My short cuts – headings (part 2)

14 Mar

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

Today we’re going to look at how to set up numbered headings in Word. I am breaking this series up into small pieces, so we have already learned about setting up headings and next time we’ll learn about creating contents pages, too.

You will use this to save yourself time and ensure consistency when you’re setting up a large document with lots of headings and sub-headings.

So, here’s our text with lots of headings and bits of text under them as we left it last time. We have assigned heading 1, heading 2 etc. styles to them so they make sense and are consistent. But they’re still a bit unclear and I think we would all agree that it would make things a bit clearer if we numbered the headings. But how to do that so the sub-headings have sub-numbers, etc.?

Here’s how to do it. First, make sure you’re on the Home tab in Word. Then, concentrate on the paragraph section. There should be a little icon like the one I’ve circled; when you hover the mouse over it you’ll get a note that this is the multilevel list tool. Make sure your cursor is next to the first heading and click on the multilevel list button.

Up will pop a menu which gives you lots of choices – a list library. We’d like to go for the one that gives us 1, 1.1, 1.1.1 etc. (see arrow) so we pick that and click on it.

Select the kind of list you want and look back at your text. Amazing – it’s now got heading and sub-heading numbers!

And look what’s happened to your heading style buttons now you’re back in your document. The numbering style has been added to them. Note: there is a way to change the style of the headings when right-clicking on them. That’s all lovely and useful, but when you want to make your headings and their numbers behave themselves throughout your text, you need to do it the way I’ve shown you above.

Now let’s try adding a new sub-heading in the middle of the others. In this example, I’ve added “Line editing” in between “Substantive editing” and “Light editing” which were headings nand respectively (look up the post to check that if you want to). I put the cursor in the space after “Line editing”, chose Heading 4, typed my heading … and not only has it assigned number to that heading, it’s also handily moved the next heading, “Light editing” to have number – all by itself! You can see how useful this is if you’re writing a big document and adding in sub-sections but want to keep the numbering consistent. What a nightmare it would be to do it all by hand!

And what about if you want to remove a section with a sub-heading and make sure the numbering follows suit? Here I have highlighted “Students”, ready to delete it. Note that “Translators” has number at the moment …

I delete “Students”, and “Translators” now has number instead. Magic!

So, in summary, if you have a document with lots of headings and sub-headings, and you want to number them, for example in a report, thesis or non-fiction book, use this method to apply a numbering scheme to the headings, and whatever you delete or add, as long as you tell Word that you’re adding a heading and what kind of heading it is, it will sort out all the numbering for you and ensure it makes sense. Hooray, frankly!

Next time, we’ll look at creating an automatic contents page, and how that will help make your document easy to navigate …

If you have enjoyed this post and found it useful, please click on the “share” buttons below or tell your friends and colleagues about it! Thank you!

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here


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9 responses to “My short cuts – headings (part 2)

  1. Hanan

    May 8, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Its great but can i do not want the number 1 appear ner heading 1 . How??


    • Liz at Libro

      May 8, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Hanan. I’m not quite clear what you’re asking, but you might find these two articles about page numbers useful – the first one explains about how page numbering is set, and the second one shows you how to suppress page 1 printing on the first page.


      • Hanan

        May 9, 2014 at 9:30 am

        Thanks for your answer
        but my question was about after heading for the document and do the multilevel for headings i want the number near heading 1 not appear?


        • Liz at Libro

          May 9, 2014 at 9:40 am

          If you don’t want a number by heading 1 you must right-click on heading 1 in styles and tell it not to apply numbering. You may then need to re-apply numbering to heading 2 onwards. I hope that helps.


          • Hanan

            May 9, 2014 at 9:47 am

            I did this already but I want to use the heading in Figure number for example Figure 5.3 where 5 is the chapter 5 that i did it as heading 1
            If i remove the heading , the number 5 will be 0
            So do you think there is a solution???


            • Liz at Libro

              May 9, 2014 at 10:06 am

              Ah – no, it won’t let you do that! So you will have to have a number in your Heading 1, or hand-number your figures and manually create your Table of Figures.



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