Using Cross-References in Microsoft Word

One feature that I get questions about is the cross-reference capability. This is the ability to insert text that references things like numbered paragraphs. We've probably all had the frustration of having a reference in your text that says something like "As explained in paragraph 3.1..." and then in the course of editing your document pargraph 3.1 becomes paragraph 3.4 and suddenly your text is wrong.

Even worse is when you've used a LOT of manual cross-references and you know that many of them have subsequently changed and you have to manually page through your document and check/update each and every one. Nightmare.

Luckily Word has a cross-reference capability that can prevent those problems.

First let's use a simpler example and that's referencing text that is on a particular page. To do that click on the text you want to reference and create a bookmark (Insert > Bookmark) for it.

Then go to the place you want to reference that text and type your intro ex: " you can see on page ". Then click Insert > Cross-Reference, select "Bookmark" as the reference type and "Page number" under "Insert reference to".

Inserting a Cross-Reference in Word In the "For which bookmark" list at the bottom of the dialog box select the bookmark that you want to cross-reference to. Once you're happy with what you have there, click "Insert" and Word will insert the page number at the current cursor location.

Now if that bookmark moves to another page as you edit the document and it repaginates, you can easily update that reference without having to manually check it. In a few paragraphs I'll show you how to update your entire document in just a couple of keystrokes.


Cross-Referencing Numbered Paragraphs

A slightly more complicated task is cross-referencing numbered paragraphs. First off we're going to assume that you're correctly using Word's paragraph numbering capability.

If you're doing that, then when you click to insert your cross-reference after your intro (ex: "As defined in paragraph ") choose the reference type of "Numbered Item" and "Paragraph Number" as the thing to insert a reference to. When you do that all of your numbered paragraphs will appear in the "For which numbered item" box at the bottom of the dialog box. Select the one you want to cross-reference to and then click Insert.

If you don't see any numbered paragraphs listed there, or you just don't see the one you want, it means you haven't done your paragraph numbering correctly. Revisit that issue and once it's fixed come back to your cross reference and it should be there.

Updating Your Cross-References

You might notice that your cross-references may not update automatically as you edit the document. That's o.k., because it's simple to force all of the cross-references to update before you print or share your document.

Simply press CTRL+A to select all of the text in your document (that way you don't miss one) and then press F9 to force all of the fields to update to current values. All of the cross-references will immediately update and you're good to go.

More Resources