Numbered lists in Word

While developers would love to avoid ever writing documentation or reports, it happens to us all. One of the most frustrating bits of this can be getting the formatting to work as you’d like in Word – and I got bitten by this recently. So, as a memory jogger for my future self, here’s how to deal with misbehaving heading numbers:

The issue…

I’m trying to write up a report, using a document template I’ve been provided. It has numbered headings enabled, but it’s only been configured for three levels. For some reason when I try to make a heading “Level 4” it turns into a bullet, rather than having the correct numbering:

And that just looks bad…

I spent a lot of time messing about with the “multi-level lists” dropdown in the main ribbon:

Using the “Define New List Style” option looks like it should help, but it seemed to mess up the numbering when I did it – I could get the four digit numbering I wanted. But the numbers didn’t follow on correctly from the previous paragraphs – even when I clicked “continue numbering”.

The answer

After a while I realised I was looking for numbering options, but some of Word’s instructions talk about list levels and indents for these features. And that made me realise there was a context menu option I’d been ignoring for “Adjust list indents”:

And that opens much the same dialog as you can get to from the New List Style options above:

When I changed the numbering style option there from “Bullets” to “1, 2, 3, …” and then set the “Enter formatting for numbers” field to give all four levels of numbering:

You do have to be a bit careful here, to make sure you get the numbers from “Include level numbers from” in the right order in the “Enter formatting for number” field. It took me a couple of goes to get that right – but this dialog did fix my problem…

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