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How to Set Up Multilevel Numbering in Word That Works Perfectly, First Time
Multilevel numbering in Word is the number one headache for many people working with large documents. Believe it or not, it's not complicated. You just need somebody to guide you through safely and point out the pitfalls you need to avoid.
Today that pleasure falls to me!
Grab your free troubleshooting guide (right) that shows you the steps to get multilevel numbering working properly first time, every time, together with 28 FAQs to help you fix what isn't working.
Often used in the legal profession or in large corporate documents, multilevel numbering creates a logical hierarchy and easy navigation within the document. The headings can also be summarised later on in a table of contents. Here is a simple example:
Here is the correct process:
1. Select the text that you want to number (this can be a section of text or the whole document).
2. Select the Home tab.
3. Click the multilevel numbering icon in the Paragraph group.
4. You can either select an existing layout from the list to use as a starting point, or you can create a new numbering system from scratch. As you hover over each thumbnail image, Word provides a larger image of the numbering system.
5. Choose Define New Multilevel List to display the control dialog.
The dialog box can be broken down as follows:
In the top left is a list of levels. As you select each level, the settings in the rest of the dialog box changes.
Level 1 is the highest level, i.e. the main headings such as chapter or section titles.
Level 2 is subordinate to level 1.
Level 3 is subordinate to level 2.
This is where the level number is constructed. If you include a previous level number, it will be displayed with a grey background, as will the number for the current level.
Type anything you wish to put in between the numbers such as dots, dashes, brackets etc.
Clear any text in the ‘Enter formatting for this number’ box.
When creating a subordinate level (or child level), you can first specify the level number of the parent.
For example, for section 3.2
Each level can have its own number style. It may be a standalone style, e.g. 1, 2, 3 or a, b, c or continue on from a higher level, e.g. 1.1.1 or 1.a.i.
Set the font formatting for the selected level, if you want.
What position from the left margin do you want items for each level of numbering. For example, level 1 items may be 0cm from the left margin, level 2, 1cm from the left margin and level 3, 2cm from the left margin.
Here’s what they mean:
6. Click OK to save all the settings and close the dialog box.
The text you selected in step 1 now looks like this.
The next part is where the magic happens ...
Once you have created your numbering system:
1. Position the cursor at the beginning of a line.
2. Press the TAB key to move the text down a level (demote).
3. Press the SHIFT and TAB keys together to move the text up a level (promote).
If you prefer, you can also click the indent icon to demote and the outdent icon to promote between levels.
Once you have created your numbering system:
1. Reselect all text that is using the multilevel numbering.
2. Click the multilevel numbering icon and select Define New Multilevel List (yes, you choose this option even if you are modifying an existing multilevel list).
The original settings that you defined are redisplayed.
3. In the top-left box select the level that you wish to change, then change your settings.
4. Repeat for the other settings.
5. Click OK to save the settings. Your numbered list should now reflect your new settings.
Each level of a multilevel numbering system can be linked to a style. This means that as you apply styles throughout the document, the numbering is applied appropriately and automatically. You can either use the built-in Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3 styles or use your own custom styles.
1. In the Numbering dialog box, click the MORE button in the bottom-left corner to expand the dialog box.
2. Select level to modify in the top-left box.
3. Open the Link level to style drop-down list and choose the style you wish to connect to the numbering level.
4. Click OK.
5. In the document, apply the Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3 styles where needed.
It’s a good idea to create a body text style and apply that where appropriate, so that the body text does not inadvertently get caught up in the multi-level numbering.
6. Select the whole document (or the portion of the document where you want to apply your numbered sections).
7. Click the icon in the Paragraph group (Home tab).
8. Select your custom numbering style from the gallery. The thumbnail image should show the linked styles.
1. Select all the text that you wish to apply the same number level to. Alternatively, if you wish to go line by line, you can place the cursor anywhere in a line of text.
2. In the Styles gallery, click the style that corresponds to the number level you wish to apply. For example, to apply the top level numbering click Heading 1 and for the third level numbering click Heading 3 (assuming those are the styles you assigned).
The numbering and all the numbering settings will be applied to the selected text or the paragraph in which the cursor was positioned.
And that, my friend, is how you do multilevel numbering in Word with no loose ends.
1. Grab your free multilevel numbering troubleshooting guide.
2. Watch over my shoulder as I set up multilevel numbering from scratch.
Please feel free to post any questions you have into the comments below. And before you leave this page, I want to give you one quick little action item!
ACTION ITEM: Comment below with ONE thing you picked up from this post and share how it has helped, or will help, you. It's good to share your successes because it encourages others and provides an instant boost.
Enjoy the rest of your day!
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