(The instructions are intended as  guidelines and apply to Microsoft® Word for Microsoft 365 MSO (Version 2403 Build 16.0.17425.20124 64-bit) for Windows 11. Details may differ slightly for other versions.)


In my first blog post, I shared my 14-step formatting checklist and how to work through steps 1 to 6. In my second blog post, I told you how to work through Step 7 of my formatting checklist.

This blog assumes (a) that you have already formatted your headings as described in my second blog post, and (b) that your client’s document has manual captions and lists of figures and tables in place, so you just have to replace the manual items with automated ones.

I am now going to share how to work through Steps 8 and 9, which give us the second and third sweeps through the text, to automate the numbering of figure captions so Word will include them in a Table of Figures.

  1. Sweep 2. Format figure captions.
  2. Sweep 3. Format table captions.

Sweep 2. Format figure captions

  1. Open the Navigation Pane on the left of your screen (Ctrl+f OR Ctrl+alt+n), or in the View tab > Show group > Navigation Pane control.
  2. Type ‘Figure’ in the Navigation Pane’s search box and press Enter.
  3. In the Navigation Pane’s Results tab, click a figure caption to go to it.

  1. With your cursor at the beginning of the caption, go to the References tab > Captions group > Insert Caption control. The Caption dialog box pops up.

  1. If the institution requires figure numbers to start with the chapter number (or does not specify), select Numbering … The Caption Numbering dialog box pops up.

  1. Tick ‘Include chapter number’.
  2. The default style of the chapter starts with Heading 1, so you don’t need to choose another style.
  3. If necessary, change the separator between the chapter number and the figure number from the default hyphen to whatever your client’s institution specifies. I like a period as the separator.
  4. Tick OK or press Enter.
  5. Back in the text, remove any extra words from the figure label.
  6. Put a tab between the figure label and the caption wording (so that the captions line up in the List of Figures).
  7. If your client has cited a source at the end of the caption, put your cursor before the opening bracket and press Ctrl+alt+Enter to insert a hidden paragraph break. Put your cursor in the citation and format it with a different style, eg Source Figure. That will stop the citation appearing in the Table of Figures.
  8. By a common (weird) convention, the caption is usually below the figure. If necessary, move the caption to below the figure.
  9. Keep repeating the following until you have formatted all figure captions:
    • In the Navigation Pane’s Results tab, find the next figure caption.
    • With your cursor at the beginning of the caption, go to References > Captions > Insert Caption. The Caption dialog box pops up.
    • Tick OK or press Enter.
    • Remove the old Figure+number from the figure label.
    • Put a tab between the figure label and the caption.
    • If necessary, move the caption and source to below the figure.

Sweep 3. Format table captions

  1. Go back to the beginning of Chapter 1.
  2. Press Ctrl+h and type ‘Table’ in the Find What textbox.
  3. Click the More button and select ‘Find whole words only’.
  4. Keep pressing Find Next until you find a table caption.
  5. With your cursor at the beginning of the caption, go to References > Captions > Insert Caption.
  6. In the Caption dialog box, change the Label to ‘Table’.
  7. If necessary, make the table number start with the chapter number, as you did for the figure number.
  8. Tick OK or press Enter.
  9. Remove the old Table+number from the table label.
  10. Put a tab between the table label and the caption wording.
  11. Copy the table number and the tab.
  12. Press Shift+F4 until you find the next table caption.
  13. Copy the table number and tab you selected over the existing table number and space.
  14. Put your cursor to the left of the table number and press F9 to update it.
  15. Repeat steps 12 to 14 until there are no more table captions in the text.
  16. Save and close your template.


In Part 4 of this blog series, I will explain how to put the captions into tables of contents.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PEG.

About Anne Denniston

Anne trained as a librarian but then started editing agricultural reports, loved it, and so became a freelance editor of all sorts of documents. For three years, she edited for students who attended Exactica’s dissertation writing courses. For more than 11 years, she edited audit reports (among other tasks) for the Gauteng Provincial Government.

About PEG

The Professional Editors’ Guild (PEG) is a non-profit company (NPC) in South Africa. Since moving to online activities in March 2020, PEG has been able to offer members across South Africa, and internationally, access to an extensive online webinar programme. Continuing professional development remains a key offering and the first PEG Accreditation Test was administered in August 2020 to benchmark excellence in the field of editing.