How to create captions for equations

Word 2016
When you add formulas to your document, it may need to to add captions - right-justified automatic numbering on the same line as equation. It is easy to add captions for the equation:
Formula with caption in Word 365

By default, Word provides the functionality named Captions that creates captions for figures (pictures, images, photos, etc.), tables, and equations. But Word inserts the standard captions above or below the item. When you need to add the caption on the same line as the equation and make it right justified, you need to take additional steps:

Add the caption to the equation

To add captions for equations in your document, do the following:

   1.   When you type an equation (see how to create different equations for more details), at the end of it, type the symbol Hash (#) and then the number in a format that you prefer (usually in the round brackets, in parentheses).

For example:

Formula with hash and number in Word 365

   2.   Press Enter.

Word automatically centers the equation, and positions to the right the number after the character #:

Formatted formula with number in Word 365

However, this number is not updated automatically when you insert or re-order equations.

Add automatically updated captions

To add automatically updated numbering (captions):

   3.   Position the cursor anywhere in the document, not in the equation.

   4.   On the Reference tab, in the Captions group, click the Insert Caption button:

Insert Caption in Word 365

   5.   In the Caption dialog box:

  • In the Label drop-down list, select Equation,
  • Select the Exclude label from caption checkbox:
    The Caption dialog box in Word 365

    This option excludes the label (word Equation) from the automatically updated caption numbering.

  • If needed, change the numbering by clicking the Numbering... button:

    In the Caption Numbering dialog box:

    Caption Numbering dialog box in Word 365
    • In the Format dropdown list, select the numbering format you prefer:
    Format in Caption Numbering dialog box Word 365
    • If it is necessary, check the Include chapter number check box to select the level of your heading and a separator:
      • From the Chapter starts with style dropdown list, select the heading level you need to include in the caption:
        Chapter starts with style in Caption Numbering dialog box Word 365
      • In the Use separator dropdown list, select the punctuation you want to insert between the chapter number and the equation number:

      For example, use em-dash as a separator between the chapter number and the equation number:

      The Caption Numbering dialog box in Word 365

Add labels

  • If necessary, add a new label by clicking the New label... button.

    For example:

    The New Label button in the Caption dialog box in Word 365

Format captions (optionally)

It is possible to add parentheses in the caption for easier formatting with equation numbering:

To add the parentheses to the number, do the following:

  • Click the New Label... button and insert an opening parenthesis and click OK:
    The New Label dialog box in Word 365
  • After adding a number in the format that you prefer (for example, with Heading 2 and em-dash separator), type space and a closing parenthesis:
    Example of the label in Word 365

Position the captions to the same line as the equation

   6.   Select the added caption, cut it, and paste instead of the number that you added after the symbol # in the equation:

Formulas with captions in Word 365

Don't forget to update fields in the document after making changes!


  1. To cut a selected text, click Ctrl+X or on the Home tab, in the Clipboard group, click the Cut button:
    Cut in Word 365
  2. To paste a cut text, click Ctrl+V or on the Home tab, in the Clipboard group, click the Paste button.

Edit or modify caption numbering

Microsoft Word creates caption numbers as fields.

Captions as fields in Word 365

See how to turn on or turn off highlighting of fields in a Word document to display all fields in a document with a gray background.

DO NOT edit caption numbers! If you change the number:

  • For non-critical changes such as separator or spaces, Word will update it, and you will lose your changes,
  • Otherwise, the caption number may stop updating automatically.

To modify the numbering, do the following:

  • Click Alt+F9 to display all field codes in the document.
  • Change the format of the fields as you want.
  • Don't forget to press Alt+F9 again to display fields results instead of the field codes (see Field keyboard shortcuts for more details).

We strongly recommend checking the document at least visually after changes!

Update caption numbering

Word automatically updates the caption numbers when you insert a new caption. Word doesn't always keep up with changes in a document. After deleting or moving a caption, you should manually update captions numbering.

To update fields in the document, select the entire document by clicking Ctrl+A, then click F9.

See also Update fields in text boxes and shapes.

See also this tip in French: Comment créer les numéros d'équations.

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