Table of Contents tricks in Word


Office for Mere Mortals
Your beginners guide to the secrets of Microsoft Office
Invalid email address
Tips and help for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook from Microsoft Office experts.  Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.  Office for Mere Mortals has been running for over 20 years, we've never, ever revealed or sold subscriber details.  Privacy policy

There are many different ways to make a Table of Contents from a Word document.  The standard ways, taught in most classes, force you to format your document in a way that suits Word.  We’ll show you how to get a Table of Contents (TOC) from a document formatted the way you want.

We’re tacking this topic because an Office Watch reader asked Peter to do it.  Jane B. asked about ‘Style Separators’ used in making a TOC.  Before we delve into the murky world of Style Separators, we need to explain many of the Heading style tricks available to make a Table of Contents.

Why bother?  Sometimes you have to format your document in a very specific way – legal users get this all the time.  Court documents can have strict formatting rules; if the document isn’t right the judge can get cranky or worse, the submission is rejected.

If you’re stuck with fixed formatting, you have to make Word work to suit the formatting not the other way around.

Standard Heading Formatting

Here’s how it normally works in Microsoft Word, it’ll be familiar to anyone who has covered Table of Contents in a Word class.

This listing has a heading, sub-heading and body text on entirely separate lines, which is Word’s standard approach

table of contents tricks in word 7420 - Table of Contents tricks in Word

Those heading lines can be used by Word to create a Table of Contents like this:

table of contents tricks in word 7421 - Table of Contents tricks in Word

The ‘one heading per line’ formatting isn’t always allowed.  Or it might not suit your document preferences.  Certainly, each heading line takes up a lot of vertical space and wastes a lot of white space on the right.

If only you had other options … and you do …

Lead in Emphasis Headings

When Word introduced linked paragraph/character styles, it became possible to have a ‘mixed’ Heading with just the selected first words in the TOC.

  • Start from a line in Normal style (or whatever style you want for the paragraph).
  • Highlight the first words that you want to appear in the Table of Contents.
    • This method only works for the first or ‘lead in’ words of the heading.
  • Format the selection with the Heading style you want
    • Because you’ve made a selection before formatting, Word will only apply the linked style to the selection, not the entire paragraph.

With Word 2016 default styles the headings look like this:

table of contents tricks in word 7422 - Table of Contents tricks in Word

Now the Table of Contents has only the ‘Apollo …’ not the astronaut names on the rest of the line.

table of contents tricks in word 7423 - Table of Contents tricks in Word

Word is grabbing just the text formatted with the heading style for the TOC and ignoring the rest of the line.

Lead in Emphasis paragraph

Perhaps you want your document to be a series of paragraphs but still appear in the Table of Contents.  That’s possible, using the same method as above.

Here’s an example of that with the default Word Heading 3 style.

table of contents tricks in word 7424 - Table of Contents tricks in Word

The lead in text can look similar to the rest of the paragraph.  To look different from standard one-line heading styles, create a linked style with the necessary outline level (Format | Paragraph | Indents and Spacing | Outline Level).  See Making a linked style for lead in paragraphs.

table of contents tricks in word 7425 - Table of Contents tricks in Word

Both the above examples will look like this in the Table of Contents.

table of contents tricks in word 7426 - Table of Contents tricks in Word

That’s enough for one article.  We’ll look at even more clever Table of Contents tricks like the TC field code and Style Separators in the near future.

subs profile e1563205311409 - Table of Contents tricks in Word
Latest news & secrets of Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office experts give you tips and help for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.  Office Watch has been running for over 20 years, we've never, ever revealed or sold subscriber details.  Privacy policy
Invalid email address