Numbered Lists in Word Behave Erratically or Not the Way I Expected

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Learning numbering in Word is like driving a car: a little complex to learn, but you do it without thinking after that.

If you have learned the right things and have ingrained good technique and practice, you can drive for the rest of your life without accidents. People who are “too busy to learn this” or who “don’t have time for that” will get to be on first-name terms with the owner of their local auto repairer, and spend a large part of the rest of their lives fixing broken Word documents. follow the tips and techniques we are proving so that you’ll never again have to say:

Numbered Lists in Word Behave Erratically or Not the Way I Expected

Since the List Numbering feature was first added into Microsoft Word, this has been a common problem or probably better said, a common point of confusion for how to make them work the way you intended them work. And though the List Numbering feature has been much improved since Office 2016 and Office 365 Word came to the market, it still confounds many people.

We’ve all seen the problem with list numbering automatically restarting…

  1. particularly after pasting some text content from a different document,

  1. or, adding text numbering into a table cell,

2. or, trying to get outline numbering onto your Heading levels,

  1. and for that numbering scheme to appear, or not appear, in the Table of Contents.

There is a lot to explain and cover about Numbered Lists, much more then can easily be explained in one short blog post, and even many short blog posts.

We decided to take a different approach and are providing you with two comprehensive articles on this subject of Numbered Lists. We also chose our friend, colleague, contributing editor, and overall master on the subject, John McGhie to write these articles for you.

Our hope is that you read, study, and download them for your continued learning and reference on the subject of Numbered Lists in Microsoft Word.


Let’s get started! Time to read the articles.

Begin with Part 1…

Click on the title to read the article.

Numbering that Doesn’t Go Wrong - Part 1

In this article, you will learn:

  1. How to use/fix simple lists

  2. How to use/fix outline lists

  3. How to customise (Advanced) outline lists

  4. How numbering works in Word

Then move to our second article in this series:

Click on the title to read the article.

Numbering that Doesn’t Go Wrong - Part 2

In this part, you will learn how to use and fix outline lists in Microsoft Word.

Lists set up in Word can be imported into PowerPoint, but PowerPoint can’t create or change them. Excel converts them to typed characters and indents.

This bears repeating:

Learning numbering in Word is like driving a car: a little complex to learn, but you do it without thinking after that. If you have learned the right things and have ingrained good technique and practice, you can drive for the rest of your life without accidents. People who are “too busy to learn this” or who “don’t have time for that” will get to be on first-name terms with the owner of their local auto repairer, and spend a large part of the rest of their lives fixing broken Word documents.

That is truer than ever you could imagine when dealing with Outline Lists!


This articles we are linking to in blog post have been graciously provided by our
Contributor at Large:

John McGhie.

Among other fine accomplishments, including his work as a Microsoft MVP (Word, Mac Word) John is a Consultant Technical Writer at
McGhie Information Engineering Pty Ltd in Sydney, Australia.


This blog was authored by Richard V. Michaels, M.Ed, our Chief Product Architect at Great Circle Learning and a Microsoft Word MVP.