Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated December 2, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


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.

One potential workaround 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.

Another potential workaround is to add a SEQ field at the beginning of each paragraph, and then adjust the indent on the paragraph so that the number will appear to the left of the paragraph. This can get a bit involved, however. It will take a bit of trial and error to get the formatting exactly the way you want it.

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, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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 1 + 1?

2023-12-11 09:55:21


Tomek, know that with a style separator you are effectively (and literally) creating two paragraphs, each with separate formatting, but the display of separating paragraph separator is suppressed. But the style separator seems to mess up hanging indents. How about using two SEQ fields, one for the "paragraph numbering" and one for the list numbering, giving the whole paragraph a negative left margin, and adding a tab at 0 and a hanging indent at 0.5"?

2023-12-08 21:52:46


I tried your suggestion. It worked for regular paragraphs, but it made the regular list numbers disappear. Am I missing something?

2023-12-04 10:48:18


Here's another way to do it.

1. Insert a SEQ field (e.g., "{SEQ pnum}") followed by a Tab followed by Return before the paragraph to be numbered (i.e., as a newly-added paragraph).
2. Select the new paragraph and format it with a Style Separator (this is a command that can be added to the QAT or Ribbon or in a macro by Selection.InsertStyleSeparator.
3. Format the new paragraph with a negative left indent of, say, -0.33" (or whatever distance you like). You may also want to insert a tab stop at 0".
4. Unfortunately, Word will automatically add a space immediately after the new paragraph. You can either leave it, or you can delete it (fussy), your you can try putting the tab at the beginning of the original paragraph instead of at the end of the new one. Each method has disadvantages.


2023-12-02 09:40:54

Ron S

An option to consider is using the SEQ field code inside of auto numbered paragraphs.

Auto number the paragraph.
If you want to use a separate numbered list inside the paragraph use soft return, <SHF><Enter>, to start a new line (that is still part of the same paragraph
Space or period THEN <TAB> to indent the new list
Insert the SEQ field code
type the text part of the list
<SHF><ENTER> to start the next entry, or continue the main paragraph

If you need a sub list inside the list inside the numbered para, ie
1 main para auto number
a first sub sequence
b first sub sequence
i second sub sequence
ii second sub sequence
c first sub sequence
2 main para auto number

Simply specify a different "ID" inside the field code
actually after creating the first field code, I just copy and paste, including the new line and indenting and field code, to create the next entry in the list. If I know how many I need, I just paste them one after the other to the required number, THEN enter the list text

NOTE: when you copy/paste the new items will have the same number, don't worry ...
NOTE: field codes have to be "manually" updated. Just select the text with the field codes and press <F9>.
NOTE: the simplest way to select is use <CTL>A to select the whole document, then <F9>.

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