How to Set Up Multilevel Numbering in Word That Works Perfectly, First Time

How to Set Up Multilevel Numbering in Word That Works Perfectly, First Time


Jason Morrell

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.

Multilevel Numbering Troubleshooting Guide

1.  What Multi-level Numbering Looks Like

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:

Multilevel numbering in Word 01

2. How to Set Up Multilevel Numbering

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).

Multilevel numbering - where to start

2.  Select the Home tab.

3.  Click the multilevel numbering icon in the Paragraph group.

Multilevel numbering icon

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.

Define new multilevel list

The dialog box can be broken down as follows:

#1 Click level to modify

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.

Click Level to Modify

#2 Enter formatting for number

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.

#3 Include level number from

When creating a subordinate level (or child level), you can first specify the level number of the parent.

For example, for section 3.2

  • 3’ is the parent level (level 1) and
  • 2’ is the child level (level 2)
Multilevel numbering in Word 05

#4 Number style for this level

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.

  • When creating 1.1 numbering, this option is 1, 2, 3.
  • When creating 1.a numbering, this option is a, b, c
Multilevel numbering in Word 06

#5 Font

Set the font formatting for the selected level, if you want.

Enter formatting for number

#6 Position

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: 

  • The Aligned At determines how far from the left margin the number appears.
  • The Text indent at figure determines how far from the left margin the text following the number is.
Multilevel numbering in Word 08

6.  Click OK to save all the settings and close the dialog box.

The text you selected in step 1 now looks like this.

Multilevel numbering - initial numbering

The next part is where the magic happens ...

3. How to Apply Multilevel Numbering

Once you have created your numbering system:

1.  Position the cursor at the beginning of a line.

Multilevel numbering - place the cursor at the start of the line

2.  Press the TAB key to move the text down a level (demote).

Multilevel numbering - press TAB to demote and SHIFT TAB to promote

3.  Press the SHIFT and TAB keys together to move the text up a level (promote).

Multilevel numbering - press SHIFT TAB to promote

If you prefer, you can also click the indent icon to demote and the outdent icon to promote between levels.

Multilevel numbering - you can use the indent and outdent icons to demote and promote between numbering levels

4. How to Change Multilevel Settings

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).

Redefine 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.

5. Linking Multilevel Numbering to Styles

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.

Link level to style

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.

Multilevel numbering in Word 12

6. How to Use Styles to Set Number Levels

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.

Multilevel numbering - place the cursor at the start of the line

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.

Multilevel number styles

And that, my friend, is how you do multilevel numbering in Word with no loose ends.

7. Two resources to help you

1. Grab your free multilevel numbering troubleshooting guide.

Multilevel Numbering Troubleshooting Guide

2. Watch over my shoulder as I set up multilevel numbering from scratch.

Click to watch video

8. What next?

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!

Jason Morrell blog signature
About Jason Morrell

About the author

Jason Morrell

Jason loves to simplify the hard stuff, cut the fluff and share what actually works. Things that make a difference. Things that slash hours from your daily work tasks. He runs a software training business in Queensland, Australia, lives on the Gold Coast with his wife and 4 kids and often talks about himself in the third person!


  • Hi. I have something different (I think). My attorney wants Article I (roman numerals) as a header, then change to legal numbering in Arabic (1.1) for paragraphs underneath. Here’s the question: how do I get Article II’s legal numbering to being with 2, i.e. (2.1)?

    • Hi Jenny

      Numbering level 1:

      1. In the ‘Enter formatting for number’ box, type ‘Article ‘.
      2. Set ‘Number style for this level’ to ‘I, II, III’.

      Numbering level 2:

      1. Clear the ‘Enter formatting for number’ box.
      2. Set ‘Include level number from’ to ‘Level 1’.
      3. Type a dot.
      4. Set ‘Number style for this level’ to ‘1, 2, 3’.
      5. Check/tick the box labelled ‘Legal style numbering.

      Make sure ‘Legal style numbering’ is on for all levels from level 2 onwards. This switches the I, II, III style to the 1, 2, 3 style.

  • What if I do not want to use Normal Heading styles (since they will be used differently)? I want to create styles for the list levels. Is that no longer possible?

    Also, I’m trying to set up 20+ templates with the same multilevel numbering styles. I’m trying to copy the styles I created to the various templates but it just doesn’t seem to work.

