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Footnotes Don't Automatically Renumber

Roger was sent a Word document that he needed to edit. The document had 90 footnotes in it, and he needed to delete footnote 23. Roger went into the document body, found the footnote marker for the appropriate footnote, and then deleted it. The footnote was actually deleted, but the remaining footnotes did not renumber. Roger wonders what could be causing this problem with the footnotes.

The answer could be quite simple, and related to using the Track Changes feature of Word. When many people edit documents, they do so with Track Changes turned on. In that case, deleting the footnote doesn't actually delete it, but simply marks it as deleted text. Word doesn't renumber the footnotes because the footnote is still there—albeit marked for deletion. When the changes are accepted or rejected, then Word will renumber the footnotes accordingly.

If you are doing your edits without Track Changes being turned on, then it is possible that your footnotes don't use automatic numbering. Meaning, whoever created the footnotes actually inserted the numbers within the Custom Mark field of the Footnote and Endnote dialog box. Display the dialog box again and you can figure out if this is the case.

It is also possible that the document has multiple sections in it and that each section (or at least the section containing footnote 24) has been configured so that footnotes for that section begin with a specific number. You can figure this out by putting the insertion point in the section containing footnote 24, displaying the Footnote and Endnote dialog box, clicking Options and examining how the numbering is configured in that dialog box.

Finally, if you've tried everything else and the numbering is still messed up, try to "force" Word to examine the numbers it is using. Do this by following these steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to display the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.
  2. Click the More button, if it is available.
  3. Click the Use Wildcards radio button.
  4. With the insertion point in the Find What box, click Format and choose Style. Word displays the Find Style dialog box.
  5. Locate and click on the Footnote Reference style.
  6. Click OK to close the Find Style dialog box.
  7. In the Replace With box enter the following: ^&
  8. Click Replace All.

The purpose of these steps is to try to remove any confusion that Word may be experiencing and cause it to renumber all the footnotes. If this approach doesn't work, try just a bit of a different approach:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to display the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.
  2. Click the More button, if it is available.
  3. Make sure the Use Wildcards radio button is cleared.
  4. With the insertion point in the Find What box, click No Formatting and enter the following: ^f
  5. In the Replace With box enter the following: ^&
  6. Click Replace All.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (5400) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Related Tips:

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Comments for this tip:

Joe Jordan    12 Dec 2016, 22:24
Stumbled onto your article after banging my head on my desk for over an hour regarding the reordering of numbered items. I would get a 0 when I updated the moved reference. Turns out I had tracked changes on. Thank you for posting this.
Sava    08 Dec 2016, 18:07
Remaining grateful
E S Field    06 Dec 2016, 15:21
The notes renumbered but the footnote content disappeared (Word 2013).
Danna    01 Dec 2016, 01:56
Awsome! Thank you so much. Very useful and user friendly explanation. Spent quite some time trying everything I could think off to fix the automatically generated numbers in my footnotes... except turning off the change tracking :P
Kim    18 Nov 2016, 18:40
Helpful advise. Solved my footnote mystery.

aldiviva    01 Nov 2016, 20:34
Does not work for me (Word 2013). I sure wish it did!
JAN    20 Oct 2016, 12:53
Does not work
JOHNNY     26 Sep 2016, 21:46
You saved my life and my whole carreer
Clare    11 Sep 2016, 22:41
Thank you so much for this article.
Zeke    20 May 2016, 14:45
Thank you sooo much. I was just banging my head against the screen trying to find a workaround for this problem, until I found your very helpful tip.
J. Ray    13 May 2016, 11:31
Great article! Saved me a lot of time.
Thanks for the help!
CY    05 May 2016, 12:22
Thank you soooo much for this! I almost lost it and thought I had to start over again. I removed some text with footnotes and replace it with new text, but then it started at a different number. I tried everything. But this was the solution. As soon as I accepted the track change, everything renumbered. Thank you so much Allen!
Luisa    16 Mar 2016, 12:33
Thanks a lot! now I can happily continue working! tracking changes was my issue
nerdhub    24 Feb 2016, 00:38
None of these worked for me. I have been editing my doc using track changes. Now that the doc is ready to format, I find the ftnts are not renumbering as I go through reformatting them with Zotero. I read this article and turned off Track Changes, and went through both procedures above. The first one will not allow me to "replace all". The second one does not result in renumbered ftnts.
Mike    20 Oct 2015, 11:21
Thank you so much!
Jose    11 Aug 2015, 19:42
Didn't work. I'm inserting new notes - end page notes - and it always marks 1, out of the sequence of the notes already existing . No changes in the document.
Fernando    02 Aug 2015, 14:09
Although the footnote numbering sequence at the botton of the page is fine, the numbering inserted in the body of the document doesn't match the corresponding footnote number. Although when I put the cursor over the wrong number reference, it points to the right footnote, within the body, withing the same section, I have three different numbering sequences going on. Help!
Jud    27 Jul 2015, 23:44
Allen is spot on, the track changes feature is what was causing the headache. I accepted the changes relating to footnotes and the problem disappeared. Hooray!
PR    21 Jul 2015, 16:48
Wow! This saved my day. I thought I was going to lose my mind...
marc    15 Jun 2015, 03:39
thanks, this really helped!
scott    01 May 2015, 18:39
What am I supposed to put in the Find What box in the first scenario? Nothing? I can't hit replace all with nothing in there?
tiduj    01 May 2015, 11:33
Thank you! This was really useful!
Mary R    21 Apr 2015, 17:12
Thank you!! That helped so very much!!!!
Kurt    05 Feb 2015, 07:59
Thanks, you are a lifesaver! The track changes function was active for me.
Ana    05 Dec 2014, 09:58
thank you, very helpful tip!
Adrian    27 Aug 2014, 08:09
Yes, I can confirm, this works!

I had the same problem: I hade several note number jumps in my document. There was no way they could be renumbered without those gaps.

It turned out that I was using Track Changes, which --as Allen so clearly explained here-- just hid the deleted notes, thus making their numbers invisible, causing the remianing note numbers to be out of sequence.
JMS    11 Aug 2014, 18:35
Wow, this was really helpful. Once I accepted the changes the notes were numbered correctly.
CB    21 Jul 2014, 23:58
Hey RJ, If you are tracking changes they do not renumber until you accept all changes.
Sandi    22 Jun 2014, 19:32
Thanks! Yep, it was Track Changes!
Marc    22 Apr 2014, 11:47
Thanks - you just saved me. I had track changes on....
RJ    28 Jan 2014, 17:06
I tried all these tips, and they do not work. What is the problem with this program?

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