10 Steps Guide to MS Word TOC Formatting (Microsoft Word Table of Contents)


MS Word TOC Formatting is one of the most important topics when you need to create a well-formed document that can be used seamlessly. TOC provides an easy and clear way to navigate through the document. It provides a linked tree at the place of insertion from where a reader can choose a topic of their interest and reach the topic location with a simple click. Creating a well-formatted Table of Contents (TOC) in Microsoft Word is crucial for organizing and navigating through lengthy documents. A properly structured TOC enhances the document’s professionalism and readability. This guide will walk you through the process of MS Word TOC formatting through step-by-step instructions and best practices.

MS Word TOC Formatting
MS Word TOC Formatting

1. Inserting a Table of Contents


  • Open the document where you need to apply MS Word TOC formatting.
  • Place the cursor where you want the TOC.
  • Navigate to the ‘References’ tab in the Word ribbon.
  • Click on ‘Table of Contents’ in the toolbar.
  • Choose a style or format for your TOC from the available options.

Inserting a Table of Contents is the initial step. Once the table is inserted, we can discuss the topic of MS Word TOC Formatting. The ‘References’ tab provides the tools to generate a TOC. Placing the cursor at the desired location in your document ensures that the TOC appears in the correct section. Choosing a style determines the layout and appearance of the TOC.

2. MS Word TOC Formatting Styles


  • To modify the TOC appearance, go to the ‘References’ tab.
  • Click on ‘Table of Contents’ and select ‘Custom Table of Contents.’
  • In the dialog box, customize formatting, font, and indentation.
  • Press ‘OK’ to apply the changes.

Customizing the TOC styles allows you to control its visual presentation. The ‘Custom Table of Contents’ dialog box provides options to adjust font, formatting, and indentation. These settings ensure that the TOC aligns with the overall design of your document.

3. Updating the Table of Contents


  • Whenever changes are made, right-click on the TOC.
  • Choose ‘Update Field.’
  • Select ‘Update page numbers only’ or ‘Update entire table’ as needed.

Updating the TOC is crucial after any structural changes in the document. Right-clicking on the TOC and selecting the appropriate update option ensures that the page numbers and links accurately reflect the document’s current state.

4. Adjusting TOC Heading Levels


  • Click on the TOC.
  • Go to the ‘References’ tab and choose ‘Custom Table of Contents.’
  • Adjust the ‘Show levels’ value to include the desired heading levels.

Controlling the heading levels included in the TOC helps in tailoring the TOC’s depth. The ‘Show levels’ option lets you decide which heading levels (e.g., Heading 1, Heading 2) should be displayed in the TOC.

5. Formatting Individual TOC Entries


  • Select the specific TOC entry.
  • Apply formatting changes such as bold, italics, or font size.

You can customize the appearance of individual TOC entries. This allows you to highlight specific sections or make certain entries stand out by applying different formatting, such as making them bold or italicized.

6. Removing Page Numbers from TOC


  • Click on the TOC.
  • Navigate to the ‘References’ tab.
  • Click on ‘Table of Contents’ and select ‘Remove Page Numbers.’

If you want a TOC without page numbers, this option lets you remove them. This is useful when the TOC is purely for navigation purposes and doesn’t require associated page references.

7. Creating Multiple TOCs in a Document


  • Use bookmarks to mark locations for multiple TOCs.
  • Insert bookmarks where you want TOCs.
  • Create separate TOCs using the ‘Table of Contents’ option under ‘References.’

For documents with distinct sections, creating multiple TOCs becomes essential. Bookmarks help mark the locations, and the ‘Table of Contents’ option under ‘References’ allows you to generate separate TOCs for each section.

8. Customizing TOC Styles Using Styles Pane


  • Open the ‘Styles Pane’ by pressing ‘Ctrl + Alt + Shift + S.’
  • Locate and modify TOC styles (TOC 1, TOC 2, etc.) for consistent formatting.

The ‘Styles Pane’ provides an organized way to manage styles. By modifying TOC styles, you can ensure a consistent look throughout the document. This is particularly helpful when dealing with large documents with various sections.


  • Ensure headings in the document are formatted with ‘Heading’ styles.
  • Hyperlinks in the TOC will be automatically generated.

For easy navigation, ensure that headings in your document use the built-in ‘Heading’ styles. Microsoft Word will automatically generate hyperlinks in the TOC, making it easier for readers to jump to specific sections.

