Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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: Changing How Footnote References Appear.

Changing How Footnote References Appear

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 27, 2017)


Nancy notes that for years she has used Word's footnotes with no problem. When she inserts a footnote, the footnote reference (in the footnote area) shows as a superscripted number. Some of the style guides that Nancy follows now specify that footnote references actually be regular (not superscripted) digits followed by a period. She wonders how she can get Word to handle this formatting automatically.

This is a bit more complex of a topic than it may appear at first. There are actually two footnote references—one in the main body of the document and the other at the beginning of the actual footnote. The appearance of both of these references is controlled by the Footnote Reference character style. If you change the formatting of this style, you change how the actual footnote reference appears.

The problem, of course, is two-fold. First, the Footnote Reference style is a character style, which means that it defines the appearance of the text itself, not the appearance of any special characters after the text, such as a period and a space or tab. Thus, you can change the Footnote Reference style so that the references appear as, say, unsuperscripted, but you cannot specify that the reference be followed by a period through the style.

The second problem is that even if you could define such special characters in the Footnote Reference style, it wouldn't help in this case. Because the style is used for the footnote reference in the main body of the document as well as at the beginning of the footnote itself, a change to the style affects both instances. So if you change the Footnote Reference style to display regular (unsuperscripted) text, then the references in both places—the document body and the footnote area—are affected.

There is a workaround you can use; one that involves doing some searching and replacing. Go ahead and insert your footnotes as you normally would. When you are all done (when you have no more footnotes to add to the document), follow these general steps:

  1. Display your document in Draft view.
  2. Display the footnote pane by clicking Show Notes in the Footnotes group of the References tab and place the insertion pointer at the beginning of the first footnote in that pane.
  3. Display the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. (Press Ctrl+H to display the proper tab.) Click on More, if available. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  5. In the Find What box, enter "^02" (without the quote marks). This specifies that you want to search for footnote references.
  6. In the Replace With box, enter "^&." (again, without the quote marks). This specifies that you want to replace what is found with whatever is in the Find What box, followed by a period.
  7. With the insertion point still in the Replace With box, click the Format button and choose Font. (If you can't see the Format button, you'll need to click the More button first.) Word displays the Find Font dialog box.
  8. Make sure the Superscript check box is cleared.
  9. Click OK to close the Find Font dialog box.
  10. Click Replace All.

That's it. Word does the Find and Replace operation only within the footnotes area of the document. It replaces any footnote references with an unsuperscripted reference followed by a period. This find-and-replace process is described more fully at this archived Web page:

If you find in your version of Word that the steps don't work for some reason, you could try to replace what you search for. Instead of searching for "02" (step 4), leave the Find What box empty and instead indicate you want to search for any text that has the Footnote Reference style applied to it. Since you are searching only within the footnote area of the document, this would only be the references that begin each of the footnotes.

Understand that if you later add any new footnotes to your document, you will need to go through the find-and-replace operation again. If you are looking for a more automatic way to handle the footnotes, then you will need to develop a macro that will handle the formatting for you. A great article on this can be found at the following page on the Word MVP site:

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11259) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Changing How Footnote References Appear.

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. ...


Deleting a Power Management Plan

Windows allows you to create custom power management plans. When you no longer need a plan you previously defined, you can ...

Discover More

Accepting Only a Single Digit

Want a quick way to enter a series of single digits into consecutive cells? The best approach is with a macro, and this tip ...

Discover More

Creating a Single Index from Multiple Documents

When dealing with large projects, it is not uncommon to break the project into multiple documents. When it comes time to ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Automatically Adding Tabs in Footnotes

When you add a footnote to a document, Word's normal formatting adds a space after the footnote number and before the body of ...

Discover More

Sequentially Numbering Footnotes

If you have a document with lots of footnotes, you might notice that some of those footnotes are not in numerical order, like ...

Discover More

Understanding Footnotes and Endnotes

Footnotes and endnotes are often used in scholarly and formal writing as a way to provide additional information about a ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 8Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 7 - 0?

2017-03-22 19:29:52


Word update KB3178674 cosed that superscripted footnote references on screen and print look lake subsripted (in text and in the references). Haw this bug can be reported to Microsoft?

2016-11-26 13:21:36


When I follow these directions in Word 2016, all the options in the Format button's drop-down menu are grayed out.

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.