Format a table of contents

When you add a table of contents in Word, you can customize the way it appears. For example, you can select how many heading levels to show and whether to show dotted lines between the entries and the page numbers.

You can also change the text formatting of your table of contents, and it will keep that formatting no matter how many times you update your table of contents.

Note: If you're using Word 2016 for Mac, see Format or customize a table of contents in Word 2016 for Mac

Change the layout of your table of contents

  1. On the References tab of the Ribbon click Table of Contents > Custom Table of Contents.

    Custom Table of Contents
  2. Make your changes in the Table of Contents dialog box. You’ll see what they look like in the Print Preview and Web Preview areas.

    • To add a dot leader, or dotted line, between each entry and its page number, click the Tab leader list and then click the dotted line. You can also choose a dash leader or remove the leader entirely and just have a blank space.

      Change the tab leader in your table of contents to dashes or dots.
    • To change the overall appearance of your table of contents, click the Formats list, and then click the format that you want.

    • To change the number of levels displayed in your table of contents, click Show levels, and then click the number of levels you want.

    Table of Contents dialog box

    Tip: "Levels" in this context refers to your heading levels. You may have Heading 1 for your major headings then Heading 2 for your subsections of those headings. You can have even more sub-levels within those that in your table of contents if you choose.

  3. Click OK.

Format the text in your table of contents

To change how the text in your table of contents looks, change the style for each level in the table of contents.

  1. On the References tab of the Ribbon click Table of Contents > Custom Table of Contents.

  2. In the Table of Contents dialog box, click Modify. If the Modify button is grayed out, change Formats to From template.

    Use the Table of Contents dialog box to customize the appearance of your table of contents.
  3. In the Styles list, click the level that you want to change and then click Modify.

    The Modify Style dialog lets you update how the text in your table of contents will look.
  4. In the Modify Style dialog box, make the formatting changes that you want, and then click OK.

  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for all the levels that you want to display in your table of contents.

Word will remember these customizations each time you update the table of contents in this document.

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Insert a custom table of contents

If your document already includes a table of contents, this procedure will replace it with your customizations.

  1. On the References tab, in the Table of Contents group, click Table of Contents, and then click Insert Table of Contents.

    Insert Table of Contents

    The Table of Contents dialog box opens.

    Table of Contents dialog box

  2. Do any of the following:

    • To add a dot leader, or dotted line, between each entry and its page number, click the Tab leader list and then click the dotted line.

      You can also choose a dash leader.

    • To change the overall appearance of your table of contents, click the Formats list, and then click the format that you want.

      You can see what the different formats will look like in the Print Preview box.

    • To change the number of levels that are displayed in your table of contents, click Show levels, and then click the number of levels that you want to show.

Insert a custom table of contents

If your document already includes a table of contents, this procedure will replace it with your customizations.

  1. On the References tab, in the Table of Contents group, click Table of Contents, and then click Insert Table of Contents.

    Insert Table of Contents

    The Table of Contents dialog box opens.

    Table of Contents dialog box

  2. Do any of the following:

    • To add a dot leader, or dotted line, between each entry and its page number, click the Tab leader list and then click the dotted line.

      You can also choose a dash leader.

    • To change the overall appearance of your table of contents, click the Formats list, and then click the format that you want.

      You can see what the different formats will look like in the Print Preview box.

    • To change the number of levels that are displayed in your table of contents, click Show levels, and then click the number of levels that you want to show.

Format the text in your table of contents

To change the formatting of the table of contents that Word generates, you need to change the style for each level in the table of contents. This is separate from the styles that you applied to the headings in your document.

After you make the changes you want to the style, Word uses that style each time it updates the table of contents.

  1. On the References tab, in the Table of Contents group, click Table of Contents, and then click Insert Table of Contents.

  2. In the Table of Contents dialog box, click Modify.

    Table of Contents dialog box

  3. In the Styles list, click the level that you want to change, and then click Modify.

    Modify button

  4. In the Modify Style dialog box, make the formatting changes that you want, and then click OK.

  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for all the levels that you want to display in your table of contents.

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