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.


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.

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