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How to Master Multilevel Paragraph Numbering in Microsoft Word for Mac

By Danielle DavisRoe

Tips for setting up multilevel paragraph numbering in long, complex Microsoft Word documents, for lawyers and legal professionals.

multilevel paragraph numbering

Figuring out basic numbered lists can trip up the ablest Microsoft Word user. But lawyers and legal professionals — and the business professional on the team — operate at a whole different level of pain: long, complicated legal documents often require multilevel paragraph numbering (with stops and starts). These tips, adapted from Affinity Consulting Group’s updated “Microsoft Word for Mac for Legal Professionals” software guide, will take some stress out of setting up complex numbering schemes. Although these tips are for Word for Mac 2019 and Office 365, they apply to the Windows versions of Word as well, with minor menu and keyboard adjustments.

First, the basics.

How Multilevel Paragraph Numbering Works

Word allows you to set up automatic paragraph numbering schemes up to nine levels deep, using the Multilevel Lists dialog box.

Use Multilevel Paragraph Numbering (Not the Numbering Button) 

Beware that the Bullets button and the Numbering button found in the paragraph section on the ribbon menus only allow a single level of bullets or paragraph numbers. Therefore, if you start with either one and later determine that you need a sublevel, you’ll need to start over with a multilevel numbering scheme. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you use the Multilevel List button exclusively for numbering or bullets of any kind.

multilevel paragraph numbering

Multilevel lists can handle any kind of bullet point, and since there are nine available levels, it’s never a problem to add another level (unless you need 10 or more levels).  

How to Set Up a Multilevel Paragraph Numbering Scheme 

You can set up your numbering scheme either before or after you type the paragraphs.

To set it up: 

  1. On the Home ribbon, click the arrow adjacent to the Multilevel List button (located on the ribbon next to the Numbering button).
  2. Choose Define New Multilevel List to open the Customize Outline Numbered list dialog. 
  • In the top left-hand corner under Level, select the level of list to modify. 
multilevel paragraph numbering
  • Choose a number style or bullet point style under Number style for this level. Do not type a number under Enter formatting for this number — doing that will result in every paragraph being numbered with the same number. 
  • Only click the Font button if you want the font for the paragraph number to be different from the font in the rest of the paragraph or list textThis button is rarely used.
  • You typically want to set the Number Position alignment to Left (even if you’re centering an article number).  

As shown in the figure below, Aligned at means how far away from the left margin you want your number to appear. Text Position or Indent means how far from the left margin you want the text following the number to appear.

Word Mac Figure

You do not need to configure all nine levels available in the menu if you are not going to use all of them. Just configure the levels you need. 

Changing Outline Levels

If you want to change the level of the next paragraph to a sublevel (level 2 rather than level 1), you can use any of the following methods: 

  • You can promote or demote a paragraph by clicking the Increase Indent or Decrease Indent buttons on the Home ribbon. 
  • If your cursor is at the beginning of a paragraph you can demote it by hitting the Tab key on your keyboard. Promote by hitting Shift+Tab. 
  • If you Command+Click in the paragraph (right-click in Windows), you can promote it by choosing Increase Indent or demote it by choosing Decrease Indent. 

Adding Spacing Between Numbered Paragraphs

To add spacing between the numbered paragraphs or numbered lists, select all of the paragraphs you’ve typed, and open the Paragraph menu (Command+Option+M), or click on the Paragraph and Line Spacing icon, located in the second row of the Paragraph section of the Home ribbon.

For a full line of white space, add 12 pt After and uncheck “Dont add space between paragraphs of the same style.” Then click OK. 

multilevel paragraph numbering

Restarting Numbering at 1 

Press Control+Command (right-click in Windows) on the paragraph you want to start over again at 1 and select Restart Numbering. 

Making Changes to Your Numbering Scheme 

To make changes to the numbering schedule, press Control+Command (right-click in Windows) in any numbered paragraph and choose Bullets and Numbering. In the dialog that pops up, click on the Customize buttonYou can then make any desired changes to the list. 

Turning Off Numbering 

There are two ways to stop automatically numbering paragraphs. Either hit the Delete key twice or click on the Numbering button once. 

In addition to “Microsoft Word for Mac for Legal Professionals” Affinity Consulting has developed electronic guides specifically for legal professionals on topics such as the Windows versions of Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Adobe Acrobat and more. Individual and group licenses are available in the Attorney at Work Shop here.

About Affinity Consulting Group

Affinity Consulting Group inspires, enables, and empowers legal teams of all sizes to work smarter, from anywhere. The company’s holistic approach incorporates people, processes, and technology. Affinity’s passionate, well-connected industry experts work hand in hand with you to help you better understand and optimize your business — from software to growth strategy and everything in between.

Illustration ©

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“Microsoft Word for Legal Professionals (Windows and Office 365)”

“Five Easy Steps to Redact Sensitive Information in Adobe Acrobat Professional”

“How to Master Page Numbering in Microsoft Word”

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Danielle Danielle DavisRoe

Danielle DavisRoe is a senior consultant with Affinity Consulting Group (@affinitylegal). Whether it’s teaching clients a new skill through training, speaking at CLE events, or management consulting, Danielle is 100% focused on making the lives of her clients better. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and a Juris Doctorate from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

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