Unable to Use Bulleting and Numbering

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 3, 2013)


Candace wrote concerning a problem she periodically has with Word. It seems that when she copies one document into another she often loses the ability to bullet and number items--even the tools are "grayed out" on the toolbar. It seems that the condition is only applicable to some paragraphs in the document, and that there is no apparent difference between "good" and "bad" paragraphs when it comes to the problem.

Quite honestly, Candace, Word just shouldn't do this. Since Word is not designed to work that way (to selectively turn off the availability of the bullet and numbering tools), it is an indicator that perhaps something is wrong with the document. The first problem that springs to mind is that perhaps you have a Word virus on your system, but the symptoms do not sound like anything that has been reported in previous Word viruses. (Besides, Word viruses aren't always as benign as the symptoms you are experiencing.)

The other (and more likely) reason the problem is that somehow your Word document--or a template on which it is based--has become corrupted. Corrupted documents can exhibit themselves in any number of random and seemingly bizarre means. Exactly how you recover a corrupted document varies depending on whether you feel the document itself or the template is corrupted, and which version of Word you are using. To learn more information on this topic (and there is quite a bit), refer to the following page at the Word MVP site:


WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1544) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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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What is five less than 8?

2016-11-30 13:44:36


It isn't a virus or a corrupted file. Those are the suggestions of someone who really doesn't know what they are talking about. Word's own formatting often interferes. This is happening to a lot of people. Candace should try removing all special formatting and see if that fixes the problem, first by using the styles tool, and if that doesn't work she could try copying all text then special pasting sans formatting, or pasting into an .rtf than back into a word document.

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