How to Create a Table of Contents in Word Document

How to create table of contents in Word

How to create table of contents in Word has been discussed in this article to offer you a holistic explanation on the simple methods to do this with ease

Making use of a table of contents in a document makes it easier for the reader to navigate. A table of contents can be created in Word from the titles used in your document.

Irrespective of the size of your document, using a table of contents can get the reader exactly where they need to be. A table of contents not only makes the document easier to read; it also allows the author to add or remove the content as needed.

By default, Microsoft word document generates a table of contents with the three built-in heading styles, which are, Heading 1; Heading 2, and the Heading 3. To apply heading styles, select the style on the Home tab. If you are not satisfied with the types of heading styles available, you can change the default heading style.

Microsoft Word inserts a table of contents with placeholders that you can now edit. You can change it with your fonts and colours. Remember that you will also have to enter the page numbers manually.

A manually created table of contents cannot be updated automatically.

You don’t have to settle for the basic table of contents Microsoft Word creates for you. You can edit any table of contents and even create your own custom table of contents.

Read on to discover how to create a table of contents in Word.

Why is a Table of Contents so Important?

Before we move to the full explanation on how to create table of contents in Word, let us look at the importance of a table of content in word.

Is the table of contents relevant when we have bookmarks and advanced search capabilities on digital devices? The short answer is yes. A table of contents is not just for searching through long documents.

Here are five benefits to consider right away:

  • It offers the person reading it a panoramic view of the document.
  • A table of contents is like a plan. At a mere glance, you are able to see how a document is moved from one topic to another.
  • It gives a professional look to a document. A document with a table of contents looks more organized and professional than a document without.
  • It is an important organizational aid for the author. Think of this as a roadmap, and the first draft of a table of contents can help you organize (and even reflect) your thoughts.
  • It facilitates discussion of a document. A table of contents can indicate the quality of the document. Your teacher or reading assistant can see at a glance from the table of contents whether the material is worth reading.
  • It gives you a learning path. A table of contents is a neat series of steps. Take them from a textbook to help understand the learning path in any subject.

How to Create Table of Contents in Word in General

Here is how to create a table of contents in Microsoft Word:

1. Format your document with heading styles, and select every chapter in your document and apply heading styles to them. Here you mark the section headings so that Word can recognize them.

Go to the ribbon> Home> Styles. Select text and apply titles to all of the text you want to include in the table of contents.

How to create table of contents in Word
Image Source Microsoft

You can create a hierarchy in the main chapters using heading styles. For example, use Heading 1 for new sections or chapters. Heading 2 for subsections of the section and Heading 3 for smaller units or topics.

Word searches the document for text formatted as Heading 1, 2, or 3 and uses it to create the table of contents format.

How to create table of contents in Word
Image Source: Microsoft

Get the table of contents placed on the page. Place your cursor where you want the table of contents to appear in your document. It’s usually somewhere at the beginning of the document.

Click the Table of Contents command. Go to Ribbon> References> Table of Contents. Choose one of the two available automatic types. The difference between them is the title “Contents” or “Table of Contents” at the top.

How to create table of contents in Word
Image Source: Microsoft

The table of contents is automatically inserted. Word document scans the document automatically and uses the heading styles to order the sections and subsections and their page numbers. This is a basic table of contents that you can use to keep working and make it more stylish.

How to create table of contents in Word
Image Source: Microsoft

A table of contents in Word can be updated at any point in time that was created automatically. Update the table if you change heading styles, rearrange the contents, or edit the text. Also, update it whenever you make any content changes that affect the page numbers.

How to Update Table of Contents

To update an automatically created table of contents, click References> Update Table.

How to create table of contents in Word
Image Source: Microsoft
  • Select the Update Page Numbers Only option or Update Entire Table if you want to update the page numbers and text.
How to create table of contents in Word
Image Source: Microsoft
  • Manually create a table of contents. If the automatic method is so simple, why should you have to do it manually? There can be two reasons:
  • The document does not contain any styles that Word can recognize.
  • The document is too diverse and makes the automatic table of contents difficult.
  • To get a manual table created, go to References> Table of Contents> click the drop-down menu to reveal the Manual Table option.

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About the Author: Gadgetswright Staff

Bassey Chimezirim James is an ardent writer who has written for top education and tech websites, which includes the likes of World Scholarship Forum, After School Africa, Gadget Wrights etc. He is a motivational speaker, and the them for the project.

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