Changing What Follows a Footnote Number

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 18, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365

John notes that in Word the default formatting for a footnote is a digit (the footnote number) followed by a space. He needs to change that space to an en space, an em space, or no space at all (depending on different kinds of work he may be doing). He wonders where he can change what follows the footnote number in a footnote.

There is no easy solution to this issue. You might be tempted to think that you could simply change the style used for footnotes to reflect what you want. Simple, right? Wrong—the reason this approach won't work is because of how Word handles footnote styles.

When you insert a footnote, Word immediately puts two styles to work. In the main document of the text, the superscripted footnote number is automatically formatted using the Footnote Reference style. In the actual footnote, the body of the footnote is formatted, automatically, using the Footnote Text style. If you select the footnote number that precedes the actual footnote, you'll discover that it, too, uses the Footnote Reference style. (The space after the number and just before the text doesn't; it uses the Footnote Text style.)

You can try adding numbering to the Footnote Text style, but that will actually result in double numbering—the number you added to the style and the number for the footnote added automatically by Word. You could then adjust the Footnote Reference style to make the automatic number virtually invisible, but that would affect the appearance of the footnote number in the main document of the text.

If Microsoft had decided to use three styles in implementing footnotes—the additional one being for the number that leads off the actual footnote—then we might have a chance to rely on a style-based solution. That is not the case, however.

The only solution we could find is one that I discussed, previously, in an earlier WordTips article. This particular tip actually provides two possible solutions—using Find and Replace or using a macro:

The tip referenced shows how to add a tab character after the number in the footnote, but you could modify the solution so that it used any other character desired (such as the en space or em space) instead of the tab.

Note that you'll need to apply the solution whenever you add new footnotes in your document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13636) 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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