How to Automatically Number Headings

Jan 28, 2021 | Word Hints and Tips

Numbering in Microsoft Word can cause a bit of a headache particularly if these are connected to headings in your document.

If you don’t get it set up correctly then you find that you are manually adding numbering that doesn’t update when you add a new section or move things around.  It also doesn’t pull through to your table of contents so you end up manually adjusting this too and it’s a constant battle to keep everything in sync.

If your numbering and heading styles are set up correctly then these issues should be a thing of the past!

Step 1: Choosing a numbering style

There are a number of multilevel numbering options that are already linked to heading styles.  By choosing one of these you will make your life so much easier!!  All of the options shown below with the word heading after them are suitable to use.


Multilevel numbering in Microsoft Word

Step 2: Modifying the heading style

As we are going to be using heading styles to drive our numbering it is important that these look the way we want so we may need to adjust them.

To select any heading 1 styles that have already been applied you right click on the heading 1 option from the Home tab and choose select all.  It will tell you how many times this is currently used in the document.  If it says No Data then no heading 1 styles have yet been applied.

Select all headings in Microsoft Word

To change the formatting of the heading 1 style we now right click on Heading 1 and choose modify.  There are some key options available directly from here or the format option at the bottom gives loads more.

Modifying Style of Headings in Microsoft Word
The process is repeated for however many levels of heading styles you want to be used.

Step 3:  Applying the numbering

For your first heading select the text and choose multilevel numbering and one of the options linked to the heading styles.

Go through the document applying heading styles as required using the heading1, heading 2, heading 3 icons in the styles section and the number will pull through automatically.

NOTE: If there is a table of contents in the document then refreshing it will bring through all the headings which have had a heading style applied.  The number of levels of heading that show depends on how the table of contents is set up.

This article has been written due to a client having exactly this issue.  Now the document is set up correctly it should be a really easy process going forward.

Further Reading

If you’ve enjoyed reading about how to use Number Headings on Microsoft Word, you might find the following blog useful:


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