Table of Contents

Table of Contents

A table of contents provides an outline of the chapters, sections and parts of a book with their associated page numbers. This is of more relevance to a non-fiction publication, which is likely to contain many sections of varying significance. Many works of fiction do not even have chapter titles so there really is little point in having a table of contents unless an author really thinks it necessary to list chapter numbers in chronological order. In non-fiction, a list of chapter and sub-section headings gives the potential reader an understanding of what exactly is in the book and so the reader is less likely to be disappointed.

A simple contents section involving a list of chapter titles with page numbers can be constructed without the need for using the special TOC tools in MS Word. However, this word processing program does allow for the creation of quite complex TOC as in British Isles Weather & Climate. Word builds a TOC based on the header styles used in a document. By default, Heading 1 (presumably chapter headings) is the first level entry, Heading 2 the second level and so on. The line connecting the entry text with its page number is known as the leader.

There are three main steps involved in creating a table of contents:

  1. Identify the text to appear in the table
  2. Insert the table
  3. Customise the table as required

It is very important to hide (using the hide/show button on the ribbon) all non-printing characters such as formatting marks before creating a table of contents because such marks will shift the pages slightly towards the end of the book so that table entries are likely to be incorrect.

MS Word gives you the choice between TOC that are automatically inserted and creating your own table. The latter is more complex and time consuming but inevitably produces a more professional and individual style.

Manually Creating a Table of Contents


Ribbon → References → Table of Contents → Insert Table of Contents


This opens a pop-up box with a variety of options that you need to work through until you are happy with the finished TOC. Especially useful is ‘Show levels’ because that allows you to decide if you wish to show only chapter headings or include all sub-headings or something in between. You can also change the font for different levels.


You can return to these options after you have completed the TOC to make changes.

Customise TOC

If you wish to alter a table that you have created or one of the automatic tables, you can do so quite easily.

Simply return to the Insert Table of Contents link and the same pop-up box will appear allowing you to make the requisite changes. Click yes or no when given the choice to change the table.

Update Table of Contents

When an author produces a new edition of a book it may well contain different and or new chapters/sections in which case the TOC must be updated. With a table that has been automatically created using one of the ‘Automatic Tables’ this is quite simple:

Ribbon → References → Update Table

Note that if you have created a table manually then you will have to update it manually.

Deleting a TOC is quick and easy:

Ribbon → References → Remove Table of Contents