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: Footnotes Don't Automatically Renumber.

Footnotes Don't Automatically Renumber

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 22, 2019)


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. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Footnotes Don't Automatically Renumber.

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. ...


Understanding Strikethrough Formatting

The strikethrough text feature in Word can be used as part of your document or to indicate that changes have been made to ...

Discover More

Setting User Information

Need to change the information that Word stores about you? Here's how to find the info.

Discover More

Automatically Inserting Tomorrow's Date

Do you routinely need to work with tomorrow's date? Why not create a template that automatically adds tomorrow's date to ...

Discover More

Do More in Less Time! Are you ready to harness the full power of Word 2013 to create professional documents? In this comprehensive guide you'll learn the skills and techniques for efficiently building the documents you need for your professional and your personal life. Check out Word 2013 In Depth today!

More WordTips (menu)

Selectively Changing Endnotes to Footnotes

Want to turn some (but not all) of your endnotes into footnotes. Rather than do it manually, you can apply the shortcut ...

Discover More

Converting to Automatic Endnotes

When you add endnotes to a document, they are automatically maintained and renumbered by Word, as necessary. If you get a ...

Discover More

Footnotes within Footnotes

Need to add footnotes to your footnotes? It's actually allowed by some style guides, but Word doesn't make it so easy.

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 one more than 7?

2022-01-13 11:37:57

Renato Mendes

Very helpfull

2020-11-19 23:21:11


Thank you very much. It was of great help.

2019-03-11 16:05:15


This tip was just perfect! I was able to quickly identify the problem that I was having because of the tracked changes. I had limited time to fix it, and this tip saved me!

2019-01-06 22:58:35


Thank you so much for giving me a simple solution to getting the footnotes to renumber as I was editing a document in tracked changes.

2018-04-19 12:05:53


Dear Allen,
Thank you so much for all your help. I am in the middle of an editing job and have found your comments to be quite useful. Keep up the great work!

2017-10-29 11:39:00


Thank you. This was a huge help.
I could have wasted a ton of time trying to figure this out on my own.

2017-03-18 21:48:11


Thank you. That was a great, quick help.

2017-03-13 04:55:45


This simply does not work at all!

2017-03-08 00:35:42


I'm a new subscriber and you've already made my *free* membership worth a million times what I am paying. :) Seriously, thank you for the incredibly clear explanation. I'll be back when I have a spare minute and plan on looking closely at your materials. I don't have time to waste looking for answers and if all of your help is this clear, it will be invaluable. Thanks!

2017-03-03 13:47:16


I love you. Absolutely love you. WHY does not Microdoft themselves share this solutions??? You saved my day.

2016-12-12 22:24:40

Joe Jordan

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.

2016-12-08 18:07:19


Remaining grateful

2016-12-06 15:21:31

E S Field

The notes renumbered but the footnote content disappeared (Word 2013).

2016-12-01 01:56:21


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

2016-11-18 18:40:06


Helpful advise. Solved my footnote mystery.

2016-11-01 20:34:34


Does not work for me (Word 2013). I sure wish it did!

2016-10-20 12:53:47


Does not work

2016-09-26 21:46:24


You saved my life and my whole carreer

2016-09-11 22:41:59


Thank you so much for this article.

2016-05-20 14:45:31


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.

2016-05-13 11:31:29

J. Ray

Great article! Saved me a lot of time.
Thanks for the help!

2016-05-05 12:22:02


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!

2016-03-16 12:33:12


Thanks a lot! now I can happily continue working! tracking changes was my issue

2016-02-24 00:38:19


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.

2015-10-20 11:21:42


Thank you so much!

2015-08-11 19:42:35


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.

2015-08-02 14:09:52


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!

2015-07-27 23:44:13


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!

2015-07-21 16:48:51


Wow! This saved my day. I thought I was going to lose my mind...

2015-06-15 03:39:31


thanks, this really helped!

2015-05-01 18:39:14


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?

2015-05-01 11:33:42


Thank you! This was really useful!

2015-04-21 17:12:35

Mary R

Thank you!! That helped so very much!!!!

2015-02-05 07:59:15


Thanks, you are a lifesaver! The track changes function was active for me.

2014-12-05 09:58:23


thank you, very helpful tip!

2014-08-27 08:09:06


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.

2014-08-11 18:35:56


Wow, this was really helpful. Once I accepted the changes the notes were numbered correctly.

2014-07-21 23:58:20


Hey RJ, If you are tracking changes they do not renumber until you accept all changes.

2014-06-22 19:32:53


Thanks! Yep, it was Track Changes!

2014-04-22 11:47:15


Thanks - you just saved me. I had track changes on....

2014-01-28 17:06:24


I tried all these tips, and they do not work. What is the problem with this program?

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.