevel List dialog to define the numbering scheme and associate each level with our new Styles.

Why do we need new Styles?

Associating each level of our numbering scheme with a Style will:

  • Allow us to customize paragraph formatting (spacing between paragraphs, etc.) in ways we cannot within the Define New Multilevel List dialog (I’ve mentioned that already).
  • Give our numbering scheme somewhat more formatting stability and flexibility.
  • Associate the appropriate numbering levels with outline levels that can then be pulled automatically into a Table of Contents or viewed in the Navigation Pane, if either of those two functions is something the document needs.

1. Creating new paragraph Styles

Our goals in creating new Styles to associate with various levels of our numbering scheme are:

  1. To customize paragraph formatting, AND/OR
  2. To associate numbering levels with outline levels

If one of those two goals isn’t relevant to you (say you’re only interested in making sure there’s an extra vertical space between your numbered paragraphs), then you can skip the relevant step (10 11 or 12) below accordingly.

Steve noted, in his comment to a previous post, that he’d like to have extra inter-paragraph spacing built into his paragraph numbering scheme. Others want to be able to pull these items into their Table of Contents automatically, so those paragraph numbering Styles have to be linked to an Outline level. Let’s walk through it, and I’ll point out which steps are relevant to each scenario.

To start creating a new paragraph numbering Style, open a new document (not strictly necessary, but a good precaution against pulling in another Style’s settings), then click the downward-facing arrow on the Styles gallery and click Create a Style:

word-2016-define-new-paranum-styles-1

word-2016-define-new-paranum-styles-2

You’ll get a small dialog box (Create New Style from Formatting) to start …

… but you’ll want to click Modify to get to the fuller Create New Style from Formatting dialog box:

Click for full-size image

The dialog box you’ll get after clicking Modify is the one shown on the left above. The instructions below correspond to the numbers above.

  1. First off, you’ll want to rename your paragraph numbering Style. Ben Schorr recommends the naming convention “Paranum#” where “#” corresponds to the numbering level. Sounds good to me.
  2. By default, you’ll probably find that Style type is “Linked”. You’ll want to change that to “Paragraph” to avoid having Word bring in any character-level formatting (fonts, etc.). That way, your numbering scheme won’t introduce new fonts into your document; it’ll simply pick up whatever font you’re already using.
  3. Because I recommended that you start this whole process with a blank document, Style based on is set to the Normal Style. If you’re adept enough with Styles to want to choose something else as a starting point, feel free.
  4. Style for following paragraph will default to the same name as your new Style. That way, when you press Enter, the next paragraph will continue the same numbering scheme at the same level, and you can promote/demote the levels as you learned earlier.
  5. Just for the sake of ensuring nothing funny goes on with fonts, I chose the current “Body” font, even though this is a Paragraph Style. That, admittedly, might have been superfluous.
  6. If you want to be able to see this Style in the Styles gallery on the Home tab, check this box. If that doesn’t matter to you, you can uncheck it.
  7. I would leave this unchecked if I were you. Otherwise, if you make any sort of formatting change within a paragraph that has this Style applied to it, you risk permanently altering the Style itself rather than just the selected text.
  8. If you want to be able to use this Style in New documents based on this template (for this example I’m in the Normal template), be sure this radio button is selected, because it isn’t by default.
  9. Now we’re going to set up the Paragraph formatting by clicking Format then Paragraph.
  10. Within the Paragraph dialog box (on the right in the above illustration), you’ve got some decisions to make. First, does this paragraph numbering level need to correspond to an outline level (say, for a heading or other text that needs to be part of a Table of Contents)? If so, use this Outline level drop-down to choose the corresponding level. If not, you can leave the value in Outline level as “Body text”.
  11. Next decision: Do you want vertical spacing before and/or after your numbered paragraphs? If so, use the spinners (the up-and-down arrows) to set the values, or type points, inches or centimeters directly into the Spacing before and Spacing after fields. (Most users choose points, because they most closely correspond to the text size. If you’re using 12-pt text, for example, you probably want 12 points of space after each paragraph, the setting illustrated above.)
  12. Do you want single spacing, a more relaxed spacing like 1.15, or something else? Choose the appropriate value for Line spacing here.
  13. Click OK to exit the Paragraph dialog box and return to the Create New Style from Formatting dialog box.
  14. And click OK again to finish.

