Software

Replace automated numbers in Word with plain text

Replace lists with automatically generated numbers in Word with plain text to avoid renumbering and other errors.

Word's Numbering feature automates numbering. You turn it on, enter your list items, and Word numbers each item for you. It's extremely useful; I use it every day. You'll find this feature on the Home tab in the Paragraph group. In Word 2003, Numbering is on the Formatting toolbar.

Most of us use this feature successfully, but trouble can creep in when converting documents, adding previously numbered lists from other documents, and so on. Most often, numbered lists renumber themselves, continuing the numbering from a preceding list that you insert. This can be frustrating and even embarrassing if you don't catch the error before distributing the document.

Once automated numbering has done its job, considering converting the numbers to plain text as follows:

  1. Select the numbered list and press [Ctrl]+X to cut the list and copy it to the Clipboard.
  2. From the Paste dropdown in the Clipboard group on the Home tab, choose Paste Special.
  3. In the resulting dialog list, select Unformatted Text and click OK.

Word will copy the numbered list, replacing the auto-generated numbers with plain text. You'll never have to worry about a numbered list again. On the other hand, you won't be able to insert or delete items anymore, so be sure not to convert a numbered list until you know it's complete.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

5 comments
ppg
ppg

I am using Excel 2007 and just select the region and click on the standard page numbering button in the Ribbon. It seems to require the list to be numbered using a standard format i.e. number(period or bracket)(space or tab)text. If you have several lists in the document they can use different formats but you can not mix formats in a list. As an example if you use the technique you suggest to get a list with hard coded numbers you can use this technique to turn them back to a list.

Parazanda
Parazanda

I use this method of Paste Special whenever I copy a numbered list from a website or other document and need to ditch the formatting (especially the HTML). I WANT to retain the auto-numbering though. So, one fix that works for me is to use my ALT key and select just the block of numbers, delete them and then reselect the paragraphs and turn on the auto-numbering.

ppg
ppg

While this solution might be useful in some situations you need to note that if you used any formatiing in the lists .e.g. bold, different fonts subscripts etc. the formatting will also be lost. In most cases I find it easier just to highlight the entire list and click on the Page Numbering button once or twice. Word can ususally figure out that you intend a list of lines with hard coded numbers at the beginning to be a numbered list. The first click will convert the hard coded numbers to a numbered list and the second click will ensure they are sequential. You can even skip over sections you do not want to number.

ppg
ppg

this comment was supposed to be a reply to Susan

ssharkins
ssharkins

I've had others mention this, but I've never gotten it to work myself. I've tried because it certainly would be more efficient than having to reformat, if necessary. Are you doing anything other than clicking? I've tried slow clicks, fast clicks... but it's never worked.