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

Brackets around Footnote References

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated December 18, 2021)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365


Ayman created a document that has numerous footnotes in it. He would like the footnote references to have square brackets surrounding the numbers and wonders if there is a way to do this automatically.

The short answer is no, there is no way to add brackets around footnote references automatically. You can, however, add them by using Find and Replace. Simply follow these general steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+H. Word displays the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  2. Figure 1. The Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  3. In the Find What box, enter ^f. (Make sure you use a lowercase letter "f".)
  4. In the Replace With box, enter [^&].
  5. Click on Replace All.

That's it. Word searches for all footnote references in both the main body of the document and in the footnote area. It then replaces them with brackets containing whatever was found in the search.

There is one caveat to this approach: You should do it only once, probably after you are done inserting footnotes in your document. If you do it more than once you will end up with multiple nested brackets, which could be a mess to try to clean up (though it can be done with additional Find and Replace operations).

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9255) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Brackets around Footnote References.

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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