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: Improper Index Page Numbers.

Improper Index Page Numbers

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated December 10, 2022)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Emily asked about a problem she was having with page references in indexes for a long document. It seems that when she inserted the index, some of the page numbers were off by one to three pages.

The first thing to check is your settings for hidden text in your document. When you insert index codes, they are inserted as fields with the hidden attribute applied to them. Word determines page counts based on what is visible on the screen, not necessarily on what is printed. Thus, you need to make sure that the display of hidden text is in sync with the printing of hidden text.

What happens if the settings aren't in sync? If hidden text is displayed (in other words, you can see the index entry codes, such as {XE "my indexed word"}), then the space taken by those visible codes are counted in the total page count. Over the course of a long document, this can affect pagination quite a bit. However, if Word is configured to not print hidden text, then the index page numbers—which are based on what is displayed, not what is printed—won't match the actual page numbers on the printout. (Remember that the display and the printing of hidden text are controlled independently of each other.)

The solution to this situation is fairly simple. All you need to do is follow these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 and later versions, click the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the dialog box click Display. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The display options of the Word Options dialog box.

  4. Make sure that both the Hidden Text and Show All Formatting Marks check boxes are cleared.
  5. Scroll down a bit further in the dialog box and make sure the Print Hidden Text check box is selected.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Position the insertion point anywhere within the index.
  8. Press F9 to update the index.

Your index page numbers and your printing page numbers should now be in sync with each other. If they are not, then it could be that your document includes characters that, for whatever reason, can be displayed but cannot be printed. These would affect the displayed pagination—and thus the index page numbers—but not the printed pagination. You can discover if this is the case by carefully comparing your printout to what is displayed on your screen.

Finally, if these solutions still don't correct any page number disparities, it is possible that your document is corrupted in some way. This can occur in some documents, particularly documents that are used over the course of years and that had their roots in a different word processing program. You can try to open the file in WordPad and then use WordPad's Save As command to save the document back out. This will get rid of many of the advanced codes supported by Word but not by WordPad.

If the problem still persists, the only thing left to do is to get rid of all formatting and revert to plain text. Select all the text in the document (Ctrl+A), copy it (Ctrl+C), and paste it into a text editor such as Notepad. You can then copy it from within Notepad and paste it back into a new Word document. This process will get rid of any spurious formatting codes that may be corrupting the document. The only problem with such a drastic approach, of course, is that your document is now completely unformatted and you must reformat it and insert index codes all over again.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9718) 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: Improper Index Page Numbers.

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 five more than 6?

2023-06-16 12:38:00


HI, I found that the Index synced when the Print Hidden Text check box was DESELECTED. Thanks for gettingme closer to fixing it, though.

2022-12-11 12:22:08

Larry Schwartz

I have many index entries that have sub-entries. Is there a way to keep them together at the ned of a column or page?

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