I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm struggling to get a table of contents going in a Word doc that's already been created. I know enough to understand that the TOC is based on the type of the header/style and indentation. My approach so far has been to auto-generate the TOC and then try (unsuccessfully) to fix the problems; perhaps this isn't the best approach in this situation. What's happening is that the TOC is missing half my sections and for others it's adding way too much detail. Again my sense is I have to "fix" individual section headings but I haven't been successful so far.

3 Answers 3


I think you've got it already. :)

"auto-generate the TOC and then try to fix the problems..."

"..."fix" individual section headings"

This has always been my experience on getting TOC to work as expected in Word. Make sure you don't have things formatted as "headings" that aren't actually headings you want in the TOC, and vise versa: make sure headings you want in the TOC are actually formatted as "headings".

  • My problem is I don't know how to fix them! :) E.g. many are still not showing up in my TOC and some have too much detail. I'm kind of throwing darts. So while I get what to do in general I can't seem to figure out how.
    – Howiecamp
    Feb 25, 2011 at 15:40
  • @Howiecamp - So some of the text you have formatted as a "Heading" type isn't showing in the TOC? If so, which Heading style/number are those ones formatted as? Feb 25, 2011 at 15:42
  • @techie007-I see part of my problem.Indeed the ones that didn't show were not formatted as Headings & the ones that do show are formatted as Headings.Not sure how I missed this given that could have sworn I checked it... So I see your point, now I need to modify the headings accordingly.The thing that keeps screwing me up (and this was part of my original problem as I was playing around) is that when I change a given header either to a different Header style or no Header style at all, the font color, size, font and so on are completely reformatted.That's the result I'd expect but how do I fix?
    – Howiecamp
    Feb 25, 2011 at 16:59

I suggest that you tackle the underlying problem (incorrect/messed up styles of headings) instead of a symptom that you see when TOC is generated from those headings.

Couple of strategies to do this:

  1. Pick a heading style in the list of styles (either in the Home tab of the ribbon or in the Styles panel - Ctrl-Alt-Shift-S to open it) starting from Heading 1, right-click on the style and choose Select all [X] instances. Now you can see exactly what text has this style in the document and therefore what text will appear in the TOC. Now you just need to make sure that only necessary heading text is styled with the Heading [X] style.
  2. Alternatively, you can use Style Inspector (open the Styles panel and click the second from the left button at the bottom of it - the one with the magnifying glass). Now you will see the style information of the line on which the cursor is on and if any modifications on top of the style have been made. This is helpful when the text you see doesn't look like it has been styled with a particular style (which may have happened as an incorrect fix to inappropriate styling).

If you follow the above and fix the underlying problems you will be able to update the TOC at any point in time without needing to fix it once it's generated again.

I hope this helps.


Hm... I answered a question like this today. I explained all this in detail in answering this question.

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