Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Table Numbers are Skipped.

Table Numbers are Skipped

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated February 6, 2021)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Geoff has a Word document with about 40 numbered tables. In a few places throughout the document the table numbering breaks down. For example, the table numbers will skip a number, e.g. Table 16, Table 17, then Table 19. The cross referencing also goes wrong, and the table list in the table of contents is wrong. Geoff has updated fields throughout the document and re-inserted the table captions, but to no avail.

There are no clear-cut answers as to why this problem could be happening, but there are a few things you can try. First, you should check the styles used for the captions. Make sure that there are no inconsistencies in the styles used (at either a paragraph or character level), as this could cause Word to throw off the number under some circumstances.

Next, check the actual fields used for the table captions. Display the field codes (choose Tools | Options | View tab | Field Codes) and compare them to make sure that they, too, are consistent with each other.

Also check to make sure that hidden text is displayed in your document. It could be that the missing caption is there, but is marked as hidden text and therefore not displayed. You can display the hidden text by choosing Tools | Options | View tab and clicking either Hidden Text or All.

If you've been using Track Changes in the document, it is also possible that the missing caption was accidentally deleted, but Word still treats it as if it is there for numbering purposes. Make sure Track Changes is turned off, and then use the Reviewing toolbar to accept all the changes in the document. Refresh the fields, and hopefully your missing caption number will reappear.

Finally, if none of the above work, you should consider the possibility that the document is somehow corrupted. (Document corruption can manifest itself in a variety of ways.) Open a new, blank document, and then select all of the original document except the final paragraph mark. (Excluding this final paragraph mark is very important.) Press Ctrl+C, go back to the blank document, then press Ctrl+V. Check to see, in the new document, if the numbering is corrected.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (368) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Table Numbers are Skipped.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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