      1. You can create new styles in the styles gallery. Click the More button then Create New Style. This video does a deep dive into all the settings.
      2. When you create multilevel numbering (even if you use only one level) you can link each numbering level to any style.
      3. To use existing styles in other documents, you must first copy the style(s) to the Normal template then from the Normal template to the other document. This video shows you how.
  • Hi Jason,
    For years I have been trying to figure out how to convert our Master Specs from WordPerfect to Word. In WordPerfect, the outline format is really easy to use. I literally open up a spec document, update the headers and footers for the specific project, make the necessary changes to the font and the outline format at the beginning of the document and it is done. To create other sections for the same project, I isolate the headers/footers and the format section (which are easily seen in WordPerfect’s “Reveal Codes”). I then copy the body of another spec section and paste it into that document to create the other project specs.
    Formatting in Word has nearly driven me CRAZY!! After viewing your video and reading your answers to all the questions which have been submitted, I am hopeful (fingers crossed) that I might now be able to figure out how to convert our specs to Word format. I want to retire next year and I have to figure this out!! Thank you!

    • Peggy, welcome to the site. I remember using WordPerfect 30 years ago and to be honest, I didn’t realise it was still a thing! There you go.

      I’m glad you found the video useful. To reveal the formatting in Word, click on the required text then press Shift F1. All info is displayed in the sidebar. Formatting is best controlled through the styles found on the Home ribbon. It saves a lot of time if you can get your head around these.

      All the best.

  • Thank you, I have applied a multilevel list to a document and have restricted said document so that users can only add to/create a Level 2 list. However, if a user inadvertently presses ‘Enter’ twice in the document, my Level 2 list goes back to my Level 1 list (which is meant to be off-limit after restriction). I cannot figure out what I have done wrong, can you help?

    • Hi Jacqui

      Assuming you have linked numbering level 1 to the Heading 1 style, level 2 numbering to the Heading2 style etc, modify the Heading 2 style on the Home ribbon and make sure that ‘Style for the following paragraph‘ is set to Normal. This will prevent your unauthorised user from reverting back to Level 1 when pressing Enter twice.

      Then (and I assume this is what you have already done), under the Review tab | Protect | Restrict Editing, tick the box labelled ‘Limit formatting to a selection of styles‘, click the Settings link and untick Heading 1. Finally click the ‘Yes, Start Enforcing Protection‘ button and type your password.

      In the style gallery on the Home ribbon, the Heading 1 style should no longer be displayed.

      I hope that helps. If I have misunderstood, let me know.


  • Sir I need to have this for a thesis – how do I define it in MSWord


    1.1 Background to the study
    1.1.1 Another heading

    • There is no simple way to do this without some manual intervention. Multilevel numbering is a hierarchy, like a series of cascading waterfalls. At the top level you can choose the ONE, TWO, THREE style (from the dropdown list) instead of 1, 2, 3 but level 2 would then show ONE.1, ONE.2 etc. and level 3 would show ONE.1.1, ONE.1.2 etc.

  • I don’t think your links are working for the guide -it keeps returning me to the same page so I can’t see the 28 FAQs.

    • So, on the page you click the image and enter your details in the pop up box. The link for the troubleshooting guide is then emailed to you. The link is working, but there is no record of your email in our CRM.

  • Hi. Is it possible to add a multilevel numbering style to the numbering gallery? I have a nmulti level numbering style all connected to syles with specific margins, fonts etc. I have to use this formatting quite often both on new documents and existing documents. Is there a way to do it besides exporting the styles for each (existing) document?

    • There are 2 ways to do this.

      1. Export your styles to the Normal template (Normal.dotx). Styles in the normal template are available to all documents.

      2. (The better way). Create your own style gallery. To do this, go to the Design tab and click the drop-arrow on the right side of the Style Set gallery, then click Save as a New Style Set. Styles in any style set can be added, removed or modified. You can switch back to the default style set at any time. Word will always use the ‘last used’ style set so you don’t have to keep switching over to it every time.

  • Thanks for the great tips. I have a strange issue. I have a requirements document that will have many levels deep. In some cases, an item is a header. In others, it is a detail.
    1 Topic header
    1.1 detail item
    1.2 detail item
    2 Topic header
    2.1 Topic header
    2.1.1 detail item
    2.2 Topic Header
    2.2.1 detail item

    It appears that this can’t be done (having multi level apply to lines that may be a header OR a detail.

