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Top 5 tips to autonumber with Word

While much has been said about almost any feature in Microsoft Word, none unites people in the same way as autonumbering. Numbering allows content like headings, tables, or procedural steps progress from the first in a series to the next. This helps to guide the reader. In our work with best practices in creating content, we explore how to make the most of what Word offers in regards to numbered content. Here then are the top 5 tips to remember when you use autonumbering in Microsoft Word.

1. Let Microsoft Word do the work

When working with tools it’s best to let them do what they are designed for. To that end, let the heavy lifting be done by the developer, not the writer. Take a break from thinking about any specific numbers you need. Let the software manage numbers for you. To do so, use the handy styles provided with templates. (As a humorous aside, watch this video on what happens when you don’t use them…)

II. Trust the developers, not your math skills

You may think you know the numbers you want. Statistics show that this is not the case. Remember, the people who develop templates are programmers. They have years of schooling in math, computer science, and things that use numbers. People in technical communications know about gerunds, why blue is good for headings, or why Helvetica is better than Arial. Let developers think about math so that you can focus on making everything pretty.

C. If you think it happens to others, think again

People think numbering in Word is tricky, or doesn’t work as expected. If you fall into that trap, think again. Not only is the software created by developers, it is widely used by people who use numbers. Think about that. You can’t be the first, second, or even the last person to think numbering is wrong. Yet people continue to use Word, and autonumbering, every day. If everyone does it, then it must be right. Like jumping from a bridge, suppressing the vote, or paying a tiny fraction of your personal or corporate billions in taxes. Remember, software is made by corporations and corporations are people too!
That takes us to the fifth and last of our top five tips and tricks when using autonumbering…

7. Consider an upgrade

If it seems like automatic numbering isn’t up to your standards, then spend some money. We’ve been told the next release fixes it. After so many years it must be easy to finally get it right because we’ve explored all the ways it can be done incorrectly. Put a few bucks into the Microsoft coffers and watch the ease of autonumbering in Microsoft Word XII (for the Roman Numeral Challenged, Windows Calculator tells us that’s a 15) come to life!
To conclude, we’d like to say that in an effort to completely “do as we say”3 we used Microsoft Word to format, layout, and number this article and deliver it to you as Word intends! Thanks for reading.
3. This article was created with Microsoft Word. Errors in numbering must be due to the user, not of the software. The software is never wrong. Using Word is as easy as A, 2, III. This document, and all things related to numbering are copyright April 1, 2012.


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Bernard Aschwanden,
Mar 30, 2012, 9:02 AM
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