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Add line numbers in Word – A step-by-step guide

Author: Siluvia Last Modified: 2024-05-08

Adding line numbers in Microsoft Word documents can greatly enhance readability and facilitate easier referencing during revisions and collaborative reviews. Whether you're preparing legal documents, scripts, or need to manage complex datasets, line numbers can be a crucial part of your document setup. This guide will walk you through how to add, customize, and remove line numbers in your Word documents.

Overview of line numbers in Word

Line numbers are a feature in Microsoft Word that sequentially numbers the lines of your document in the margins, making it easier to reference specific parts of the text quickly.

Common Use Cases for adding line numbers

  • Legal Documents: Lawyers and court officials use line numbers to refer to exact lines in legal arguments or testimonies.
  • Academic Papers: Researchers and students include line numbers in submissions for easy reference during peer review.
  • Scripts and Plays: Directors and actors use line numbers to discuss revisions and stage directions efficiently.

Benefits of adding line numbers

  • Improved Readability: Line numbers break text into manageable parts, making complex documents easier to read and analyze.
  • Enhanced Referencing: They allow for precise references in discussions, feedback, or academic citations, enhancing the clarity of communication.
  • Streamlined Revisions: In collaborative environments, line numbers simplify the process of discussing specific sections of a document.

Add line numbers

This section will show you how to add line numbers to an entire document or just one or more sections of a document.

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Add line numbers to the entire document

This is the simplest method of adding line numbers and is ideal for documents where consistent reference points throughout the text are necessary. We'll walk through the steps to apply line numbers across your entire Word document.

Open the document that you want to add line numbers, go to the Layout tab, and then select Line Numbers > Continuous. See screenshot:

Notes: There are also two other options available.
  • Restart Each Page: Resets line numbering to 1 at the start of each new page. Useful for documents where referencing specific lines on individual pages is important.
  • Restart Each Section: Resets line numbering to 1 at the beginning of each new section. Ideal for segmented documents like reports or manuscripts with distinct chapters.

The line numbers have been added throughout the document without interruption as shown in the gif below.

Add line numbers to one or more sections

If your document includes multiple sections with different formatting or content types, you may wish to apply line numbers selectively. This part explains how to customize line numbering for specific sections within a document.

To add line numbers to one or more sections only, you can do as follows.

  1. Select the text in the section where you want to add line numbers.
  2. Go to the Layout tab, and then select Line Numbers > Continuous. See screenshot:

Then line numbers are added to the selected section only.

  • If you select more than one section and use the above method, each section will start with line number 1.
  • If you are unsure which paragraphs are associated with section breaks, enable the Show/Hide paragraph markers option under the Home tab. This will allow you to see the Section Break markers. The paragraphs that immediately follow these markers belong to the corresponding section.
  • A table or a figure is counted as one line.
  • When a text box is inline with the text on a page, it is considered as a single line. However, if the text on the page flows around the text box, only the lines of text on the page itself are counted, not the text within the text box.

Customize line numbers

Beyond basic line numbering, Word allows for customization to fit your specific needs. This section will guide you through adjusting the line numbers settings such as intervals, starting numbers, and excluding areas from line numbering.

Once you have added line numbers to a document, you can adjust the line number settings as follows:

  1. Select the entire document or any section of the document, go to the Layout tab and select Line Numbers > Line Numbering Option.
  2. In the Page Setup dialog box, click the Line Numbers button under the Layout tab.
  3. In the opening Line Numbers dialog box, you need to configure as follows.
    1. Make sure the Add line numbering checkbox is checked. Then configure the following several customized options:
      • Start at: This option allows you to specify the number at which the line numbering should begin. It's typically set to 1, but you can start at any other number if required.
      • From text: This option controls the distance between the text and the line numbers. "Auto" is usually selected by default, which automatically aligns the line numbers in a sensible position relative to the text. You can adjust this if you want the line numbers closer or further away from the text.
      • Count by: This option lets you set the increment of the line numbering. By default, it is set to 1, meaning each line is numbered sequentially. You can change this to have line numbers that increase by 2, 3, 4, etc.
    2. In the Numbering section, choose an option you need.
      • Restart each page: Line numbers restart at the beginning of each new page.
      • Restart each section: Line numbers restart at the beginning of each new section, which can be useful if your document contains multiple chapters or sections and you want each to start from line number 1.
      • Continuous: Line numbers continue from the previous section or page without restarting. This is useful if you want line numbering to reflect the entire document's length, regardless of new pages or sections.
    3. Click OK.
  4. When it returns to the Page Setup dialog box, click OK to save the changes.

Remove line numbers

This section shows you how to remove line numbers in Word, either from the entire document or from individual paragraphs.

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Remove line numbers from the entire document

There may be instances where you need to remove line numbers from your document.

Go to the Layout tab, select Line Numbers > None.

Then line numbers are removed from the current document.

Note: If your document has a complex structure and you find that selecting the None option only clears the line numbers from the current section, it's recommended to press Ctrl + A to select all contents of the document before repeating the operation to ensure all line numbers are removed.

Remove line numbers from a single paragraph

In some cases, you might need to remove line numbers from specific paragraphs without affecting the rest of the document. Here, we'll show how to suppress line numbers in individual paragraphs.

  1. Select or click on the paragraph you want to remove line numbers from.
  2. Go to the Layout tab, select Line Numbers > Suppress for Current Paragraph.

The line numbers in the currently selected paragraph are then removed.

Mastering the use of line numbers in Microsoft Word can significantly increase the professionalism and precision of your documents. This guide has equipped you with the knowledge to implement this feature effectively, ensuring that your documents are both polished and functional. For those eager to delve deeper into Word's capabilities, our website boasts a wealth of tutorials. Discover more Word tips and tricks here.

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