    Or am I missing something?

    • Fletcher, this is actually quite easy to fix.

      For each level, you need to have 2 styles to hand, one for numbered items and one for detail items.

      For the numbered items, you can use the built-in styles such as Heading 1, Heading 2 etc. (or another style of your choice) and when you set up your numbering, link each level to a style (e.g. level 1 to Heading 1).

      For the detail items, either create a new style or clone the existing Heading 1/2/3 etc. Set the indentation and any other font/para attributes etc. Name the new styles something like Heading 1 detail, Heading 2 detail etc.

      Once that is done, everything is controlled by the application of styles. The numbering will flow correctly while allowing detail paragraphs to be interspersed throughout.

      Let me know how you go.

      • Jason – the problem is when I have headers and details. I can’t get the detail to honor the header numbers – they are different styles. The headers work (so 2.1 is correct), but the detail numbers don’t recognize the level 1 number, so they all start with 1. The number to the right of the text is what I expect. If I try to edit the multilevel to hard code the first lead number, then all the number details change.

        1. Lvl1 Header 1
        Text Description
        1.1. Number detail 1.1
        2. Lvl1 Header 2
        Text Description
        2.1 Sub Header 2.1
        Text Description
        1.2.1 Number detail 2.1.1 sub detail <<== This is where it gets confused
        3. Lvl1 Header 3
        Text Description
        1.1. Number detail 3.1 <== Same here
        1.2. Number detail 3.2 <== Same here

        My guess is that the multi level items don't see a level 1 item (because there isn't one, only the header has one). So they always start with 1.

        NOTE: If I only used headers and numbers, with no cases where a header and a number shared the same level, this would be a non-issue. So if I didn't need the 2.1 Sub Header or had no level 2 numbered items, life would be great.

        • It sounds like your level 3 definition is not set up correctly. You should NEVER hard-code a number. Try this:

          1. Click on any numbered item, click the multilevel numbering icon and choose Define New Multilevel List.

          2. In the dialog box, select level 3.

          3. Delete the current entry in the ‘Enter Formatting for Number’ box.

          4. Select Level 1 from the ‘Insert level number from’ box.

          5. Type ‘.’.

          6. Select Level 2 from the ‘Insert level number from’ box.

          7. Type ‘.’.

          8. Select 1, 2, 3 from the ‘Number style for this level’ box.

          9. Click the MORE button and select Heading 3 from the ‘Link level to style’ box.

          Let me know how you go.

          • Step #9 is the problem. If I set Heading 3 to link to, the #s are correct (good), but now it want’s to be considered a header and show in the TOC (bad.) I can’t tell the TOC to filter out 3 level header items because some of them may belong in the TOC. I can send you a simple Doc that shows the problem, it that would help.
            And I REALLY Appreciate your help, this can be quite mind numbing….

            • Create a new style and link your level 3 to that instead. You can link to any style, not just Heading 3.
              Alternatively, when you create your TOC, tell it to only use 2 levels instead of 3.

              • Jason – I think I have found the issue.
                I can create a new multilevel and style, but can’t convey values between them.

                The problem is the number item style doesn’t communicate with the Header number sequence, so the level 1 value doesn’t increase when the header level 1 does.

                For example, I need to create the following where the number in parenthesis on the right represent the item numbers.

                Header 1 Topic (1)
                Text description
                Number Item 1 (1.1)
                Header 1 Topic (2)
                Text description
                Header 2 Sub-Topic (2.1)
                Text description
                Header 3 Sub-Sub-Topic (2.1.1)
                Text description
                Number Item 1 (
                Number Item 2 (
                Header 2 Sub-Topic (2.2)
                Number Item 1 (2.2.1)

                When I try to add the 1st Number Item, it works great (1.1). But when I try the next one, instead of, I get and The reason is that it is tied to the first Number Item, not the heading values. And nothing has been done to increment the first numbered item level from 1 to 2 (even though the header has incremented to 2.1.1.)

                I can accomplish the above, but only with multi level lists that have the first (and sometimes second) levels hard coded and specific to a given header.

                • That being the case, your level 1 numbering is not linked to your Heading 1 style, just like your level 3 heading was not linked to your Heading 3 style before. To reiterate you should never hard-code a number anywhere in your multilevel number set up.

                  Do this:

                  1. Click on any numbered item, click the multilevel numbering icon, choose Define New Multilevel List, then click the MORE button to expand the dialog box.

