Formatting Issues with Indexing Levels

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated January 30, 2021)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365

Indexing a large technical book went well until Pierre wanted to have a fourth-level entry. Three levels { XE "Abel:Baker:Charlie" } worked perfectly, with Charlie below and inset from Baker, etc. But, on entering another sub-entry level, as in { XE "Abel:Baker:Charlie:Delta" }, the top three appeared nicely in the index, but Delta was in a much larger font. Pierre wonders how to fix this.

How entries appear in an index is controlled by built-in styles in Word. These styles should be applied automatically by Word when you generate the index. The styles have the names Index 1 through Index 9, and to control how the index appears, all you need to do is modify the styles of however many index levels you need.

In Pierre's case—assuming he is only using up to four index levels—he would need to make his style changes to Index 1, Index 2, Index 3, and Index 4. If the first three index levels already appear as you want them, then you only need to modify the Index 4 style.

The problem is, in Word these days you would never know that the index was formatting using the styles Index 1 through Index 9. The reason is because these styles are normally hidden in the Style pane. To see how the styles are used, follow these steps:

  1. Insert your index as you normally would. (It may still look a bit funky; that's not a problem for now.)
  2. Place the insertion point in the very first index entry.
  3. Display the Style task pane. (Display the Home tab of the ribbon and click the small icon at the bottom-right of the Styles group.)
  4. Click the Options link at the bottom-right of the Styles pane. Word displays the Style Pane Options dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Style Pane Options dialog box.

  6. Using the Select Styles to Show drop-down list, choose All Styles.
  7. Click OK to close the dialog box.

That's it; you should now be able to see the Index 1 through Index 9 styles listed in the Styles pane. And, because you performed step 2, you should see that the Index 1 style is selected (This presumes, of course, that the first entry in your index is a first-level entry.)

You should note that step 5 is important; it is the only way I've found to display the styles used in an index. You might think you could choose one of the other options, such as In Use or In Current Document, and it would display the index styles. However, testing shows that these options won't display them, even with the styles actually in use in an index in your document.

Once the styles are displayed, you can use the normal steps to modify a style and get whatever level (such as level 4) looking just the way you want.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13392) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365.

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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