Footnote Numbers Missing on Printout

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 22, 2021)

Alan has a document that contains many footnotes. These look just fine on-screen, but when he prints the document, the footnote numbers are missing. Alan wonders why would they appear on screen but not on paper.

It is probable that there are only two possible reasons this might happen, and both of them have to do with the how the footnote numbers are formatted. When you insert a footnote, Word automatically formats the reference number—both in the document itself and in the footnote area—using the Footnote Reference style. If you modify this style, you modify how the number appears. Assuming you already have footnotes in your document, follow these steps to pull up the definition for the Footnote Reference style:

  1. Display the Styles task pane by displaying the Home tab of the ribbon and then clicking the small icon at the lower-right corner of the Styles group.
  2. Click Options at the bottom of the Styles task pane. Word displays the Style Pane Options dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Style Pane Options dialog box.

  4. Using the Select Styles to Show drop-down list, select All Styles.
  5. Click OK to close the Style Pane Options dialog box.
  6. In the list of styles, hover the mouse pointer over the Footnote Reference style. You should see a drop-down arrow appear at the right side of the style name.
  7. Click on the drop-down arrow and choose Modify. Word displays the Modify Style dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  8. Figure 2. The Modify Style dialog box for the Footnote Reference style.

  9. Check the font box, near the upper-left corner of the dialog box, right under the Formatting label. This box should be blank, as shown in the figure above. If there is a font name listed here, skip to step 11.
  10. Click on the Format button and choose Font from the resulting drop-down list. Word displays the Font dialog box. (See Figure 3.)
  11. Figure 3. The Font dialog box.

  12. Make sure the Hidden checkbox contains is a solid block. (You can repeatedly click the checkbox until it contains a solid block, if necessary.)
  13. Click on OK to close the Font dialog box. The Modify Style dialog box is still visible.
  14. Click on OK to close the Modify Style dialog box.

In steps 8 through 11 you checked the setting of the Hidden checkbox. It is possible, if the Footnote Reference style is formatted as Hidden text, that you can see the footnote numbers on the screen, but they won't print. This is because the display and printing of hidden text are handled independently from each other. Thus, it is possible to see text formatted as hidden, but have it not print, or vice versa. (This has been covered in other WordTips, here and here.)

Your decision in step 7 takes a bit more explanation. The default condition of the Footnote Reference style is that it will not have a specific font in the style definition. Instead, the style simply uses whatever font is used where the footnote reference number is inserted and makes that number superscript. If there is a font specified in the style definition (again, what you looked for in step 7), it is possible that the font is one that is not supported by your printer. Admittedly, this is a long shot, but it is one worth checking.

The easiest way to see if this is the source of the problem—if there is a font specified in the style definition—is to print your document on a different printer and see if the footnote numbers appear there. If they do, you will need to delete and reapply the Footnote Reference style. Follow these steps to do so:

  1. Display the Styles task pane by displaying the Home tab of the ribbon and then clicking the small icon at the lower-right corner of the Styles group.
  2. In the Styles task pane, hover the mouse pointer over the Footnote Reference style. You should see a drop-down arrow appear at the right side of the style name.
  3. Click on the drop-down arrow and choose Delete Footnote Reference. Word displays a dialog box asking you to confirm that you want to make the deletion.
  4. Click Yes. The style definition is changed back to its default and it is removed from all of your footnote reference numbers.
  5. To reapply the style (you need to do this), press Ctrl+H to display the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.
  6. In the Find What box, enter ^f. This is the code to search for footnote reference numbers.
  7. Make sure the Replace With box is empty.
  8. With the insertion point in the Replace With box, click the Format button and choose Style. (You may need to click the More button if you cannot immediately see the Format button.) Word displays the Replace Style dialog box.
  9. Use the controls in the dialog box to locate and select the Footnote Reference style.
  10. Click OK to dismiss the Replace Style dialog box. The Footnote Reference style name should appear just below the Replace With box. (See Figure 4.)
  11. Figure 4. Ready to replace.

  12. Click Replace All.

In these steps, 1 through 4 were used to reset the Footnote Reference style (which got rid of the font specification you noted in step 7 of the previous steps), and steps 5 through 11 were used to reapply the Footnote Reference style to all of your footnote numbers.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13861) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 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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