3 ways to add glossary terms to a Microsoft Word 2016 document

Microsoft Word offers no built-in feature for creating a glossary, but don't let that stop you from defining terms in a Word document. Just use one of the three methods below.

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A glossary is an alphabetical list of terms and their definitions found in documentation relating to a specific subject. They usually occur after the body of the document—at the end of a single document or at the end of several chapters. Considering a glossary's popularity, it's odd that there's no built-in feature for automatically generating one. You could enter one manually, but that's inefficient and unnecessary.

In this article, I'll show you three easy ways to define words at the source, rather than creating a traditional glossary:

  • Use a hyperlinked bookmark to display a ScreenTip.
  • Use a simple ScreenTip (without a bookmark).
  • Use an Endnote.

I'm using Office 365's desktop version of Microsoft Word 2016, but all three methods will work in earlier versions. You can't insert a ScreenTip in the browser; you can insert an EndNote. The browser edition won't display existing ScreenTips or Endnotes. You can work with your own document or download the demonstration .docx and .doc files.

1. ScreenTip with bookmark

Just because most glossaries appear at the end of the document, doesn't mean they must. In fact, if users read the document on screen, they probably won't want to bounce back and forth between the text they're reading and a glossary at the end of the document (I wouldn't). Perhaps the quickest solution is to add ScreenTips.

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If you're not familiar with Microsoft Word ScreenTips, they're small windows of information that pop up automatically when you move the cursor over hyperlinked text. Fortunately, they're easy to create: You create a bookmark for the text and connect a link that contains the definition to the bookmarked text.

The first step is to bookmark the text as follows:

  1. You can add a ScreenTip to a word, phrase, image, and most objects. Select the appropriate text. In this case, select Video in the example document shown in Figure A.
  2. Click the Insert tab, and then click Bookmark in the Links group.
  3. In the resulting dialog, enter a name, such as BMGlossaryVideo (Figure B), and click Add. Names must start with a letter and can't contain spaces, but they can contain numbers.

Figure A

Select the text.

Figure B

Name the bookmark.

The second step is to link the ScreenTip to the bookmark:

  1. With the text still selected (select it again if necessary), choose Select Link from the bottom of the Link dropdown (also in the Links group).
  2. The selected word is displayed in the Text to display field. Click ScreenTip to the right.
  3. In the resulting dialog, enter the definition—The recording, reproducing, or broadcasting of moving visual images—and click OK (Figure C).
  4. Click Place in This Document to view the bookmarks.
  5. Select BMGlossaryVideo (Figure D) and click OK.

Figure C

Enter the term's definition.

Figure D

Connect the bookmark to the link.

To review the definition of Video, simply move the cursor over the hyperlinked term, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

The ScreenTip displays the definition.

2. ScreenTip without a bookmark

Technically, you don't need to bookmark the text to add a ScreenTip, but bookmarks are useful in other ways. Depending on the complexity of your document, you might find bookmarked glossary terms helpful. If not, you can delete that step, and add the ScreenTip definition as follows:

  1. Select the appropriate text; this time select Professional.
  2. Click the Insert tab, and then click Link in the Links group.
  3. From the dropdown list, select Insert Link.
  4. In the resulting dialog, click ScreenTip.
  5. Enter the definition—A person engaged or qualified in a profession—in the resulting dialog and click OK (Figure F).
  6. You must enter something in the Address control; it won't show, so enter NA, and click OK.

Figure F

Enter a definition.

The lack of a bookmark has one disadvantage. If a user clicks what appears to be a hyperlink, Microsoft Word will return an error message. That doesn't happen with the bookmark technique because the bookmarked word is the hyperlink. Everything's working as it should.

3. Use an endnote

One of the disadvantages of the ScreenTip feature is that it's only available with links. As shown in the first two methods, you can work around the actual link, but I don't know how to get rid of the Click + Click to follow link text in the ScreenTip window. It can be a bit confusing for the reader. By adding an endnote, you can display a definition with its term that displays only the definition—no follow the link text. To illustrate this method select Themes and Styles and do the following:

  1. Click the References tab and click Insert Endnote in the Footnotes group.
  2. Word will insert the footnote at the bottom of the page. Enter the definition (Figure G).
  3. When you hover over the term in the document, Microsoft Word will display the endnote text in a small window.

Figure G

Enter the definition.

The disadvantages are obvious: The term has an endnote number, and there's an endnote (or list of endnotes) at the end of the document.

Managing ScreenTips

If you don't see the ScreenTip, you probably need to enable the option. To do so, click the File tab, click Options in the left pane, and then choose General in the left pane. Then, in the User interface options section, choose the appropriate option:

  • Show feature descriptions in ScreenTips
  • Don't show feature descriptions in ScreenTips. (This turns off enhanced ScreenTips, which we won't cover in this article.)
  • Don't show ScreenTips.

When you link something, Word automatically applies the Hyperlink style. Depending on the document's formality, you might not want linked terms in a blue, underlined font. You can modify that style, but remember, readers will lose that visual clue that there's something more available. They might find the ScreenTip by accident, but unless they know to look for defined terms, they might not realize the definitions are so easily accessible. In addition, changing the style removes the formatting from all links, not only ScreenTip links. There are many reasons not to remove the formatting, but you have that choice.

To remove the formatting from your document, open the Styles pane by clicking the dialog launcher for the Styles group. Find the Hyperlink style in the list, and hover over it to display the style's dropdown list. From that list, choose Modify. The resulting dialog shows the current formatting. Click the Underline icon to remove the underline, choose Automatic from the Font Color dropdown, and click OK. You can undo this change by clicking Ctrl+z if you do so immediately.

Stay tuned

The three tips in this article don't include a traditional glossary of terms at the end of the document. In a subsequent article, I'll show you how to create a traditional glossary.

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See also

About Susan Harkins

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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