Software

Word: How to format just the numbers in a numbered list

Formatting a list is easy. Formatting just the numbers is more difficult, unless you know this quick trick!

It's easy to create a bullet or numbered list, but not so easy to format just the number for one item in that list. What usually happens is you end up formatting the entire item, or the entire list. Fortunately, there's a simple trick that works great: select the item's end-of-paragraph marker and apply the format - not exactly intuitive is it?

To illustrate this simple, but odd, trick, let's change the color of a couple of numbers in a simple list, as follows:

  1. On the Home tab, click Show/Hide in the Paragraph group. In Word 2003, click Show/Hide on the Formatting toolbar.
  2. Select only the Paragraph mark at the end of the line whose number you want to format. For instance, select the paragraph mark at the end of #6.
  3. With the paragraph mark selected, apply the format. For instance, apply red Font Color.

To format more than one number, but not all of them, hold down the [Ctrl] key while you select markers. Then, apply the format as you normally would. Formats applied to the entire list will take precedence over formats applied via the end-of-paragraph marker.

To format all of the numbers in the list, without changing the format of the actual text, click any number in the list to highlight all of the numbers and then format as you normally would. Word will extend the format to new items.

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.

11 comments
pflores
pflores

Once I started the list and then followed your directions, it worked; cool! But when I formatted all of the numbers by clicking any number and changed the text, and then trying to make one red with the paragraph marker, it did not work. Any suggestions?

Marshwiggle
Marshwiggle

... in Word 2K. One of these days I'll have to upgrade to Office XP (2002). By the bye, you can keep your hands on the keyboard and toggle Show/Hide markers w/ [Crtl]+[Shift]+[8].

GregGold
GregGold

This has made me nuts since having to convert from WP years ago...

sheila
sheila

Right-click on the numbers and left-click Font in the short-cut menu. Select Font, choose the Underline style and click OK. Sheila Marks

ktangey
ktangey

Have you found a way to apply underline format to just the number? MS changed this functionality a few versions ago and I haven't worked out how to get around it. I can apply any font format except underline to the paragraph numbers and it is driving me mad!

Ryk
Ryk

I consider myself a Word expert, but this is one that's continued to trip me up through the years. Thanks for clarifying that!!

hometoy
hometoy

Whenever I am working with number and bullet lists, I have a devil of a time trying to format the! Now I know I have been looking at the wrong side of the sentence! Thanks for the tip.

ktangey
ktangey

Unfortunately that underlines the numbers in all of the paragraphs with the same numbering style. I need to be able to underline the number in selected paragraph(s) without affecting the others with the same style. You can do this for all font characteristics except underline - eg bold, italic, colour, etc will all work but not underline.

nicefred60
nicefred60

once numbers are highlighted by clicking on one of them - click the underline icon. That works for me in Word 2007 - even if i can't change the font of individual numbers

ssharkins
ssharkins

Unfortunately, I don't know of any way -- it's one of those mysteries... maybe a reader will have the answer for both of us!

ssharkins
ssharkins

I thought you were asking how to underline a single number -- it's the one format I can't get to stick using the paragraph marker.

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