Microsoft Word: How to number your items in a paragraph format

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. I know how to number bullets vertically in Word, but I want to number a large quantity of bullets horizontally in a paragraph. Is this possible?

A. Numbering your items in a paragraph format takes a few steps, as follows. Start by formatting your list as a vertical numbered list using Word's bullet tool from the Home tab by selecting Numbering, and in the Numbering Library section, selecting the Number alignment: Left option. The result is pictured in step 2 below.

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Next, copy the numbered list and paste it back into the Word document from the Home tab by selecting Paste, Keep Text Only, the results of which are pictured in step 3. Although these results may appear to be almost the same as the step 2 results, this "pasting as text" process transforms the numbers from formatted bullet numbers into actual text numbers, each followed by a tab character. Next, highlight the list and replace each unwanted tab character with a space character. From the Home tab, select Replace, and in the resulting dialog box enter a tab character in the Find what box, enter a space character into the Replace with box, and then click the Replace All button. The results of this step are pictured in step 4. Finally, highlight the list and replace all the paragraph marks with a comma and space. From the Home tab, select Replace, and in the resulting dialog box enter a paragraph character in the Find what box, enter a comma and space character into the Replace with box, and then click the Replace All button to convert the vertical list to the numbered paragraph as pictured in step 5 below.

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After reading this solution, it may seem to some readers that this solution is more trouble than it's worth, perhaps because I used only 15 items in this example. However, if you consider that the reader who sent me this question said she numbers hundreds of items manually each week, then it's easier to see that the steps outlined above would indeed save time.

As an alternate approach, Word's bullet functionality does support horizontal numbering of items in a table, which may be a sufficient solution for the questioner's needs. To use this approach, highlight the list of items and convert them to a table from the Insert tab by selecting Table, Convert Text to Table. In the resulting dialog box, under the Table size section, be sure to select the appropriate number of columns that best fits the data. In this example, I found four columns to be the maximum number of columns I can use without any resulting word wrapping in the table. Thereafter, to number the items in the table horizontally, select the table and from the Home tab, click the Numbering icon in the Paragraph group. Presented below are before (highlighted in gray) and after (numbered items) images of this process.

As you can see, the resulting items are numbered horizontally, but in a tabular format instead of a paragraph format.

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About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2007 through 2016 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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