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On Microsoft Word Styles: How to Generate a Table of Contents

This week we’ve been talking about styles in Microsoft Word, and I’ve been promising for two days that setting up your styles would pay off when you got to make a Table of Contents.

I won’t make you wait any longer. That wouldn’t be fair. Also…well, this is going to be a little involved, and I’m only allowed to write 600-800 words, so we’d better dive right in! Let’s make a TOC.

Cheating Creating a Table of Contents

As I said yesterday, to get all the benefits of Word’s automation, you’ve got to already have a document filled with hierarchy styles. Lucky for us, I do — the same one I’ve been working with all week.

There’s still some prep work to do, though (there always is). If you’ll bear with me, I’ll go through all the necessary steps.

First, open the styled document, and go to the spot you’d like to add a Table of Contents. In my case, I want to put it right after the document title, but before the Prologue, so I added an extra line.

Second, you’ve got to set up a special Table of Contents heading style that looks just like Heading 3, but isn’t. (That’s because you don’t want “Table of Contents……1” to be the first entry in your Table of Contents.)

Third, insert a field. It depends (again) which version of Word you’re using, but you either go through the menus Insert | Field or switch to the Insert ribbon and click Quick Parts | Field. The Insert Field dialog should appear.

Fourth — and this is where it starts to get complicated, so stick with me —  scroll through the list of field names on the left, find “TOC” (for “Table of Contents”), click it to select it, and then click OK.

Try it Out (Technical Writing Exercise)

You might have to read through those instructions a time or two to fully grasp all the nuances. Once you’re ready, though, give it a try. Let me know if you have any problems.

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