How to Work With Captions in Microsoft Word

457833 How to Work With Captions in Microsoft Word

Adding captions to tables, figures, equations, and other objects in Word not only professionalizes your documents, but also allows you to easily reference them from the text. This tutorial will teach you everything you need to know about inserting, formatting, updating, and deleting captions.

Inserting Captions

The first step is inserting a caption associated with an object in your document. Here’s how:

  1. Select the object (table, figure, equation, etc.) that needs a caption.
  2. On the References tab, click Insert Caption.
  3. In the Label list, choose an appropriate label for your object type (e.g. Table, Figure, Equation).
  4. Add your desired caption text in the Caption box.
  5. Under Position, pick where you want the caption to appear relative to the object.
  6. Enable the Exclude label from caption box if you only want the caption without the label appearing.
  7. Click OK to insert the caption.

By default, Word inserts captions as a paragraph attached to the associated object. The caption label (e.g. “Table 1”) is automatically numbered sequentially.

Tip: You can press Ctrl+Shift+Enter when the insertion point is in a caption’s text to insert a line break instead of a paragraph break. This allows you to keep captions together with their objects.

Formatting Captions

You can customize the appearance of captions in your document by modifying their styles. Here’s how:

  1. Right-click any caption and select Update Caption > Update All Captions. This resets any manual formatting.
  2. In the Styles pane, right-click the style you want to edit (e.g. Caption) and select Modify.
  3. On the Formatting tab, pick font type and size, text color, alignment, etc.
  4. Click OK to save changes.

All captions of that label type (e.g. tables, figures) will now reflect the updated style formatting. Make sure to use this approach instead of manually formatting individual captions, or your formatting will be overridden when captions update.

Updating Captions

When inserting new captions or deleting existing ones, you’ll need to update the caption numbering. Here are two easy ways to do this:

  • Method 1: Press Ctrl+A to select the entire document and then press F9 to update all fields. All captions will renumber to stay sequential.
  • Method 2: Right-click any caption and choose Update Caption > Update All Captions. This also sequentially renumbers all captions.

If your document has multiple chapters, you may want to include the chapter number in captions (e.g. “Figure 1-3”) for clarity. To do this:

  1. With the insertion point inside a caption, go to References > Insert Caption to open the dialog box.
  2. Enable the Include chapter number option.
  3. Choose whether to show the label and chapter number on the same line or separate lines.
  4. Click OK.

Chapter numbers will now appear in all your captions!

Cross-referencing Captions

You can create cross-references to link captions with mentions in the body text. Here’s how:

  1. In the document, place the insertion point where you want the cross-reference link.
  2. Go to References > Cross-reference.
  3. Under Reference type, choose the caption label you want to link (e.g. Figure).
  4. Select the specific caption number under Insert reference to.
  5. Insert as hyperlink is enabled by default so the cross-reference becomes clickable.
  6. Click Insert and a hyperlinked caption number is added.

When captions get renumbered, cross-references automatically update. If they don’t, selecting the cross-reference and pressing F9 will update it.

Deleting Captions

To delete a caption:

  1. Select the entire caption by clicking at the start of the caption label text and dragging across all lines of the caption.
  2. Press the Delete key.

When you delete captions, the remaining captions become disordered. Fix this by using the methods described earlier to update all captions. Deleted caption numbers will be skipped.

And that covers the key things you need to know about working with captions! By following the guidance in this article, you’ll be able to insert, format, manage, and link captions like a pro. Let me know in the comments if you have any other caption-related questions.