Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 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: Converting Lists to Text.

Converting Lists to Text

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 8, 2018)

If you have used Word's numbered list feature, you have probably noticed that the numbers at the beginning of each list item cannot be selected. Further, as you delete or add items in your list, the other items in the list are renumbered to compensate for your actions.

In most instances, this is exactly how you expect and want your numbered lists to work. There may be times, however, when you want the lists to be "frozen," meaning that the numbers won't change. In these instances, the automatic numbering feature can seem more of a frustration than a nicety.

There are two ways around this problem. The first, which I refer to as the brute force method, involves a bit of cutting and pasting. All you need to do is follow these general steps:

  1. Select the list you want to freeze.
  2. Press Ctrl+C to copy the text to the Clipboard. The list should still be selected.
  3. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  4. Click the down-arrow under the Paste tool in the Clipboard group of the ribbon, then choose Paste Special. Word displays the Paste Special dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Paste Special dialog box.

  6. Choose Unformatted Text as your paste type.
  7. Click on OK.

These actions replace the existing dynamic list with the text of itself, and Word automatically converts the automatic numbering to text.

There are, of course, several different drawbacks to this. First of all, you lose any other special formatting you may have in the list items. If you have some words formatted differently than the paragraph defaults (for instance, bold or italic words), these are eliminated and must be manually redone.

An easier approach is to use a macro to do the job for you. VBA includes a special method that removes the drawbacks already noted and does the conversion much cleaner. None of your other formatting, other than the automatic list numbers, is affected. The following is the ListPlain macro:

Sub ListPlain()
    Dim lp As Paragraph

    For Each lp In ActiveDocument.ListParagraphs
        lp.Range.ListFormat.ConvertNumbersToText
    Next lp
End Sub

Notice how short the macro is. It also runs very quickly, and affects all numbering in the entire document. Any numbered lists that rely on Word's automatic numbering are affected, as are any LISTNUM fields.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11072) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Converting Lists to Text.

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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