10. Troubleshooting TOC Issues


  • If the TOC doesn’t update correctly, check the document structure.
  • Ensure headings have the correct styles applied.
  • Manually update the TOC by right-clicking and selecting ‘Update Field.’

Troubleshooting is essential when issues arise. If the TOC isn’t updating correctly, inspect the document structure and ensure that headings have the correct styles. Manually updating the TOC helps address any discrepancies and ensures accurate navigation.

Compatible Versions for MS Word TOC Formatting

This comprehensive guide on MS Word TOC formatting applies to various versions of Microsoft Word, including but not limited to Microsoft Word 2010, Word 2013, Word 2016, Word 2019, and Microsoft 365 (the cloud-based subscription service). The functionalities and features discussed are fundamental and have been consistent across these versions, ensuring that users across different Word versions can confidently follow the instructions outlined in this guide. However, it’s advisable to check for any version-specific updates or changes in the user interface, as Microsoft may introduce new features or alter existing ones with subsequent releases.

MS Word TOC Formatting FAQs

  1. What is MS Word TOC formatting, and why is it important?
  • MS Word TOC formatting refers to the structured presentation of a Table of Contents within Microsoft Word documents. This process is essential for organizing and enhancing the overall readability of lengthy documents, making it easier for readers to navigate and locate specific sections.
  1. How do I insert an MS Word TOC using the Ribbon?
  • To seamlessly insert an MS Word TOC, access the ‘References’ tab within the Ribbon. Subsequently, click on the ‘Table of Contents’ option, and choose from the available styles. This straightforward process ensures a quick and efficient integration of a TOC into your document.
  1. Can I customize the appearance of the MS Word TOC?
  • Absolutely! Utilize the ‘Custom Table of Contents’ option found under the ‘References’ tab to unlock a plethora of customization possibilities. Adjust formatting, fonts, and indentation to tailor the TOC’s appearance, ensuring it aligns with the document’s overall style.
  1. Why is updating the MS Word TOC necessary?
  • Regularly updating the MS Word TOC is vital to reflect any changes made to the document’s structure. By right-clicking on the TOC, selecting ‘Update Field,’ and choosing between ‘Update entire table’ or ‘Update page numbers only,’ you ensure accurate and up-to-date page references.
  1. How can I adjust the heading levels in the MS Word TOC?
  • Tailoring the heading levels included in the MS Word TOC is simple. Click on the TOC, navigate to the ‘References’ tab, choose ‘Custom Table of Contents,’ and fine-tune the ‘Show levels’ option. This flexibility allows you to control the depth of your TOC.
  1. Is it possible to format individual entries in the MS Word TOC differently?
  • Certainly! Customize the appearance of specific TOC entries by selecting the entry and applying formatting changes such as bold, italics, or adjusting the font size. This feature allows you to emphasize key sections within the TOC.
  1. Can I create multiple MS Word TOCs within a single document?
  • Yes, creating multiple TOCs within a single MS Word document is achievable through the use of bookmarks. By inserting bookmarks at specific locations and subsequently employing the ‘Table of Contents’ option under ‘References,’ you can generate separate TOCs for different sections of your document.
  1. How do I customize TOC styles using the Styles Pane in MS Word?
  • Delve into advanced customization by accessing the ‘Styles Pane’ with the shortcut ‘Ctrl + Alt + Shift + S.’ Locate TOC styles (e.g., TOC 1, TOC 2) and modify them to ensure a cohesive and consistent formatting style across your entire document.
  1. Why is hyperlinking important in the MS Word TOC?
  • Hyperlinking within the MS Word TOC streamlines document navigation. By ensuring that document headings are appropriately formatted with ‘Heading’ styles, hyperlinks are automatically generated, allowing readers to effortlessly navigate through your document.
  1. What should I do if I encounter issues with my MS Word TOC update?
    • If you experience challenges with MS Word TOC updating, perform a thorough check of your document’s structure. Confirm that headings have the correct styles applied, and if issues persist, manually update the TOC by right-clicking and selecting ‘Update Field.’ This proactive approach ensures accurate and reliable TOC functionality.
MS Word TOC Formatting
MS Word TOC Formatting


The topic of MS Word TOC formatting is often neglected and people begin their write-up from the first page. This practice leaves a reader confused and they must work hard or use find and replace to search for a topic of interest. By following these detailed instructions and best practices, you can master the art of formatting a Table of Contents in Microsoft Word. These steps empower you to create professional, well-organized documents that enhance readability and user experience.

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