                  2. Select level 1. Check that ‘Link to style’ says Heading 1 (you’ll probably find it isn’t).

                  3. Select level 2. Check that ‘Link to style’ says Heading 2.

                  4. Select level 3. Check that ‘Link to style’ says Heading 3.

  • Though I have already created “styles” of headings, by I don’t find the same in the Multilevel list, and also I am finding it difficult to apply numbering in my multilevel document. Hope to revisit my previous efforts on the basis of your above erudition.

  • thank you very much for this fast learning! I spent a few minutes to learn it, and now I learned how to apply it in all documents.

  • Hi, Jason. I’m work with documents that have lettered appendices. I set up Heading 7 as the main appendix heading so that it generates in the table of contents, but I’d like to also set up auto-numbering for other headings within the appendices. I’m having difficulty combining letters and numbers in the multi-level list. Currently the main (level 7) heading is APPENDIX A, B, C, etc., but I can’t get the following levels to show as A.1, A.1.1, B.1, etc. Do you have any suggestions?

    • In the multilevel numbering dialog:
      1. Select level 7.
      2. Select A, B, C from the ‘Number style for this level’ dropdown list.
      3. Click the MORE button and link the number level to style ‘Heading 7’.

      4. Select level 8.
      5. Select ‘Level 7’ from the ‘Include number from level’ box.
      6. Type a dot.
      7. Select 1, 2, 3 from the ‘Number style for this level’ dropdown list.
      8. Link the number level to style ‘Heading 8’.

      9. Select level 9.
      10. Select ‘Level 7’ from the ‘Include number from level’ box.
      11. Type a dot.
      12. Select ‘Level 8’ from the ‘Include number from level’ box.
      13. Type another dot.
      14. Select 1, 2, 3 from the ‘Number style for this level’ dropdown list.
      15. Link the number level to style ‘Heading 9’.

      That’s it. Download the free troubleshooting guide at the top of this post for more inspiration and answers to other frequently asked questions.

      Let me know how you go Kathy.

  • i just want to ask if you can combine 2 different style of multilevel numbering.
    for example heading 1 use roman style and heading 2 & 3 use legal style.
    like this one :
    i. This is heading 1
    1.1 heading 2
    1.1.1 heading 3

    best regards

    • Absolutely. For numbering level 1, choose i, ii, iii from the ‘Numbering style for this level’ dropdown list. For levels 2 and 3, choose the 1, 2, 3 style. All the best.

  • Dear Jason,

    Thank you very much for your guide, it was very helpful to me.

    However, I am interested in making lists that have more than 9 levels. I understand your comment that generally, more than just a few are not necessary – which probably is why only 9 are available to begin with – and that more than e.g. six is often confusing. Some weird projects however, are just the more confusing without proper numbering, and in my case I would need about 20 levels for a genealogy project, where this systems is the clearest I can come up with. It works if you put in the numbering by hand, but it would be a dream for me if I could get Word to automate it for me.

    I have seen guides relying on SEQ to get more than 9 levels, but I do not understand them, as I have no experience with this method. If you know more how to get more than 9 levels to work following the same logic, I would be grateful to hear more about it.

    kind regards

    • Hi Jan

      While you could theoretically use the SEQ field to create 20+ levels of numbering, it is a time-consuming process and offers no real advantage over typing your numbers manually. For what it’s worth, here’s how it works:

      Field are enclosed in braces { } but you cannot just type them – you must insert a field. To insert any field into a Word document, press Ctrl F9 then type in the field name followed by any relevant switches OR on the Insert ribbon click ‘Explore Quick Parts’ then ‘Field’.

      Sample file at

      The following fields …

      { SEQ Lev1}
      { SEQ Lev1 \c} {SEQ Lev2 \r 1}
      { SEQ Lev1 \c}.{SEQ Lev2 \c}.{SEQ Lev3 \r 1}

      { SEQ Lev1}
      { SEQ Lev1 \c} {SEQ Lev2 \r 1}
      { SEQ Lev1 \c}.{SEQ Lev2 \c}.{SEQ Lev3 \r 1}
      { SEQ Lev1 \c} {SEQ Lev2}
      { SEQ Lev1 \c}.{SEQ Lev2 \c}.{SEQ Lev3 \r 1}
      { SEQ Lev1 \c}.{SEQ Lev2 \c}.{SEQ Lev3 }
      { SEQ Lev1 \c}.{SEQ Lev2 \c}.{SEQ Lev3 }

