I have a series of tables in a document. The caption numbers should be Table 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 etc.

Unfortunately however, there is one being skipped (i.e. 3.1, 3.3, 3.4...). Perhaps this is because I deleted and re-inserted a table.

I have tried right clicking and selecting "Update Field" on the caption numbers.

I have also tried pressing Alt-F9 and looking at the code. Nothing seems to be amiss.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to debug this?

  • 1
    I have added bounty because I have come across this problem again and my answer below doesn't help.
    – atomh33ls
    Dec 4, 2015 at 16:56
  • 1
    Imo give up on MS word as it is very limited and annoying to use it; specially for a complicated document. LaTex is a free alternative with no limit at all ! It took 1 day to convert 10 pages document in word with lots of images and tables into LaTex.
    – Woeitg
    Dec 11, 2015 at 13:53

10 Answers 10


Method 1: Update Field

  1. Highlight entire document: Ctrl-A
  2. Right click on any table caption number (highlighted in a darker grey)
  3. Click "Update Field"

Method 2: Insert temporary table

  1. Insert a new table at the end of the document.
  2. Add a caption, with numbering. (All previous numbers should update.)
  3. Remove the new table.

I created five tables and put a table caption on each. I removed the first table and the remaining tables did not update. Either method above will renumber the tables appropriately.

Manually restart numbering:

Ensure no traces of the "missing" table exist by highlighting and deleting all content between the tables with a missing number. Then perform either method above. If there is still a gap in the numbering, try overriding the numbering.

  1. Right-click the first incorrect field number.
  2. Click "Edit Field"
  3. Click "Options" (button)
  4. Select "Field Specific Switches" (tab)
  5. Select "\r" and click "Add to Field" button
  6. Type the new field code number (in your case: 2) into the Field Codes textbox
  7. Click OK twice
  8. Update all fields using either method above.

There was a hidden empty caption box in some white space on the page. after I deleted it the numbering was restored. I found this through clicking, by chance, on that white space.

  • 1
    I think I am having the same problem. Any way to find that hidden caption box?
    – BND
    Nov 7, 2020 at 10:57
  1. You should probably start by making a backup copy of your document (or make a working copy, in which to do the following).
  2. Press Alt+F9 to reveal all field codes.
  3. Click on "Home" → "Editing" → "Find" → "Go To", or press Ctrl+G, to open the "Find and Replace" dialog box, "Go To" tab.  In the "Go to what" box, select "Field".  Click "Next". 
  4. Then click "Next" repeatedly, or close the dialog box and press Ctrl+PgDn repeatedly, to step through all the fields in the document.  These will include all the figure/table/equation numbers, any cross-references, and probably some other things.
  5. Be on the lookout for field codes where you wouldn't expect one to be.  If you find any, investigate them, and delete them unless you can justify why they exist.

To my knowledge, there is a limitation on number of tables that a word document can support without some wired behavior. Can you try to remove some tables and check?

If removing some tables is resolving the issue, then I would recommend to re-organize the data you have in the document to achieve less number of tables / nesting.

Following URL depicts other operating limitations on word documents, you may check if any of those parameters are being hit in your document! https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/211489

The above URL doesn't state about number of tables limitation, but I bumped into such an issue earlier and it was because of number of tables.


I had the same problem and fixed it by:

  1. creating a table of figures at the head of the document to identify which page has the missing figure

  2. cutting and pasting that page into text edit

  3. using command+shift+t to switch to plain text

  4. locating an unusual gap in the text

  5. returning to word and deleting this sentence and retyping it

This was on a mac


I just had this issue and was able to solve it in a few steps:

  1. Click on "References" -> "Cross-reference" to open the cross-reference dialog box
  2. From the "Reference type" dropdown menu, select "Figure", "Table", or whatever applies to your situation
  3. In the "For which caption:" listbox, look over the caption list and watch out for any irregular caption which is not an actual figure caption but is part of the regular text in the document. (This is the location where the problem exists)
  4. Go back to the location in the word document where the problem was found and delete any white spaces prior to the first word of the irregular caption text
  5. Go back to the cross-reference dialog box and see if the irregular caption is gone
  6. If that did not work, find the index of the next regular caption within the cross-reference dialog box
  7. Go back to the word document and delete any references within the text which correspond to that next caption index (or what the real index should be for that figure)
  8. Go back and check the cross-reference dialog box again.
  9. When all the captions in the cross-reference dialog box are correct, go back to the word document and update all fields by pressing Ctrl+A followed by F9.

If you have deleted a caption while tracked changes are on, MS Word's table of figures can pick up that entry. This can cause a discontinuity in the numbering in the table of figures that doesn't have an obvious cause on the pages themselves. Try this: check your tracked changes for any deletions containing caption fields, accept the deletions, then update the table of figures to see if that resolves the problem.


Click on a figure or anything that brings up the formatting tab. On the formatting tab, click "Selection Pane." This will bring up a navigation menu that will show each and every item (not text) on a page and help you locate that hidden something that is messing up your document. Delete the culprit and move on.


Check to see if you have any cross-references that are still trying to reference the old table and make sure you delete them. I just ran into this issue and it turns out I had a cross-reference still present in my document that was trying to reference the figure I deleted.

Once I deleted that cross reference, I was able to update all my fields and the numbers no longer skipped from 30 to 32.


Sometimes, there are hidden captions in your document. When I say hidden, I really mean hidden, and it can be a part of a figure, for example.

To solve it, follow these steps:

  1. Insert a table of figures (or tables). This should list all captions you have in your document.

  2. If you see something unusual, Ctrl + Click into it. This navigates you to the unwanted caption, and highlights it.

  3. Remove it. If it was something important, recreate it.

    Pay attention: In later case, sometimes you have to recreate the removed component from scratch (e.g. including regenerating its style), as copying it from another component might turn the problem back.

  4. Repeat the steps until no caption being remained.

  5. Update the table of figures, to ensure nothing useless exists. If you don't need the table, remove it.

  6. If necessary, update fields of all existing captions (the Method 1 in the answer of @Steven).

Done! Now, everything should look great.

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