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: Brackets around Footnote References.

Brackets around Footnote References

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 25, 2016)


Ayman created a document that has numerous footnotes in it. He would like the footnote references to have square brackets surrounding the numbers and wonders if there is a way to do this automatically.

The short answer is no, there is no way to add brackets around footnote references automatically. You can, however, add them by using Find and Replace. Simply follow these general steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+H. Word displays the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  2. Figure 1. The Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  3. In the Find What box, enter ^f. (Make sure you use a lowercase letter "f".)
  4. In the Replace With box, enter [^&].
  5. Click on Replace All.

That's it. Word searches for all footnote references in both the main body of the document and in the footnote area. It then replaces them with brackets containing whatever was found in the search.

There is one caveat to this approach: You should do it only once, probably after you are done inserting footnotes in your document. If you do it more than once you will end up with multiple nested brackets, which could be a mess to try to clean up.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9253) 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: Brackets around Footnote References.

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?

2018-01-24 07:21:01


Thank you so much.
I was trying to do the same with my endnotes . I tried replacing the 'f' with 'e' and... done!!!
I also had to make the superscript go away which I could do by selecting all and deselecting the superscript option. :)
Thanks a ton.

2017-04-24 04:39:34


a lot of thanks, it's effective, but some times i need to remove the brackets again, can me?!

2016-06-25 19:56:15

Byongchol Kim

Thank you very much for your tip. I spent several hours searching for this fuction. It really helps a lot. Many thanks.

2016-06-25 09:05:13

Fred Burg

Hi Allen,

Congratulations and new daughter-in-law. May they live happily ever after.

As to the caveat on the footnotes. I was reading the first paragraph and was curious as to how you were going to pull this rabbit out of a hat.

When I saw your solution, it was a "duh" moment.

But why not take it one step further. You know that you're never finished with a document. When you think you are and run the Replace operation you described, you'll find there's more text and, hence, more footnotes to be added.

So a macro comes to mind with the following steps:
- find all [^f] as find what and replace it with ^f
- find all ^f (now w/o any brackets) and replace as you had


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