      … result in the following numbering



      • The SEQ field provides single-level sequential numbering.
      • The Lev1, Lev2 Lev3 … names are arbitrary. Use whatever names you want. Each name is it’s own numbering sequence. One sequence has been used for each numbering level.
      • The dots (periods) between each field are typed directly.
      • The \c switch means use the preceding number from this sequence.
      • The \r 1 switch means reset this numbering sequence (level) back to 1. Notice that this switch is only used the first time it appears within each hierarchy. The second an subsequent occurrences don’t use the switch

      Press Ctrl-A then F9 to update the document numbering.
      Press Alt-F9 to toggle between displaying the fields and the results.

      You can speed things up by creating AutoText Quick Parts.

      1. Select a row containing the SEQ fields (e.g. { SEQ Lev1 \c} {SEQ Lev2 \r 1})
      2. On a PC, select the Insert ribbon | Explore Quick Parts | AutoText | Save Selection to AutoText Gallery. On a Mac, select the Insert menu | AutoText | New.
      3. Type a name for the block of text (e.g. Lev2) and click OK.

      Then in your document:

      1. Position the cursor.
      2. Type the name (e.g. Lev2) and when prompted press Enter.

      This inserts the block of text called Lev2 into your document, and save the hassle of repeatedly creating fields or spending hours copying and pasting. Keep an eye on the \r 1 switch – use it or remove it as necessary.

      As I said at the start, it can be done, but it’s a lot of work and you’ll need to check it carefully before you publish.

      Good luck!


      • Dear Jason,

        Thank you for you thorough reply and the effort you put into it.

        It seems that I do not entirely understand the utility of SEQ numbering. It it still “automated” or not? Meaning that after it has been manually added, does it automatically change if you add numbers inbetween? Adding sequences would not be a problem, but the usefulness I imaged would be as follows: e.g., you think you have mapped a family, but later you find out that you missed one person. Somewhere in a sequence, you need to add a person. Consequently, the next sibling in that family change a number, plus all the children of those siblings. Can the SEQ entry account for this automation?

        • Once it is set up, you can manually update the entire document (any time) by pressing Ctrl-A then F9 and all the numbering will update. So if you need to insert another family member, do so then update the document. In that sense, SEQ fields provide automatic updating of the numbering. However, you still have all the work of inserting the fields in the first place.

      • I realise that this may be a very simple question, but I cannot get the SEQ to work. I can find the field “SEQ” and add it, but I cannot add the information between the brackets to get it to work. I have tried to follow other guides on this as well, but I suppose it still eludes me.

        • If you are inserting the SEQ field using the Insert ribbon | Explore Quick Parts | Field, then click the Options tab to display the switches and choose one.

          If you are inserting the SEQ field by pressing Ctrl-F9 then you can type anything you like between the braces.

          To edit an SEQ field that is currently showing the number, right-click the number (which should have grey shading behind it) and choose Toggle Field Code.

  • Hi Jason,

    Thanks for helpful points. I am trying to set default font (complex script) in multilevel numbering list in Word 2013 but “set default” icon is not active there. Each time starting Word, I need to define a complex multilevel numbering, I should set it manually for that session and then it goes off when exiting the application.
    For the normal writing style I have done successfully the default fonts for both Latin and complex scripts but in multilevel numbering list it doesn’t work.
    How I can set default my choices in this menu?

    • Hi Taghi

      First, if you link each multilevel numbering level to a style (e.g. link Level 1 to Heading1, Level 2 to Heading 2 etc.) you will not have this problem.

      Second, I strongly suggest that you never use the Normal style as-is within a document. Think of the Normal style as your baseline style, then create your own styles based on the Normal style, but leave the Normal style alone.

      Third, if you want to copy your styles between documents, open the Styles pane, click the Manage Styles icon at the bottom, then click the Import & Export button, then use the 2 boxes to copy styles between your current document and the Normal template (or vice versa).
      Alternatively, create this one-line macro and run it:

      Sub Copy_styles_from_master_doc()
      ActiveDocument.CopyStylesFromTemplate Template:=”C:\folder\folder\your_master_file_name.dotx”
      End Sub

      Let me know how you go.


