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: Improper Index Page Numbers.

Improper Index Page Numbers

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated May 5, 2018)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003

Emily asked about a problem she was having with page references in indexes for a long document. It seems that when she inserted the index, some of the page numbers were off by one to three pages.

The first thing to check is your settings for hidden text in your document. When you insert index codes, they are inserted as fields with the hidden attribute applied to them. Word determines page counts based on what is visible on the screen, not necessarily on what is printed. Thus, you need to make sure that the display of hidden text is in sync with the printing of hidden text.

What happens if the settings aren't in sync? If hidden text is displayed (in other words, you can see the index entry codes, such as {XE "my indexed word"}), then the space taken by those visible codes are counted in the total page count. Over the course of a long document, this can affect pagination quite a bit. However, if Word is configured to not print hidden text, then the index page numbers—which are based on what is displayed, not what is printed—won't match the actual page numbers on the printout. (Remember that the display and the printing of hidden text are controlled independently of each other.)

The solution to this situation is fairly simple. All you need to do is follow these steps:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Word displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Make sure the View tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The View tab of the Options dialog box.

  4. Make sure that both the Hidden Text and All check boxes are cleared.
  5. Click on the Print tab. (See Figure 2.)
  6. Figure 2. The Print tab of the Options dialog box.

  7. Make sure the Hidden Text check box is cleared.
  8. Make sure the Update Fields and Update Links check boxes are both selected.
  9. Click on OK.
  10. Position the insertion point anywhere within the index.
  11. Press F9 to update the index.

Your index page numbers and your printing page numbers should now be in sync with each other. If they are not, then it could be that your document includes characters that, for whatever reason, can be displayed but cannot be printed. These would affect the displayed pagination—and thus the index page numbers—but not the printed pagination. You can discover if this is the case by carefully comparing your printout to what is displayed on your screen.

Finally, if these solutions still don't correct any page number disparities, it is possible that your document is corrupted in some way. This can occur in some documents, particularly documents that are used over the course of years and that had their roots in a different word processing program. You can try to open the file in WordPad and then use WordPad's Save As command to save the document back out. This will get rid of many of the advanced codes supported by Word by not by WordPad.

If the problem still persists, the only thing left to do is to get rid of all formatting and revert to plain text. Select all the text in the document (Ctrl+A), copy it (Ctrl+C), and paste it into a text editor such as Notepad. You can then copy it from within Notepad and paste it back into a new Word document. This process will get rid of any spurious formatting codes that may be corrupting the document. The only problem with such a drastic approach, of course, is that your document is now completely unformatted and you must reformat it and insert index codes all over again.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1650) 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: Improper Index Page Numbers.

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. ...


Rounding to Even and Odd Values

Want to round values so they are always even or odd? You can do it quickly and easily by using the EVEN and ODD worksheet ...

Discover More

Taking a Picture

Excel allows you to capture portions of your worksheet as a picture that you can then use in a variety of other ways. ...

Discover More

Working with E-mailed Documents

Ding! You've got mail. That mail has a Word document attached to it. Before you rush off and open that document, take a ...

Discover More

The First and Last Word on Word! Bestselling For Dummies author Dan Gookin puts his usual fun and friendly candor back to work to show you how to navigate Word 2013. Spend more time working and less time trying to figure it all out! Check out Word 2013 For Dummies today!

More WordTips (menu)

Inconsistent Formatting in an Index

When indexing a document, you may find that some of your index entries aren't formatted the save as your other index ...

Discover More

Chapter Numbers in Indexes and TOAs

Word allows you to define prefixes for page numbers. These are often used for chapter or section numbers in a large ...

Discover More

Creating a Normal Index

Adding an index to a document is an easy task. There are a couple of ways you can do it, as described in this tip.

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is six less than 9?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the menu interface (Word 97, Word 2000, Word 2002, or Word 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.


FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.