Automated numbered lists are a feature a lot of us take for granted in Microsoft Word…. They usually work seamlessly and automatically, but sometimes these lists can work against us: restarting a list of numbers at 1 when we mean to continue our list, or picking up formatting that we can’t seem to shake, like creating all bold numbers in spite of unbold text. Don’t despair; these little inconveniences are remarkably simple to fix.

Exercise File

To follow along, you may download the exercise file: NumberedLists This file contains a fascinating list of silly words laid out in series of numbers lists. Let’s take a look at our options.

Continuing or Restarting Numbered lists

Look at the second section of words, starting with “Brouhaha.” It is clear that this list should not be starting over; it should be a continuation of the previous list. This is a simple fix.

  1. Right click on top of the number 1 next to the word Brouhaha.
  2. Select Continue Numbering

This will pick up the value from the previous numbered list. What if the opposite happens? Word guesses that you would like to continue numbering, but you actually intend to start over? Easy peasy! Follow the same process, but this time select Restart at 1. Additionally, occasionally when you insert a numbered list, you will see a lightening bolt appear with a dropdown arrow. This is just another way to access the same feature, a shortcut inserted by Word that will allow you to make the decision whether to continue numbering or restart at 1.

Change Number Values

There is also an option in this menu to Set Numbering Value. This option is for those times when you need a special number, perhaps one that is out of sequence with the rest of your numbered list.

Formatting Numbered Lists

Sometimes you create a lovely numbered list, and for whatever reason, Word picks up on formatting from a previous line of text, making all the numbers bold, or a previously used color. On the exercise document, look at the third section. Someone used a blue bold font for the text above the numbered list, and Word assumed that this should apply to the numbers on the list. To fix this, let’s take a closer look at that right click menu.

  1. Right click on top of the first blue number, next to “Taradiddle”
  2. Attached to the numbering options in a separate section is the ability to change the formatting: to remove the bold formatting and recolor the text.
    • Note: sometimes these options appear above the numbering options, sometimes they are below.

Sub Points

Creating Sub Points

In the last section, numbers 4 and 5 should be sub points of number 3. To demote them to sub point click to the left of “Our Friends,” and hit tab on your keyboard. Do the same for “Our Neighbors.” This has created sub points, and Word assumed that you would like to indicate sub points with lowercase alphabet: If the alphabet isn’t your goal, you can always click into the text in the line of a or b, go the numbered list dropdown in the Paragraph group of the Home tab, and select a different format. Maybe Roman numerals?

Promoting Sub Points

By the way, how do you change your mind and promote a sub point back to being a main point? Well, you could use the Decrease Indent (left arrow) in the Paragraph group… But you all know I am a fan of shortcuts, and my favorite one for this purpose is shift + tab.


Have numbered lists caused you trouble in the past? Will any of these tips help you going forward? I would love to hear from you!

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Refreshing PivotTable Data Restarting a Numbered List Easily Discover More If you are working with numbered lists in your document, you already know that the numbered list is nothing more than a series of numbered paragraphs. There may be times when you want to have a paragraph or two in the middle of a list, and then have numbering pick back up after the unnumbered paragraphs. Adding a Toolbar to the Taskbar

  • Repeat step 3 for each paragraph on which you want numbering skipped.
  • With the insertion point located in the first paragraph you want unnumbered, click the Numbering tool within the Paragraph group. Alternatively, you can right-click on the paragraph and choose Skip Numbering. Numbering is removed from the paragraph, but the sequence continues with the paragraph following.

Discover More

  • Format your numbered list as you normally would, but make sure the paragraphs you want to be unnumbered are also included in the list. This means that those paragraphs will, for the moment, be numbered.

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  • Display the Home tab of the ribbon.

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