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Over the last few months, we’ve reviewed Word’s numbered list features. Specifically, How to control spacing and alignment in a numbered list in Microsoft Word shows how to control spacing and alignment and How to number headings in a Word 2016 document shows a simple way to number headings. In this article, we’ll continue by reviewing Word’s Multilevel List feature. Fortunately, it’s easier to implement and modify than you might think.
I’m using Word 2016 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but this feature is available in earlier versions. However, the multilevel list options discussed in this article aren’t available in the online 365 browser edition. For your convenience, you can download the demonstration .docx and .doc files, or you can work with your own content.
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What doesn’t work
You can’t use Word’s Numbering feature to generate a multilevel numbering system, even if you use built-in heading styles. Figure A shows a document with two styled heading levels: Heading 1 and Heading 2. You can apply the Numbering option (in the Paragraph group) and Word will number the headings consequently, but the feature ignores different levels; if you expected 1, 1.1, 2, 2.1, and 2.2, you might be surprised. If you select the entire document first, Numbering not only ignores the different levels, but it also numbers the paragraphs!
Word’s Numbering option can’t handle multilevel headings.
The easy way
Choose one of the built-in multilevel options from the gallery.
What’s important to note is that the List Library collection displays styles linked to the built-in heading styles. If one of these works for you, you needn’t go any further.
The default options are adequate most of the time, but you might want to customize the results a bit and that’s where things can get a bit confusing. The options are straightforward, but there are a lot of them; Word can handle up to nine levels!
Open this dialog to create a new multilevel list.
Now you’re ready to choose settings that will reflect your numbered heading needs:
Select the level you want to modify. You can change one, a few or all of the levels.
Select a numbering format to apply to the chosen level, adjust the formatting; adjust the spacing and aligning, and so on.
Repeat the above for each level you want to change.
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From the Number style for this level dropdown, choose I, II, III, (Figure E). We’re done with level 1.
Select level 2 and change the number style to l, ll, lll, as you did for level 1.
In the Aligned at control, enter .50. (Figure F).
Alter level 1.
Alter level 2.
We reset only a few options, but substantially changed the look of the headings.
Notice that the Font option (when you applied italics) changes only the number, not the heading text. To update the heading text, modify the heading style as you normally would. Word assumes you want all Heading 1 and Heading 2 styles included in the new numbering scheme. If you want to omit a heading level from the scheme, don’t use a built-in heading style to format those headings.
This feature is easiest to use when you combine it with Word’s built-in heading styles. However, you can map a custom heading style to the multilevel numbering feature–it just takes more work. Word handles nine levels, but any document with more than four levels should receive a serious developmental edit. More than four becomes confusing and perhaps worse, unreadable.
Word’s Multilevel List feature works nicely with the built-in heading styles. However, you can get the same effect working with custom styles. Next month, I’ll show you how to do so.
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