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How to reference numbered list items in a Microsoft Word document

Cross referencing is essential if you have a particularly large document. It allows the reader to go back to relevant parts of a document that support or elaborate a particular section of it. Cross referencing is a very well developed feature in Microsoft Word which is particularly useful for academic work. You can cross reference almost any element in your document. If you need to reference numbered list items, it’s pretty easy.

Reference numbered list items

Open the document that you want to reference a numbered list in. Your list should already be added to the document, as should the paragraph that you want to cross reference it to. If it’s not there, add it first.

Once you’re done, click inside the document where you want to reference the list item. Go to the References tab, and click Cross-reference.

In the window that opens, the Reference Type should be set to ‘Numbered item’. The ‘Insert reference to’ should be set to ‘Page number (full context)’. Your list will automatically be added in the window. Select the item that you want to reference and it will be added to the document.

You should also make sure that the ‘Insert as hyperlink’ option is selected if the document will be read on a device as opposed to as a hard copy. If you Ctrl+Click on the reference, it will jump to the list item.

If you need to reference an item in a bulleted list, you can’t. You will have to change it to a numbered list if it has to be referenced.

You should know that the ‘Insert reference to’ dropdown option determines how the reference is added. If you go with ‘Page number’ the reference will only add the page number that the list appears on. If you go with the ‘Page number (full context)’ option, it will insert the number of the item in the list and it’s only useful for reading as a soft copy.

Depending on the audience of your document, and how it will be read i.e. hard or soft copy, you should play with these options. Unfortunately, you can’t get a leading reference where the page number and the item number are both given. You can insert the entire item as is and that is probably a good option to go with if the document will be read in hard copy form.

There’s another option you can look at; Above/below. This tells the reader if the referenced item appears before, or after the current point in the document making it easier to find it.

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