Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Footnotes within Footnotes.

Footnotes within Footnotes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 17, 2018)

Footnotes are a common feature in many types of documents. In some types of documents, you may actually need footnotes within footnotes, such that a footnote can be footnoted, with the "sub footnote" appearing in the regular flow of the main footnotes. (For those with a linguistic or literary bent, you can find out about footnotes within footnotes by referring to a style guide, such as Kate Turabian's book, Manual for Writers, or the Chicago Manual of Style.)

Word does a great job of creating footnotes, using either your own footnote marks or automatic marks. It doesn't provide a way to add footnotes within footnotes, however. If you try to place a new footnote while the insertion point is located within an existing footnote, all that Word does is duplicate the footnote mark at the beginning of the existing footnote. If you select that footnote mark, copy it, and paste it into the footnote at the place you want, you still don't get the opportunity to enter any new footnote text.

The only thing you can do is to "fudge" the footnotes—format your own footnote mark, press Enter at the end of an existing footnote, create a corresponding footnote reference at the start of the new line, and then enter the text for the forced footnote.

The only drawback to this approach is that it plays havoc with automatic footnote numbering. Your fudged footnote isn't recognized by Word, so the next time you enter a footnote, its numbering continues from where Word thinks it should continue, not from where you know it should. There is a way around even this drawback, however. Let's say you want to create a footnote inside of footnote 3. Follow these steps:

  1. In the body of your document, create your regular footnote 3.
  2. In the body of the document, just to the right of the marker for footnote 3, create a new footnote. The marker for this footnote is 4, and it should appear right next to the marker for footnote 3.
  3. Select the new footnote marker (4) and format it as hidden text.
  4. In the text for footnote 3 (at the bottom of the page), position the insertion pointer where you want the forced footnote to appear.
  5. Display the References tab of the ribbon.
  6. Click the Cross-reference tool in the Captions group. Word displays the Cross-reference dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  7. Figure 1. The Cross-reference dialog box.

  8. In the Reference Type list, choose Footnote.
  9. In the list at the bottom of the Cross-reference dialog box, select footnote 4.
  10. Click Insert. The cross-reference is created.
  11. Within the text for footnote 3, select the cross-reference you just entered and format it the same as all your other footnote markers (superscript, etc.).

You've now created a footnote within a footnote, and the numbering will always be correct. The only thing you need to ensure is that you don't print hidden text with your document. If you do, then your marker for footnote 3 will actually look like 34 (because the hidden marker for footnote 4 is right next to it). You'll also want to make sure that you update fields within your document just before printing.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8026) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Footnotes within Footnotes.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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