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Whether you create your own Microsoft Word document or you inherit one, you might want to add dynamic content to headings. For instance, you might want to preface chapter titles with the string “Chapter x,” where x represents the actual chapter number. The easiest route is to modify the heading style in place by adding a numbering scheme.

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to modify Word’s built-in Heading 1 style so that it adds the text “Content” and the chapter number to each chapter title. You can use the style with existing content or as you add new content.

I’m using Microsoft 365 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can use earlier versions. You can’t modify styles in Word for the web and the browser version doesn’t support all of the number formats. For your convenience, you can download the demonstration .docx and .doc files.

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How to define the style requirement in Microsoft Word

I’ve heard it said that a Word document is never done. That happens to all of us — when you think it’s done, you get a request for a change. A good example is adding content to a chapter or section heading. For instance, Figure A shows the first chapter title of four with Heading 1 applied. How would you add “Content x” to each chapter title?

Figure A

There’s no way to know that the headings represent chapters.

The easiest way to make this change is to add a single-level numbering scheme to the built-in heading style used for the chapter titles. The demonstration Word file has four chapters. Each chapter title has Heading 1 applied. With only four titles, you could manually make the change, but those titles wouldn’t be dynamic. If you delete a chapter or move it, the titles won’t update to reflect their new chapter positions.

The chapter headings are already styled with Heading 1. If you don’t plan to use it for any other content, it’s easy to modify Heading 1. Not only can you add the chapter numbering scheme, but you can also change the style’s formatting. We won’t do so, but you might want to when working with your own Word documents.

Heading 1 seems like a reasonable choice to put aside for only chapter titles. After making this decision, you need to modify Heading 1 as follows:

  1. In the Styles gallery, in the Styles group on the Home tab, right-click Heading 1 and choose Modify.
  2. Click the Format button in the bottom-left of the resulting dialog.
  3. In the resulting list, select Numbering.
  4. In the resulting dialog, click Define New Number Format.
  5. From the Number Style dropdown, choose One, Two, Three. You can also use digits, but I wanted you to see this alternative.
  6. The Number Format control displays One. Position the cursor before One and enter Chapter.
  7. Position the cursor after One and enter a colon (Figure B).
  8. Click OK three times to return to the document.

Figure B

Define the number style.

Figure C

The modified style works almost as expected.

As you can see in Figure C, the modified style works, but the chapter titles are no longer left-aligned, which we don’t want. It’s a product of the new numbering scheme.

How to remove the indent in the chapter title style in Word

The Heading 1 style didn’t indent the chapter titles. The indent came along with the numbering scheme. Fortunately, we can delete it as follows:

  1. In the Styles gallery, right-click Heading 1 and choose Modify.
  2. Click the Format button in the bottom-left of the resulting dialog.
  3. In the resulting list, select Paragraph.
  4. In the resulting dialog, change the Left indent setting to 0 (Figure D).
  5. Click OK twice.

Figure D

Set the left indent to 0.

Figure E

Now there’s too much space between the two text elements.

As you can see in Figure E, we were successful in fixing the left indent but now there’s too much space between the chapter and the actual title. At this point, you might want to enable Show/Hide in the Paragraph group to display formatting symbols.

Figure F

A tab is the problem.

As you can see in Figure F, there’s a tab between Chapter One and the chapter title. This is a list default, and not part of the original Heading 1 style. For this reason, we’ll take a different route to fix this issue.

To remove the space, do the following:

  1. Select only Chapter One: in the first heading.
  2. Right-click the selection and choose Adjust List Indents from the resulting submenu.
  3. In the resulting dialog, change the default setting of Tab in the Follow Number With dropdown to Space (Figure G).
  4. Click OK.

Figure G

Replace the tab between the two text elements with a single space.

Figure H

Now there’s only a space between the two text elements.

As you can see in Figure H, all chapter titles now have only a space following the colon. The titles look good now, so we can stop making changes.

It may seem like we worked too hard to add “Chapter x” to the chapter titles, but there are benefits:

  • Every new chapter title will look exactly like the others.
  • The chapter numbers will update automatically as you add, delete and even rearrange chapters.
  • If you decide to modify the chapter titles, you can update the Heading 1 style to update them all automatically.

This is a demonstration of how flexible this route is. We took the easy route by redefining an existing heading, but you could create a custom list style instead.