Is this an issue with the new version of Word? I could have sworn it was possible in the past. I tried scouring the internet for solutions but haven't had any luck.

MS Word - Desktop Version 1902 (Build 11328.20368)

I want to create lists like the following:

1. Numbered list line one.
2. Numbered list line two.
    - Indented bullet point.
    - Indented bullet point.
    - Indented bullet point.

3. Numbered list line three.
4. Numbered list line four.
    a. Indented numbered list line one.
    b. Indented numbered list line two.
    c. Indented numbered list line three.

5. Numbered list line five.
6. Numbered list line six.

Unfortunately this is not possible because the indented lists are linked somehow. Word will not allow them to be different styles. If I select the indented list items under 4, it will also select the indented list items under 2.

Note: When the indented list items are changed to (a, b, c) Word formats them as (2. a. b. c.) and (4. a. b. c.) as it should. Word knows that they are separate lists, but it will not allow separate formatting?

Is it possible to break the link between the lists and have bullet points for one list and numbers/letters for the other?

  • 1
    this should be possible - you just may have to start each new section as a new list, and configure each one to start at a specific number/letter – mael' Aug 1 '19 at 19:26

I don't know about 2016 but in word 2019 I managed to do it.

What you are looking for is a multilevel list. See this support page which explains exactly how to do it and customize it. It says it applies from office 365 all the way to word 2007.

The following is how to define a new multilevel list:

  1. On the “Home” tab of the Ribbon, click the “Multilevel Lists” button, and then click one of the built-in lists types shown on the dropdown menu.
  2. Click TAB to demote the item to a lower level on the list.

It should look like this in the end:

picture of result


Look into working with styles.

Styles contain all of the formatting for paragraph, characters tab/indent ect. You can apply paragraph styles to a whole document and within that style apply additional styles to just a sentence, list, link ect.

Put the cursor in the list and view the styles panel. Then edit the tab/indent measurements. If you have a list within a list and want say half the indented measurements you will have to repeat the process creating a new style for the sub list.

You can save styles that you made to use on other documents and you can import styles from other documents. If you use the same structure and styles very often you may even create templates with the styles already applied.


Your problem relates to using a multilevel list. A multilevel list pre-defines the style for each level, which is what underlies the problem you're seeing. When you change the style in one section of the outline, it gets applied to all instances of that style. I believe there are two approaches to solving this.

  1. You can modify the style of a level for a localized area rather than for the entire list.See Define a new multilevel list at the Microsoft Support web site:
  1. Select the text or numbered list you want to change.

  2. On the Home tab, in the Paragraph group, click the arrow next to Multilevel List, and then click Define New Multilevel List.

  3. Expand the Multilevel list dialog box by clicking More in the lower left corner.

  4. Choose the list level to modify by selecting it in the list. 1 is selected by default.

  5. Choose where you would like to apply your changes by clicking Whole list, This point forward, or Current paragraph.

  1. Caveat: I've been away from Word for awhile and writing #2 from memory. If this one doesn't work as I remember it, let me know and I'll remove it from the answer.

    Create multiple multi-level lists where you define the style for your second level differently in each one. In your example, you would use the first multi-level list for items 1 and 2 and their sub-levels. Use a different multi-level list for 3 and 4 and their sub-levels, and set the second list to start at 3 instead of 1. Use as many multi-level lists as the styles you need, and you can switch back and forth between styles. Just tell each set what number to start at.

The difference between these two approaches is that in #2, everything remains compliant with the multilevel list definitions, which makes it easier to maintain the document. You define the list structure and then use it where needed. It doesn't involve creating exceptions, and if you need to modify the document, finding all of the exceptions everywhere and changing them consistently. This is the whole concept behind using styles.

There is a lot of detail and images for these settings at Word 2007: Taming multilevel list numbering. That article is a little dated, but the detail should still generally apply to more recent versions.


If it's OK to have the bullets and lower case letters on different tiers, you can easily modify this to show what you want.

Apply the Multilevel List you want to use and then choose Adjust List Indents (right click onto any of your heading numbers) to modify the third tier.

Define the third tier to match the settings of the second tier except with whatever type of bullet point you want instead of a letter heading ('Number style for this level' drop-down). In the document, demote any second tier line to the third tier and it will look like your example above.

This method will work for the entire document you edit and remain consistent throughout. You can also save the list for future use by choosing 'Define New List Style' under the Home/Paragraph/Multilevel List drop-down and giving it a name.

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