Mastering Header Numbering

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Follow these steps to successfully create numbered headers in Microsoft Word.

It seems like we’ve all fought Microsoft Word header numbering battles. But with a little work upfront, you can have numbered headers that behave much better.
Microsoft uses a tandem pair of style items to control list numbering: a “List Style” and a “Paragraph Style.” The List Style creates a group of one or more paragraph styles and also contains information about how each level is to be numbered.

Set up Headings

Access the list of Styles and right click to modify Heading 1. Set the Heading 1 style to be based on “No style.” Set the Left indentation to zero and Special to none. These settings can be found by clicking on Format -> Paragraph for the particular heading. Make any changes to the font, font size and color to suit your taste.
Modify Heading 2 so it is based on Heading 1, Heading 3 to be based on Heading 2, and so on. This step allows the headers to take advantage of Word’s cascading style function. Each “child” will inherit the formatting of its “parent” unless you modify it further.

Create the Style List

Navigate to the Paragraph Group on the Home tab and click the Multilevel List icon. When the dialog box displays, click the “Define New List Style …” option. The “Define New List Style” dialog box is displayed. In the “Name” edit box, type in a meaningful name for the new list style.

On the lower-left side of the “Define New List Style …” dialog box, click the “Format” button and choose “Numbering” from the drop-down list. The “Modify Multilevel list” dialog box is displayed. Click the “More” button. Now set up the paragraph formatting for each level.

To set up level 1:

  • 1. Choose “1” in the “Click level to modify” list.
  • 2. In the “Enter formatting for number” edit box, delete all old text. If you want to precede each number with text, type it in here – but leave the insert cursor after this text for the next step.
  • 3. Choose the style of number from the “Number style for this level.”
  • 4. Change the font and other formatting as desired.
  • 5. In the “Link level to style” box, choose “Heading 1.” This action links “Level 1” of the List Style to paragraph style “Heading 1.”

To set up levels 2 through 9 follow the same steps with one addition. If you want to include the previous level’s numbering (e.g. “1.a.”), use the “Include level number from” edit box and select the appropriate level. Type in any punctuation into the “Enter formatting for number” dialog box.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to set up this mapping: You must do each level separately.

There is an easy way to set the indentations for each level – as long as they are the same fixed amount of space. Just click the “Set for all Levels …” button on the “Modify Multilevel List” dialog box. You can change the bullet number position for the first level, the text position for the first level, and additional indent for each level.