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Creating a Table of Contents in Word

The first step to creating a table of contents in Word is to make sure that everything to be included in the table of contents is tagged using Word Styles. The Styles tools can be found on the Home Tab.


Image of the Home tab in Word highlighting the Style Gallery

*See Using Word Styles if you need help using Styles.


Label all chapters and headings to include in the table of contents with Heading 1, Heading 2 or Heading 3. Table of contents entries will start with Heading 1 with Headings 2 and 3 nested underneath. Make sure that each section has a Heading 1 and that Headings 2 and 3 follow in order only if they are needed.


Note: If you have renamed these headings, they will still be included in the table of contents as renaming does not erase their programmed properties.

All other heading styles will not be included in the automatic table of contents, so any headings that shouldn't be included should be labelled as Heading 4 or higher.


Once the headings have been labelled, place the cursor where you want to insert the table of contents in the document. Go to the References Tab and click Table of Contents.


Image of the References tab in Word pointing to the Table of Contents button.

Select one of the automatic tables from the drop-down menu and the table of contents will appear in the document.


Note: Inserting a manual table of contents will provide a formatted template but the information must be inputted manually.


Updating the Table of Contents

Changes made in the document will not be automatically applied to the table of contents. There are two ways to update the table of contents once changes have been made:


  1. Go to the References Tab and click the Update Table icon on the left.

  2. Click on the table of contents in the document and click the Update Table icon above the title.


Image of the References tab in Word

Image of a Table of Contents in Word.

The update can be applied to the entire or just to the page numbers. Updating the entire table will apply the changes made to spelling, order, heading level and page numbers within the document. It will not change the title of the table of contents.


Note: I recommend updating the page numbers once the final edit of the document has been completed.


The text of the table of contents can be edited by clicking within the table of contents and typing as you would outside of the table of contents. Any changes made directly to the table of contents will not be transferred to the headings within the document.


Since there is no way to automatically transfer the changes made in the table of contents to the document, it is recommended to only make changes to the table of contents that concern formatting or spacing.


Note: Be advised that if the entire table is updated, any changes that have been made to the table of contents but not to the headings within the document will be erased.


Deleting a Table of Contents

There are three ways to delete a table of contents.


  1. Click on the table of contents, and click the three dots in the upper left-hand corner. This will highlight everything in the table. Press delete.

  2. Click on the table of contents, and click the page symbol beside the downward arrow. At the bottom of the popup menu, select Remove Table of Contents.

  3. Go to the References Tab and click on Table of Contents. Select Remove Table of Contents from the bottom of the popup menu.

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