Word's numbering explained

Article contributed by John McGhie

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Numbering in Word is difficult to understand because Word attempts to hide "complexity" from us. In many cases, it provides insufficient detail in the explanation of features. Regrettably, a simplistic explanation does not help understanding of a complex subject. It fills our heads with loose ends, which makes the problem worse!

Let me warn you: this subject is a real brain-breaker. You can use Word very successfully and professionally without ever knowing or understanding this stuff. I wrote it for the real masochists among us who just have to know how it works. 

Do not let me lead you into a headache under false pretences: this FAQ is not going to tell you how to fix a document that contains broken numbering. It simply explains how the numbering works: this is valuable information if you work with Word a lot, and by understanding it, you can often work out how to fix a document. However, this FAQ is not going to tell you how.  (For a discussion of methods, see: List Restart Methods).

Table of contents

File formats

Multiple Kinds of Numbering

Field numbering

Simple List numbering

Outline List numbering

Applying numbering

Numbering button

Direct numbering

Style-based numbering

Style-Template conflicts

Template conflicts

Numbering in action

Page numbering

Tables of contents


Chapter numbering

Heading numbering

Simple Lists

Outline Lists


Field numbers

Professional issues