Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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: Adding Paragraph Numbering.

Adding Paragraph Numbering

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 11, 2022)


Patricia would like to add paragraph numbers to her document in the same way that it is possible to add line numbers, so that the paragraph numbers are in the margin of the document. She doesn't want to make all the paragraphs part of a numbered list, as that would get rid of existing numbered lists and bulleted lists in the document.

Word has no built-in capability to number paragraphs in the same way that it can number lines. The only way to do it is to create a numbered list out of each paragraph (and use a negative indent for the first line of each paragraph), but that runs into the very problem Patricia said she wanted to avoid—the ruination of other lists already in the paragraph. It makes sense, really; if you have text that is formatted as a numbered list for content purposes, then you can't apply a separate numbered list to the paragraph for Patricia's purposes.

The only potential workaround we've been able to discover is to add a small text box anchored to the beginning of each paragraph. Format the text box so that it is positioned within the left margin, and then add a manual number inside each text box. As paragraphs move, the anchored text box should move with it, so that the number remains where it should. You could also try using a SEQ field in the text boxes, but we've received some reports that the automatic numbering of the SEQ field won't work properly from one text box to another.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8653) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Adding Paragraph Numbering.

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 4 + 8?

2016-06-13 18:05:07

Calvin Jordan

This has been a problem with Word since at least 2003. At some point some Microsoft geek who had never written anything more complex than an email decided that It would look cool to indent the entire paragraph including the number itself. MS has never bothered to change this lame feature despite complaints from thousands of users. This is what happens when you use your power in the market to destroy far superior products such as Wordperfect and Wordstar. You don't have to change anything because your customers are stuck with it.

2015-10-30 01:31:44

Mark Stewart

That is, specific to Cross Reference (academic and professional/commercial applications of standard cross referencing), how do we turn on Paragraph numbering.

Kindly note that Cross-referencing paragraph numbers is distinct from bookmarks. Bookmarks are clumsy to manage, must be edited at source and at destination, can only faciliate one source and one destination, and finally, Bookmarks add additional content to the document with each bookmark insertion and edit. Cross references are light-weight, require no addtional content, can include multiple destinations for each source, and are easily edited in only the source Cross Reference dialog. Bookmarks are not a cross reference replacement: nor are bookmarks an economical Cross-reference alternative. Cross-referencing is an academic, professional and commercial linking method obviously included in the design of the Word product. At least for my 2016 Word 365 Home Premium, the paragraph numbering must be somwhere in the Word menu system, likely behind many steps, as in using the secnd links button to access the Cross Reference options. Perhaps Microsoft only offers full-fledged Paragraph numbering for enterprise class Word installations, though that would seem counterproductive in a market place that includes dozens of editors that provide default paragraph numbering.

'Painting' numbers n a margin would notalign normally with built-in line break numbering, that is typically the source for paragraph numbering in most text editors.

2015-10-30 01:08:35

Mark Stewart

This page topic and content seems distant from extant background line break numbering built into the Word product.

Quick Access Toolbar... Customize Quick Access Toolbar... More Commands... Chose commands... All commands... Links (use second links button... Add to... Now click “Links” button, and select Cross-reference. This will open "Cross Reference" options, with default reference to Paragraph numbers... Or using Quick Access Toolbar, select Insert Cross-reference.

Reference type: Numbered item
Insert reference to: Paragraph number

Cross Reference options do not include an on-off check-box. Compare Line Numbering. How to turn on (and off) Paragraph Numbering?

2015-09-23 06:21:19

Walter Greulich

Additional information: the SEQ field works fine within frames because they are in the same layer as the text.

2015-09-23 06:16:44

Walter Greulich

There is a second way of paragraph numbering:

Text boxes have two disadvantages:
1. they are located in a different layer above the text
2. there anchor point can accidentely move to another paragraph.

For better control of the position of marginal text it is therefore better to use frames. Different to former versions of Word, in 2010 and upwards frames are stable. They are created as part of a paragraph style. When the style (e.g. named "margin") has been defined, it only has to be applied to a paragraph. Instantly the marginal text frame is displayed and text can be typed in. You can also select text of a normal paragraph and then apply the "margin" style; this has the effect that the selected text will be automatically moved to the frame.

Frames are located in the same layer as the document text.

In order to create a paragraph number on the margin next to a usual-numbered paragraph (unp) you have to create a blank line before the unp (don't worry about the fact that the blank line will also get a usual number - it will disappear in the next step). Now apply the margin style to the blank line: the frame appears and waits for input. And the original order of usual-numbered paragraphs is rebuilt.


2014-06-19 01:55:54

Andre de Kock

I am frustrated trying to number paragraphs in my word 2007 document.
I want to have a standard numbering hierachy that always looks like this:
1.1 xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
1.2 xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
1.2.1 xxxxxxxx

2. xxxxxxxxxxxx
2.1 xxxxxxxxx
2.2 xxxxxxxxxx

I'm sure that this is standard, but sometimes it works and other times not.
Please help.
Thanks very much

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