How to fix Multilevel list in Word

For many, creating and fixing multilevel lists in MS Word is a nightmare. Documents with hundreds of pages and multiple heading levels are particularly difficult to manage in Word. In this article, we’re discussing a few tricks to quickly fix and streamline messy multilevel numbered heading as quickly as possible.

I am assuming, you already know how to create Multilevel list in Word (if not, learn here:

In your current document, where the list numbering has gone wrong:

1.   Select the first heading level and then from the Word Main menu, under the tab Home, within the group Paragraph, click the Multilevel List icon. A drop-down list appears. See below.

2.   From the drop-down list, click option Define New Multilevel List. Define New Multilevel List dialog box appears.


3.   From the dialog box, click button More (available on the left bottom corner). The dialog box expands with additional fields. At this point, understand that the main reasons for the numbered headings going out of order are due to the missing links between heading levels that you have applied and the corresponding default heading styles of Word. We will restore the links using the Define New Multilevel List dialog box.

4.   In the dialog box, you can see the heading levels as 1, 2, 3,….9 on extreme left under the label “Click level to modify”. Assume that these are the heading levels in your document. Click heading “1” and subsequently from the drop-down list Link level to style , select Heading 1 style.


Similarly, restore connections for the rest of the heading levels (heading 2, 3, …etc.) in your document. Click OK.   Once you are done with establishing connections between the heading levels in the document to default heading levels, apply the same to all heading 1s,  all heading 2s, and so on in the document. Keeping your heading 1 selected in the document, click Alt+O+S. The Styles pane appears on the right.

1.   Locate the heading level 1 in the Styles pane.Place mouse cursor over it. The heading level gets selected.

2.   Click the down arrow button on the extreme right. A drop-down list appears. See below image.

3.   From the drop-down list, click option Update Heading 1 to Match Selection. As a result, all the Heading 1s in your document will be linked to default heading 1. Do the same for the rest of the levels (heading 2, heading 3, etc.) in your document.

About wordknowhowhttp://wordknowhow.comThis blog site was started to help people with Microsoft Word. I use Word a lot at work, and I understand that some features are difficult to use. There were no simplified instructions online to help me use these features. It is for this reason that this site exists; to make your life easier with Word. Feel free to post your comments, queries, suggestions, etc. I will do my best to help you!

109 thoughts on “How to fix Multilevel list in Word

  1. I have spent 3 days trying to fix two 50-page documents with multi-level lists that have 5 subsets of numbers. Yours are the only instructions that actually helped. I could hug you!!!

  2. I have wasted over an hour on trying to keep paragraph number when copying and pasting and trawling websites all of which provided useless information which didn’t work!
    I finally found your site and the problem was solved in 4 minutes!!
    Thank you!
    I will be working through your blogs on other topics

  3. Hi, thanks for helpful points. I am trying to set default font (complex script) in multilevel numbering list in Word 2013 but “set default” icon is not active there. Each time I need to define an Arabic multilevel numbering, I should set it manually for that session and then it goes off when exiting the Word.
    For the normal writing style I have done successfully the default fonts for both Latin and complex scripts but in multilevel numbering list.
    How I can set default my choices in this menu?

  4. I have spent almost 2 days struggling with this. Final step towards the degree. Thanks, it really helped. My advice is to not try and cut corners but be methodical from the very begining.

  5. Thank you so much! I have been wrestling with numbering paragraphs in a legal document for a couple of days and have tried many different pages for advice. Yours was the page with the clear simple advise on how to change what I had already screwed up.

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