How many of these new Styles will you need? It depends on how many levels of numbering you want to use. To save a little time in creating levels 2-9, you can substitute the previous level’s Style name (ex: Paranum1) in Style based on (instead of “Normal”) in Step 3 above and only make necessary modifications to steps 4-14 (for example, changing the Outline level is Step 10).

2. Defining a new List Style

Now comes the step that will enable us to save our entire numbering scheme for future documents. Click on the Multilevel List drop-down on the Home tab and select Define New List Style:

You’ll get the Define New List Style dialog box:

word-2016-paranum-define-new-list-style-2

You’ll want to:

  1. Name your new List Style (here, I’m demonstrating a basic paragraph numbering scheme to use in pleadings); and
  2. Choose New documents based on this template so this new List Style is saved in the Normal template (the default template I’m using now) for me to re-use whenever I want.

Now, I’m going to click Format at the bottom left and choose Numbering to define the actual numbering scheme:

word-2016-paranum-define-new-list-style-2a

3. Defining a new Multilevel List

And doesn’t this look familiar (or at least it should, if you’ve been following along with this series):

word-2016-paranum-define-new-list-style-4

word-2016-paranum-define-new-list-style-5

word-2016-paranum-define-new-list-style-6

word-2016-paranum-define-new-list-style-7

Earlier, I stepped you through this dialog box (which then was called Define new Multilevel List but here is called Modify Multilevel List), so you should be familiar with most of this. Here’s what I want you to notice now:

  1. I’ve now linked the first level of the multilevel list to one of my new paragraph numbering styles, Paranum1, which is linked to Outline level 1 in the Paragraph dialog box (see above).
  2. Because my basic paragraph numbering scheme is going to indent 1/2 inch progressively throughout, I’m going to take advantage of the Set for All Levels button to set all of the Position information automatically for each level.
  3. I move on to Level 2 of the paragraph numbering scheme and …
  4. … link that level to the Style Paranum2, which in turn is linked to Outline level 2 in the Paragraph dialog box as demonstrated earlier.
  5. I make sure that Level 2 restarts its numbering after Level 1.
  6. I move on to Level 3 of the paragraph numbering scheme and …
  7. … link that level to the Style Paranum3, which in turn is linked to Outline level 2 in the Paragraph dialog box as demonstrated earlier.
  8. Finally, I give this a ListNum field name. That’s totally optional, but can become important if you choose to use the ListNum field for any fancy cross-referencing work.

Now I’m going to test out my new List Style:

word-2016-paranum-define-new-list-style-8

Click for larger image

To use your new List Style

Next time you click on the Multilevel List button, you’ll see your saved List Styles in the List Styles section of the drop-down (you’ll notice I filtered the menu to show only List Styles [rimmed in red below]):

word-2016-paranum-define-new-list-style-12

So, where does this new List Style live?

So now I have a bona fide List Style I’ve created myself and can use forever and ever! To prove it, let’s look at our full list of Styles and find it. On that Styles pane shown above on the right, click the Manage Styles button at the bottom:

word-2016-paranum-define-new-list-style-9

That’ll take me to the Manage Styles dialog box:

word-2016-paranum-define-new-list-style-10

  1. The easiest way to find our new List Style is to use Sort order to organize the list By type.
  2. List Styles will be all the way at the bottom and will be signified by a bullet point icon to the left. Here’s our new Basic Paragraph Numbering Style!
  3. I can Modify it …
  4. … or I can Delete it if I so choose.
  5. And here’s how you can copy List Styles from a document into your Normal template, or from your Normal template (assuming you selected New documents based on this template when you defined your List Style — you did, didn’t you?) into a pre-existing document that was created before your Normal template had this new Style. Click Import/Export and see this Organizer dialog box:

word-2016-paranum-define-new-list-style-11

What’s left to cover?

Going through my list of questions you’ve asked, here’s what seems to be left:

Any other questions? Let me have them in the comments below.

Click here for the entire series.

by Deborah Savadra

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.

WOW – You read that whole post!

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