  • No reference to how you can use the heading numbers to refer to a piece of text:

    ” In section??, we learn how to put in cross-references…”

    • Annabelle, that’s a different topic, but here is the quick version.

      First you bookmark an item, then cross-reference the bookmarked item:

      1) Select the item you want to reference, or position the cursor in front of it.
      2) On the Insert ribbon, choose Bookmark. Type a name for the bookmark. Don’t use spaces.
      3) Position the cursor at the point where you want to refer to the bookmarked item (e.g. in Section??).
      4) In the Insert ribbon again, choose Cross reference.
      5) Set ‘Reference type’ to Bookmark. Set ‘Insert reference to’ to Bookmark text or Page number.

      I have an upcoming post that covers the process in more detail but that should be enough to get you started.


  • Very nice video, thank you.
    I have 3 questions, I wonder if you answer them

    1) what if you want the body text under each numbered list to be indented according to the level of each numbered list? – like in a procedure document.
    2) what if you want to create new style names (not reuse existing “heading x” style names)
    3) what if you want to remove multilevel list levels? (when I go to define new multilevel list), it starts with 9 levels, so I want to remove the last 4.

    thanks ahead of time!

    • Hi RL. Some good questions there.

      1) When you define your multilevel list, for each numbering level, set the ‘Aligned At’ and ‘Indent At’ at the bottom of the dialog.

      2) You can use any styles you like, so if you have created some custom styles, link to those instead of Heading 1/2/3 in the multilevel numbering dialog.

      3) You can define up to 9 levels but you don’t have to use them all. The most I’ve ever used (for a legal client) was 6 levels.

      I hope that helps. All the best RL.


  • Hi I found your video very helpful. I have a large document containing numbering which in part has been entered using word and in part entered manually. Is there a simple way to get rid of the existing numbering and start again using word?

    • Hi Bill. If the numbers have been typed in, you have no choice but to delete those, but if the numbering (in whatever form and however messy) is a numbered list then there is hope!

      1. Place the cursor on any top-level item.
      2. Click the multilevel numbering icon and choose Define New Multilevel List.
      3. Set up each numbering level the way you want it and make sure to click the MORE button and link each level to a style (i.e. level 1 to Heading 1, level 2 to Heading 2 etc.)
      4. Place your cursor on each numbered item in the document and select the appropriate style in the styles gallery.

      It sounds like a lot of work, but you should be able to get about 100 pages done per hour, depending on how much content is numbered. There is no shortcut. Just gotta get your head down and chip away. Once it’s done, and your numbering is straightened out, your document will update itself like a dream.

      Good luck.

  • After some frustrating hours of trying to get a 3-level numbering to work and following a bunch of instructions that didn’t help, I found this one. Half an hour later, my document looks as it should. Thank you so much, Jason, for this help, it is greatly appreciated!
    Only thing to mention, I had to link the numbering to styles because the tab key does not demote text in Word 2016 for Mac.

    • Hi Pascal. I’m glad you found a way to get it to work. You can also use the indent/outdent icons on the Home ribbon to promote/demote a level, regardless of whether or not numbering levels are connected to styles. All the best. Jason

  • This is a great tutorial I have used twice. But I run into problems you don’t. Such as once I have created a multilevel list and go to add my heading to the link portion it selects, I click ok, then it resets it when I reopen it. Or the Heading itself unlinks and won’t apply. Or the heading applies, but the numbers under that heading, say V.1 stays I.7. It seems this could be a good system, and I have used it before, but with these problems it is almost unmanageable.

    • Hi Chris. Styles shouldn’t unlink from a defined number system when you reopen a document. Shoot me a sample at and I’ll take a look. (Remove any confidential or private info first). Jason

  • This was very helpful. I now understand how to use Multilevel numbering which has been a huge challenge to me Thanks a lot.

  • Can the text that goes under a level be linked to the outline level or does it another style with a similar name so that it is placed next to the outline level in the balcony?

    • Hi Sajit. There’s a few points tied up in your question.

      1. If you press SHIFT ENTER to create a soft return instead of just ENTER which creates a hard return, then the following text will be part of the same paragraph or numbered item (if that’s what you were getting at).

      2. If you use the standard Heading 1/2/3 styles, they are always listed together by default. If you create your own custom styles, then use a common prefix (like your initials) and in the styles pane they will be listed together alphabetically.

      3. By ‘balcony’, I assume you mean the Styles Gallery on the Home ribbon?

      Does that help?

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