Numbering in square brackets [1] in Word

Copper Contributor

Good morning!


I have a document with auto numbering with the following formatting:


[1]    Text ...


         [1.1]   Text ...


My question is, the third level of numbering [1.1.1] is also on auto, but the incremental number (in bold) is not correct - how do I fix this?


Any help will be much appreciated!



1 Reply



Any fix must be done when in the first level-1 paragraph using the define new multi-level list dialog. This is counterintuitive, I know. You have to change the entire list to fix one part. It must be done from level 1 and the first instance. Otherwise, you risk creating multiple lists and spaghetti numbering.


What follows is my standard take on multi-level numbering:


Multilevel numbering in Word is easy to mess up. It always has been.


Automatic Paragraph Numbering all starts with the Define New List Style Dialog.


You use that to create and name a list style, within that dialog, when you format numbering you go to the Define New MultiLevel List Dialog. The key is to assign a separate existing paragraph style to each level of numbering. The styles can be built-in styles- or custom styles.


If you use automatic paragraph numbering or bullets read Shauna Kelly's directions on numbering and bullets. Start with How to create numbered headings or outline numbering and her parallel page How to control bullets. For large documents you must follow these directions or you will lose your hair!
(Mac version:


For styles attached this way, you also control the left indents through the Define New MultiLevel List dialog not the Ruler or the Modify Style dialog.


Again, you first want the paragraph styles existing in your document without numbering.


These can be built-in styles or custom styles or a mix of the two. You can, if you want, modify their formatting later. Then you go to the Define New List Style (Not Define New MultiLevel List! You will get to that dialog in the process, though.) Shauna Kelly's page uses the built-in heading styles. This can be convenient but the process works with any existing paragraph styles including your custom styles.


This may seem a bit convoluted at first, but it really is not. Just follow the steps. Shauna Kelly's instructions use the built-in heading styles, but you can use any existing paragraph styles including your custom styles. There are, however advantages to using the built-in heading styles when you create a Table of Contents. Here are some more advantages: Why Use Word's Built-In Heading Styles? by Shauna Kelly Note, you can modify these built-in styles to look exactly the way you want.


Even if what you want is a single-level list, you want to do this if you want the most control over your list.


Videos on this


The basic idea is that the numbering is set using the Define MultiLevel List dialog with each numbering level being attached to an existing paragraph style. Once you have this set up, you should not use the buttons for numbering in the Ribbon but rather apply the appropriate style for that level.


You can save a document with this as a template for future documents if you want so you will not need to do this every time. However, once you’ve done this a few times it becomes second nature and not that difficult.

In this Microsoft Word live training session we show you how to apply automatic paragraph numbering to styles. Learn more about our training platform and other LIVE training sessions for legal professionals at . . . Affinity Consulting has been working with
Tired of reconfiguring the built-in paragraph numbering schemes in the multilevel list dropdown on Word's Home tab? Make your own! In this half-hour webinar, I show you step-by-step how to define your own 9-level paragraph numbering schemes and save them where you can re-use them again and again!