• 4-minute read
  • 16th January 2017

Changing Caption Numbering in Microsoft Word

We’ve previously explained how to add captions to charts, tables and figures in Microsoft Word. But what should you do if the default caption style or numbering doesn’t suit your needs?

Maybe, for example, your college style guide recommends a different formatting for captions than the standard style in Word. Or maybe you want to use an alternative numbering system. Luckily, this is all easy to achieve via the “Style” options in Word.

Editing Caption Style

If you want to use a different font for captions, you could go through them all changing this manually. However, it’s much quicker to change the caption style instead (instructions apply for Word 2007 and later):

  • Go to the “Styles” section of the “Home” tab and find “Caption.”
  • Right click “Caption” and select “Modify” to open a new window.

    The "Styles" menu.
    The “Styles” menu.
  • Pick the font and formatting options required.
  • Click “OK” to apply the new style.

    Modifying the "Caption" style.
    Modifying the “Caption” style.

If the “Caption” style isn’t showing in the “Home” tab, you may have to click the little arrow in the bottom corner to open the “Styles” sidebar. If it still isn’t showing, click “Options” here and make sure that “All styles” is selected in the “Select styles to show” menu.

Style pane options.
Style pane options.

Creating a New Caption Style

For even greater customization, you can even create a brand new caption style. To do this:

  • Open the “Styles” sidebar and click the “New Style” button.

    Creating a new style.
    Creating a new style.
  • In the new window, select “Caption” in the “Style based on” menu.
  • Select the font and formatting options required.
  • Type a name for your new style in the “Name” box (e.g., “Caption 2” or “Custom Caption”).
  • Click “OK” to create your style.

To ensure that the font changes back to the paragraph style once you’ve written a caption and hit “Enter,” you may also want to select “Normal” from the “Style for following paragraph” menu.

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You can also create a new style via the style menu on the main ribbon by selecting “Create a Style” and clicking “Modify” to bring up the full set of style options.

Creating a style via the main ribbon.
Creating a style via the main ribbon.

Writing Custom Captions

When you add captions using “Insert Caption,” Microsoft Word numbers them automatically according to the label assigned (e.g., “Figure 1,” Figure 2,” “Figure 3,” and so on). You can also adjust the basic numbering style, including to add chapter numbers to captions.

However, if you want to use a different numbering system, or even no numbering whatsoever, you’ll need to add captions manually. You can do this by selecting the relevant “Caption” style from the style menu, placing the cursor where you want the caption to appear in your document, and simply typing the caption desired.

You can even use different caption styles for tables, charts and figures if you create a style for each! If you do, though, don’t forget that when adding a list of tables, charts or figures, you’ll need to select the relevant style when creating the list. To do this:

  • Click “Insert Table of Figures” to open the menu.

    Inserting a table of charts/figures.
    Inserting a table of charts/figures.
  • Click “Options” to open a new window.
  • Under the “Style” menu, pick the relevant caption style and click “OK.”

    Custom caption options.
    Custom caption options.
  • Click “OK” in the main “Insert Table of Figures” menu to create your list.

You can then list each of the different caption types separately, which is useful if you have large numbers of illustrations, charts and tables that you want to keep distinct from one another.

Comments (4)
Penny Clemson
12th December 2021 at 08:09
I'm trying to insert the following numbers into table headings: Table 8; Table 9(i); Table 9(ii); Table 10 etc. Can anyone help, please?
    13th December 2021 at 11:19
    Hi, Penny. The automatic caption numbering options won't support that exact style (although you can include chapter numbers in captions). But you can follow the advice in this post about using the "Caption" style to write manual captions to write captions in whatever format you prefer.
16th March 2022 at 14:13
Hi, how is it that the figure caption numbering is showing the correct number but gives the wrong figure number after hitting ok
    17th March 2022 at 17:04
    Hi, Wendell. Can you clarify what the issue is here at all? Are you saying that the preview of the figure number is correct in the dialog box when adding the caption text, but that it's wrong in the document itself? It will be difficult for us to offer any advice without seeing the document (e.g., where you've used captions and the different labels applied), but you can always submit your document for proofreading and leave a note about this issue for your editor if you'd like some practical help. Otherwise, if it's an error with Microsoft Word, you might need to check on the Microsoft Office support forums.

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