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How to do a Table of Authorities, Part 1: Marking citations

How to do a Table of Authorities, Part 1: Marking citations post image

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

It’s the one legal profession-specific feature in Microsoft Word. And, judging from some of the requests I receive from my newsletter readers, it’s also one of the most intimidating. It’s the dreaded Table of Authorities.

(Cue: Scary music)

In my experience, few things strike more fear into the hearts of legal support staff than having to put out a brief with a Table of Authorities. (Close second: Table of Contents) I suspect the bad rap TOAs get has more to do with how seldom most people have to deal with them (and thus, how unfamiliar they are) than with any real complexity of the feature itself.

In other words, you can do this.

And I’m going to help you break this down, step-by-step, starting with marking your citations.

What’s a citation?

No, I’m not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence here. If you’re the least bit interested in using the Table of Authorities feature, you probably already know a citation when you see one. But just for the sake of completeness, here’s a list of the authorities you can cite in Word’s TOA:

  1. Cases
  2. Statutes
  3. Other Authorities
  4. Rules
  5. Treatises
  6. Regulations
  7. Constitutional provisions

This, not coincidentally, is the order in which authorities will be organized in your TOA — cases in section 1, statutes in section 2, etc. If you’ve got authorities that don’t fit in any of those neat categories, there are nine other slots you can define for those (more on that later).

Marking a citation

Starting the marking process is easy. Once you select the citation using either your mouse or keyboard, there are two ways you can mark it as a TOA entry, depending on your preference:

Keyboard: Press ALT-SHIFT-I (works in all versions 2002-2010)

Mouse: Go to the References tab and click Mark Citation:

Either way, you’ll get a dialog box that looks like this:

Here’s where you’ve got to make some decisions:

“What category do I place this in?” This will probably be pretty obvious in most cases (see list above). In this case (no pun intended), it belongs in the first category, “Cases.” To ensure it ends up in the right category, click the “Category …” button to go to the Edit Category dialog:

Select the correct category (here, Word guessed right the first time) and click OK.

(If the citation you’re marking doesn’t fit the first seven categories, you can re-define 8 through 16 here. Just select the next number and type the category name in “Replace with” to rename it, then click OK. If for some reason you don’t like the order these are in or the name of a particular predefined one, you can rename the first seven, too.)

“What short citation form do I use?” This is an important decision, one to be made by someone sufficiently familiar with proper legal citation format (i.e., not me). Although I’m no Bluebook expert, either, here’s an example using this case:

“Do I want Word to find all citations to this authority in this document, or do I want to find them myself?” If you’re pretty confident the case or other authority is cited the same way throughout the brief, you can click “Mark All” and let Word find and mark every instance of it matching the long and short forms as you’ve defined them. Me, I’m a bit more paranoid and like to double-check behind it. But it’s your call. You can always manually mark anything that Word’s missed later.

Once you click Mark or Mark All, the dialog box records your short cite like so:

Click Close to complete marking the citation, or click Next Citation if you want Word to find the next citation for you to mark.

So, how does Word “mark” a citation?

All this clicking and decision-making results in a very long, complicated code that’s embedded next to each authority. If you turn on Show/Hide (by clicking the button that looks like a paragraph symbol ¶ in the Paragraph section of the Home tab), you can see this hidden text:

Between the two curly brackets {} are codes that tell Word what table this is marked for (TA = Table of Authorities), what the long citation is (\l), what the short citation is (\s), and what category to place the authority in (\c 1 = “cases”). There are other codes (technically, “switches“) available, but that’s an advanced topic.

Checking your citations

Using the Show/Hide button and a basic knowledge of the switches in the markup, you can check your marked citations and even troubleshoot and fix later problems with your Table of Authorities. (For example, is your authority citation showing up in the wrong section? Check the number after \c in the markup against the list above.)

This is also a good way to spot check to ensure all citations have been marked. Who knows, “Mark All” might have missed something.

The “right” time to mark citations

As a matter of practice, it’s usually better to wait until fairly late in the brief writing process to start marking citations. As anyone who’s tried to get a jump on these will tell you, the editing process can be rough on hidden text like TOA markup. One false move with the mouse, and a citation can go kablooey. Just a friendly word of warning: wait until the the brief writer has stopped moving large chunks of text around before marking citations, since minor edits are less likely to cause problems.

So that’s the basic spiel on marking citations. Next time: defining and inserting your Table of Authorities.

In the meantime — any questions, problems, frustrations? Let me know in the comments below.

(photo credit: Mr. T in CD via Flickr

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.

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  1. Thanks, Guru… this is really helpful!!

  2. Need Part 2 ASAP!!

    1. Aaargh! Still working on the video!

  3. Legal Guru is a whiz and always so timely! Actually, for ME,TOA is a walk in the park compared to TOC which is always a nightmare.

