Problem with multilevel list

Brass Contributor

Good morning, please I have a serious problem. I am doing my thesis, and for this I created a multilevel list, up to 5 levels.
Title 1 was: CHAPTER I:
Title 2 was: 1.1.
Title 3 was: 1.1.1.
Title 4 was:
Title 5 was:

You can see below.

Lista multinivel.JPG


But suddenly I don´t know what happened, after clicking here.



When I clicked there, that stick or black rectangle was put in place of what I had put. I feel like I lost all the work I did in one day editing the numbering and layout. I would greatly appreciate your help, please, to solve this problem.

9 Replies
I don't know why that happened, I'm not sure if it was by clicking there (second image), what could have happened or what could I have done? Thank you.
best response confirmed by LuisElCaminante (Brass Contributor)

Hello @LuisElCaminante ,


The multilevel numbers are corrupted. This is a known issue. I had raised a request for a fix with Microsoft two years ago, and it was released - but in Word 2019. There seem to be different fix releases for different version.


This might help you:

MS Word heading styles are showing black boxes instead of numbers--how - Microsoft Community


Or, you could call your MS support - call, not write - and mention it to them saying it is years old issue, how they can help you fix it.

I hope this helps. Good luck.


Hello @Lenka_Kerumova 


Thank you very much, the link you shared and the VBA code there, helped me and I managed to get my multilevel list back to what it looked like.
I am eternally grateful.


So, from what you say, I understand that this happened not because of something that I did, right ?, but that it is something typical of Microsoft? Just to find out what happened.


If the problem persists later, I will contact support in the same way.

Many thanks.

Greetings from Peru, a big hug.

All this time I was reviewing the link he shared more calmly. Apparently it is a Word problem and any solution is only momentary, when closing and reopening the file the error persists, but with the VBA code it does solve it effectively.

Thank you very much for sharing your experiences and knowledge.



Strictly speaking, it is a document problem. Some of the structures in the underlying list definition, stored in the document, became damaged. Running the macro should fix the issue permanently.


If you are saying that the problem comes back, you may want to copy document content into a new, blank document and recreate the numbering.  


When copying, omit the final paragraph mark (¶) of the document. To show/hide paragraph marks as well as other nonprinting marks, click the ¶ icon on the Home tab.

Thank you very much, and why are some of the structures in the underlying list definition, stored in the document, getting corrupted?

What could I have done? to avoid in a next opportunity. Thanks



It is almost impossible to tell why a particular document becomes corrupt. Possible causes include editing a Word document in several different programs. Also, saving to removable media is unsafe. I'm not saying that you have done either of those things, only that these are actions that generally can cause corruption.


Historically, numbering in Word has been especially prone to corruption. The underlying structures where number formats are stored (so-called list template objects) have been almost the same since 1997. But numbered lists have been made more stable over the years. You still have to be careful setting up your numbering, though (see

@Stefan_Blom Thank you very much for the level of detail in your answer.
I appreciate it.


I will check the link

Hello @LuisElCaminante ,

I think it is a Microsoft Word issue and consequently the document's problem. I can't really rule out that it isn't something we did (we = users) that lead to corrupting the multilevel list/styles in that document.


I had a document, some 250+ pages, when this happened. After the fix was released, the corrupted document got fixed too, but due to my previous experience I never trusted it again, making a copy of it without the last paragraph mark.


Just to note (strictly FYI :) :( it is rooted into styles and the multi-list. Because when I used that corrupted/pseudo-fixed document as source for another, importing the styles from it to a new doc, just out of curiosity, the corrupted styles appeared in the new doc, too. 


I'm glad you managed to fix your document.

There are tools (Litera, for example) that have a fix for that in their ribbon, too. It is not uncommon, and only the MS gurus know what exactly leads to this :-).