How to create a table of contents in word

Tables of Contents are highly useful tools within large documents but there are several common errors that can occur when either initially producing the table or on updating the document with further information.

Here are some of the common errors and how to fix them.

Common Errors

TOC not displaying all Headings

Error 1:          TOC does not contain the heading you just added to your document.

Identify:         Update Entire Table. If still not showing check to see if a style is applied to the heading you are trying to include.

Fix 1:              If not apply the appropriate style and Update again.

Error 2:         TOC does not display all Heading levels i.e. level 1 is displayed but not a subheading.

Identify:        This could be related to not having a style applied (see above) or the TOC is not set to pick up the correct styles you have applied.

Fix 2:             Select the Table of Contents and then click on References Tab and select Table of Contents/Custom Table of Contents check custom settings.

TOC Displaying too Much

Error 1:         TOC is displaying whole paragraphs of text

Identify:        Go to the paragraph/s which are displaying in the TOC. The incorrect style will be applied. This sometimes happens when following on from previous paragraphs if styles have not been set correctly.

Fix 1:             Select the paragraph and apply the appropriate style that is not set to be selected for TOC. Check previous paragraphs if some are correct use format painter to copy the correct style to another.

Error 2:         TOC is displaying all paragraphs of text

Identify:        Is the same style applied to both headings and paragraphs if so the style needs correcting as above. If not your TOC may be picking up a style not required.

Fix 2:             Refer to TOC Custom Headings section to help correct this.

TOC Custom Settings

Check the screen to ensure the correct headings are shown. Do these match the heading styles you have applied. Also check if the TOC is set to display enough levels of headings.

Increase the levels by clicking on the drop down list.

Change the Headings Selected

  • Click on the Options button from the Table of Contents screen
  • Add in the level number next to the name of the style you wish to include in the TOC     

The Table of Contents should now display your heading

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Identify Styles in Documents

To find out what style is currently applied to any text or paragraph within a document you will need to have the cursor placed within the text/paragraph/heading

  • Select the Home Tab and on the Styles ribbon click the icon for extra options.
  • This icon opens the Styles window
  •  Click on the Style Inspector
  • The Style Inspector displays the name of the style currently applied to your selection.

Selecting Text with Styles

You can also select a style and you can get Word to show you where in the document the style is applied.

  • Select a style from the Styles list.
  • Click on the drop-down list to the right
  • Click on Select All instances (the number of instances will be shown)
  • This now highlights every piece of text within the current document that has that style applied.       

Further Information

See the Guide below for further instruction. More hints and tips on Table of Contents are available on this website and training sessions can be provided in accordance with your requirements on application.

Please see previous blogs for information on how to create and format Tables of Contents.

Guide – MS Word – Problem Solve Table of Contents

2. Insert the table of contents

The first thing you need to do is to click on the document where you would like the table of contents to be inserted. I have just selected the very top of the document. Next, go to the ‘References‘ tab and then find the ‘Table of Contents‘ button on the very left. By selecting this, you are given a few optons which are built-in to Word. For this guide, I will select the ‘Automatic Table 2‘. This type of table will update the headings and the page numbers automatically. Note, there is an option for a ‘Manual Table‘, however, you will have to insert the headings and page numbers yourself. Not a very efficient way if you have a long document and want to change aspects of it in the future.

By selecting the ‘Automatic Table 2‘, Word has inserted a table of contents with the correspondng titles and page numbers. Notice that the titles with the ‘Heading 1‘ style are above the ‘Heading 2‘ titles in the list. The page numbers are indicated on the right-hand side of the table.

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3. Keeping the table of contents updated

Despite being called an ‘Automatic Table‘, this does not necessarily mean that every time you add a new heading it will be added to the table of contents. Additionally, if you move headings around, or add more pages, the changes will not be reflected in the table until you select the ‘Update Table‘ option.

Whenever you make changes to the document, ensure you update the table of contents. To do this, click on the table of contents and an option will appear at the top of the table called ‘Update Table…‘. Click on this.

A new window will appear with two options:

  • Update page numbers only‘ – As the name suggests, this will update only the page numbers for each section. This is useful when the heading titles have been unaltered and you want to ensure that the correct page numbers are assigned to each section.
  • Update entire table‘ – This option will update the page numbers and the titles for each heading. Obviously, if you edit a heading title within the document, you will need to select this option to reflect these changes in your table of contents.

Select an option which is appropriate to you and click on the ‘OK‘ button to update the table of contents.

Microsoft Word version used: 2016

Step 1: Insert a bookmark

  1. Select all the text in the section (this selection could cover several pages).
  2. Go to the Insert tab and select Bookmark.
  3. Give this bookmark a unique but meaningful name (I’ve called this one Section2), then click Add. NOTE: Bookmarks cannot have spaces.
  4. If you have the Show Bookmarks option turned on (and I suggest that you do), then you’ll see light gray square brackets around the bookmark.

Step 2: Insert a TOC field

Once you’ve set up your bookmark, you need to insert a TOC field in front of the section. Unlike the normal TOC at the beginning of your document that builds the TOC based on just heading levels, your mini TOC is built on the bookmark you defined AND the heading levels within that bookmark (at least, I *think* that’s what’s going on!).

  1. Go to a blank area in front of the section. Press Enter a couple of times to add some space for the mini TOC.
  2. Go to the Insert tab, click Quick Parts, then select Field.
  3. Select TOC from the list of field names on the left, then click the Field Codes button.
  4. Click the Options button at the bottom left of the Field window to open the Field Options window.
  5. On the Field Options window, select \b, then click Add to Field. Hint: If you want to know what each switch does, click on it and read its Description.
  6. Add a space after \b, then type the name of the bookmark you created earlier, then click OK. NOTE: The space after the \b is critical — without it, your TOC won’t work; however, your bookmark name should NOT have a space.
  7. The complete field code, with bookmark switch and the bookmark name you typed, is shown in the Advanced field properties text box on the Field window. Click OK.
  8. The mini TOC is inserted in front of the section heading:
  9. Optional: You can make this section stand out by adding a title for it. In this example, I just typed Section 2 on an empty line in front of the mini TOC, then styled it using Word 2010’s text effects (Home tab, Font group)
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  • Repeat the steps above for all other sections where you want a mini TOC.
  • To update the mini TOC, put your cursor anywhere in it, then press F9 (or right-click anywhere in the mini TOC and select Update field).
  • If you want to create a fancy title for the mini TOC that reflects the Heading 1 of the section and you don’t want to repeat the Heading 1 in the mini TOC, then don’t select the Heading 1 when selecting the area for the bookmark.
  • Update 27 June 2014: If you PDF your document using the Acrobat add-in, you’ll have clickable links for the main TOC, but not for this mini one, so place your cursor at the beginning of the first line of the mini TOC, right-click, then edit the field for the mini TOC so it looks like this: TOC \o “1-3” \h \z \u \b Section2 (“1-3” tells the mini TOC to display heading levels 1 to 3, and the bookmark name will vary according to which bookmark applies to this mini TOC). Now, when you PDF the doc, the mini TOC will have clickable links.

last checked February 2011]

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