    1. LOL!

  4. Thanks for the great article! I have one thing to add about the “short citation” box. You do not need to worry about the correct citation format – Blue Book or otherwise. MS Word TOA does not enter citations in the documents, it just recognizes and marks them.

    The short citation you should chose depends on how the second and subsequent citations appear in the document. For cases, because many attorneys will, in a subsequent citation, often use only the principal name of the case – e.g. “Miranda” for Miranda v. Arizona – so you should limit your short citation to just that name. If the subsequent citation is longer (e.g., Miranda, 384 U.S at 439) it will get picked up because you chose “Miranda” as the short citation. But (!) make sure the same name is not used in the text. For example, if Mr. Smith is the plaintiff and his name appears throughout the document, do not use “Smith” as a short cition for State v. Smith.

    Hope this helps. And thanks again for your tutorials — they are really helpful.

    1. This does help – thanks for clarifying!

  5. A word of warning to people using older versions of Word (Word 97 or Word 2003):

    If you edit your document with the formatting codes displayed (and it’s a lot easier to deal with TOAs if you display that information), be aware that older versions of Word will mess up the word count if you keep the codes displayed when you run the count. That is, older versions of Word will count the TOA codes as words even though they’re not. The solution is to hide all the hidden formatting codes before you run the count. I have vivid memories of a late-evening phone call about seven years ago from an absolutely panicked colleague who wondered why the word count had suddenly increased by over a thousand words when we had been right up against the FRAP 32 word limit!

    This bug does not exist in Word 2007 nor Word 2010.

  6. How do you undo or redo marking a citation if you accidentally marked the wrong category? Or will simply just reselecting the citation and marking it under the correct category automatically replace the existing mark?

    1. It’s been two years, but I figured this question deserved an answer! The way I handle this is to delete the “tags” that Word hides in the document. In Word 2011, you can do this by first revealing the tags: Click the ¶ icon to show all non-printing characters. This will show your TOA tags, which start with { TA…} as shown in the article above. Delete that entire tag, (that is, everything in the {} brackets,) and re-mark the citation.

      1. Great idea! Also, if you already know which category “number” it should go in, you can edit the citation directly. That last little bit (\c1) is the category number – just change the numeric part of that, and it’ll appear in a different category. Look up into the article at the Edit Category dialog for the default category assignments. Since \c1 is by default Cases, you can reassign \c1 (Cases) to \c6 (Regulations), for example. See the comment below for more information on editing comments.

  7. For some reason it will not let me click on the long citation button, to edit how I want the citation to appear in the Table of Authorities. Am I doing something wrong?

    1. No, you’re not doing anything wrong – long citation by default is whatever you highlighted before pressing Mark Citation. If you want to edit the long citation after you’re marked it, turn on Show/Hide (the paragraph symbol button in the center of the Home tab), then go down to your marked citation and edit the hidden text:

      TOA citation hidden text

      I’ve highlighted the long citation form in yellow and the short cite in blue. You can edit those within the hidden text of the markup, and those changes will be reflected in your Table of Authorities.

  8. I have successfully marked all my citations and created a Table of Cases; HOWEVER, the page numbers are all wrong. The page numbers are correct for the Index I created, but not for the TOC? What happened? I tried re-doing the section breaks, but that seems an unlikely culprit since the Index worked correctly using the same system (Mark Entry). Please help!

  9. Make sure you’ve correctly re-formatted the page numbering in the document (see for details). Also, you’ll see that the last commenter on that post noted a similar problem which was solved by saving, closing, and re-opening the document.

  10. I tried to mark an authority and I thought I had messed up the entire document when all those show/hide symbols appeared. Thank-you

  11. I am having difficulty. I began marking citations before I knew quite what I was doing. Now, I have similar citations, some without pinpoints and some without. I have tried to clean up the citations list, but I can’t figure out if there is a way to delete incorrectly formatted citations in the little diaglog box. So far I haven’t found anything.

    Also – I did the same thing with Id., making it it’s own citation. I can’t delete it now, and the dialog box doesn’t bring up a full list of all citations so I can mark Id. appropriately. Any suggestions?


    1. See “How Does Word Mark a Citation” above. If you delete everything from bracket { to bracket } (including the brackets themselves), you can then re-mark the citation correctly. In other words, don’t try to fix it through the dialog box – delete the codes and re-mark the citation.

  12. Your instructions regarding the SHOW/HIDE button is a lifesaver. If you SHOW the citation hidden text, all of the page numbers in the table of contents and table of authorities will be wrong. You would think that Word would automatically adjust for text that does not print, but Word does not. Thanks!