The Easiest Way to Create a Table of Contents in Microsoft Word

Hannah Tow
Hannah Tow  |  June 7, 2019

Everyone needs a little guidance and direction in life.

And yes, that even refers to the impressively detailed but ridiculously lengthy report you just placed on your boss’ desk.

A table of contents is key in this situation, as it will allow your boss to easily navigate and succinctly consume the information you’re sharing.

This tool is the map that helps your readers navigate through lengthy content hassle-free and even establishes a more professional and polished look that will ultimately enhance your document.

How to create a table of contents in Microsoft Word

If you’re looking to implement a table of contents into your next piece of work that can be easily updated as you make document edits, then keep reading.

Step 1: Add heading styles

Confirm that you are in the Home tab, then select the text you want to have in your table of contents and change the style from Normal to Heading 1.

Home Tab Word

Style Tab on Word

Use Heading 2 and Heading 3 as needed. These headings will be indented in your table of contents under the Heading 1 above it.

Step 2: Choose where to insert

Place your cursor where you want your table of contents to be inserted into your document and click.

TIP: Word will use the text that you changed to Heading 1 (2 or 3) to create your table of contents. If you need to change the copy of your headings at any time during editing, Word will automatically update the table of contents to reflect the change.

Step 3: Assemble the table of contents

Click References, then Table of Contents. 

References in Word

In the drop-down menu that appears, you will notice a variety of styles to choose from.

ToC Options

To make this process as simple as possible, choose any Automatic Table of Contents option from the list. This choice will pull your headings automatically into the table of contents.

If you choose a Manual option, your headings won’t be used or updated as you edit, and you will have to manually enter your text into the table of contents.

TOC EXAMPLES

Since you chose Automatic Table of Contents, you will see your table of contents automatically populate where you first placed your cursor.

FINAL TOC

That's it! All it takes is three easy steps to create a table of contents in Word. 

Tip: Microsoft has provided in-depth tutorials on everything you need to know about layouts, formatting, and customizing your table of contents if you are looking for additional help. Find them by clicking on HELP in the upper toolbar then search for ‘table of contents’.

ToC like a pro

Now that you’ve learned how easy it is to create a table of contents in Microsoft Word, make sure you aren’t overdoing it. A table of contents is not necessary for every piece of work and shouldn't be used in smaller form documents. A good rule of thumb is if the document has a cover page, spans a variety of topics, or has more than ten pages, then a table of contents is needed and can be used as a great enhancement to your work.

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Hannah Tow
Author

Hannah Tow

Hannah is a Content Marketing Associate at G2 Crowd. Raised in the Chicagoland area her entire life, she graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Journalism. In her free time, Hannah enjoys running with her dog, Teddy, traveling to new and exciting places, and capturing the beautiful places she travels to with her DSLR.