Restarting a Numbered List Easily

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 19, 2020)


Liz has a long document (300+ pages) with hundreds of short 3-step numbered lists. She wonders if there is a way to tell Word to restart numbering for each list without manually choosing "restart numbering" for each one individually.

Word supports both single-level numbering (that's the purpose of the Numbering tool on the Home tab of the ribbon) and multi-level numbering (through the Multilevel List tool, just to the right of the Numbering tool on the Home tab of the ribbon). For the purposes of this tip, I'm assuming, based on the wording of her question, that Liz is dealing with single-level numbered lists. These lists are added most easily by selecting the paragraphs you wanted numbered and then clicking on the Numbering tool. By default, these lists continue the numbering through the whole document, unless you take specific steps to restart the numbering.

In Liz's situation, having hundreds of lists that you need to restart numbering can be a major pain. Those who have been using Word for a long, long time know that the numbering capabilities of the program have gone through many changes over the years. And, unfortunately, those changes haven't always been for the better. What Liz is experiencing is a case in point—the need to take manual steps with each list to restart the numbering.

Because of the quirks and sometimes outright bugs in Word's numbering tools, long-time users tend to shy away from using those tools and, instead, rely on field codes to do their numbering. Consider the following sequence of field codes:

{ SEQ numlist \# "0" \r 1 \* MERGEFORMAT }
{ SEQ numlist \# "0" \n \* MERGEFORMAT }
{ SEQ numlist \# "0" \n \* MERGEFORMAT }

The field braces, remember, are inserted in your document by pressing Ctrl+F9. The first field code inserts a sequence number, started at 1. The second and third field codes continue the sequence previously started. If you put all three of these into your document and refresh the field codes (select the codes and press F9), you get this:


You can then add your text to the right of each of the numbers. If you want to use these field codes with text to which you previously applied Word's built-in numbering, simply select the numbered paragraphs, remove the numbering (click the Numbering tool again; it acts as a toggle), and then insert the appropriate field code at the beginning of each of the paragraphs in the list. This can be made even faster if you place the field codes into a Building Block that you can reuse over and over again.

If you don't' want to use field codes and would, instead, like to develop a macro-based way to restart numbering, you'll need quite a bit more information. One good resource you will find helpful in this regard is the following at the Word MVP site:

Note that the page indicates it is for use with older (much older) versions of Word. In this case it won't be a problem; the concepts still apply to modern versions of the program. Near the bottom of the page you'll see a link to "Restart numbering using VBA," which can help you as you develop your own macros.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8119) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

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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What is 3 + 0?

2020-09-19 10:53:43

Paul Stregevsky

My numbered steps use outline numbering. My outline level 1 is a paragraph style named Step Intro. My numbered steps are mapped to outline level 2. Step numbering aumatically restarts at 1 after an intervening outline level 1:

1. Blah-blah-blah. (Step; outline level 2)
2. Blah-blah.blah.( Step; outline level 2)
3. Blah-blah-blah.(Step; outline level 2)

To edit your profile: (Step intro; outline level 1)

1. Blah-blah-blah. (reset to 1 automatically)
2. Blah-blah-blah. ...

Works like a charm. I can keep my styles locked and never need to manually override a step number.

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