How to create numbers and titles for tables

Word 365
Tables are visual displays of data arranged in rows and columns. Table cells contain numbers, text, or a combination of numbers and text. Some cells can include images, symbols, links, and other objects. See how to create and modify tables in Word.

Each table should be referenced in the document content. Typically, tables have a number and a title, which are referenced. Microsoft Word offers functionality to create automatically updated numbers for figures, tables, and equations. The numbers and titles, created using the Captions functionality, are used to cross-reference tables in a document and create a List of Tables.

The word Table and a number identify a table then follows the caption. A caption is a short block of text that explain table contents without referring to the document content:

Caption for photo in Word 365

See more about creating numbers and captions for figures: images, pictures, charts, etc., creating captions for equations, and creating captions for photographs.

Attention! We highly recommend checking the formatting requirements, accepted by your college, university, company, or established on the project, etc.

Insert a caption for tables

To add automatically updated numbers and a title (caption) for a table, select it by:

  • Selecting all rows or columns of the table one by one, or
  • Moving the mouse over the table until you see the table selection icons in the upper-left corner of the table and clicking it:
    Table handles in Word 365

    Note: You can also click on the table selection icon in the bottom-right corner for the same effect. See how to select table elements for more details.

After selecting a table, do one of the following:

  • On the References tab, in the Captions group, click the Insert Caption button:
    Insert Caption button in Word 365
  • Right-click on the selection and select the Insert Caption... in the popup menu:
    Insert Caption for pictures in popup menu Word 365

In the Caption dialog box:

Caption dialog box in Word 365

Select the label and its position

  • Under Options:
    • From the Label dropdown list, select the item type you need:
      Labels in Caption dialog box Word 365

      Note: Remember that each type of object you labeled will be numbered sequentially within its group.

    • From the Position dropdown list, select one of the options:
      Position in Caption dialog box Word 365
      • Above selected item (selected by default for the Table label), or
      • Below selected item (selected by default for the Figure label).

      Note: The captions for tables are usually located above the tables.

Exclude label from caption

  • Select the Exclude label from caption check box if you don't need to add the label to the caption:
    Exclude label from caption in Caption dialog box Word 365

    Some requirements recommend using the lowercase word table instead of the automatically added Table in Word cross-references.

    The option Exclude label from caption hides the label from being displayed in cross-references or a List of Tables.

    For example:

    • When you insert a cross-reference with the selected option Entire captions or Only label and number (see more details how to use cross-references in Word), Word adds the capitalized label and number, as you see in the Caption field of the Caption dialog box. E.g., “are listed in Table 3” or “are listed in Table 3 Number of articles by statuses and products”.
    • All captions, created with selected option Exclude label from caption, Word adds in cross-references as their numbers without the labels. Type the word table (as required) and insert a reference to a caption (e.g., “are listed in table 3”).

Add a new label

  • Click the New Label... button to create a new label:
    Add new label in Caption dialog box Word 365

    In the New Label dialog box, type a new label name:

    New Label dialog box in Word 365

Note: See also how to delete a custom label.

Modify caption numbering

  • Click the Numbering... button if you want to change any of the numbering options:
    Numbering in Caption dialog box Word 365

    In the Caption Numbering dialog box:

    Caption Numbering dialog box in Word 365
    • In the Format dropdown list, select the numbering format you need (some requirements recommend using Latin capital letters instead of numbers for tables):
    Format in Caption Numbering dialog box Word 365
    • Select the Include chapter number check box to include the chapter number in the caption number. After selecting this option, two more options will be unlocked:
      • 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 need to insert between the chapter number and the table number:
        Use separator in Caption Numbering dialog box Word 365
      • At the bottom of the dialog box, see how your choices will look in the Examples section. E.g., Table 2.3” means the third table in chapter 2.
      • Click the OK button.

Add a title

  • To add the text of your caption, click after the table number and enter the text. E.g.:
    Title in Caption dialog box Word 365


  1. There are several standard requirements for table titles:
    • Chicago style recommends using the table title in line with the label and number. E.g.:
      Title for table 1 in Word 365
    • In opposite, APA (American Psychological Association) and MLA (Modern Language Association) styles recommend using the table title with one double-spaced line below the table number (see how to adjust line spacing). E.g.:
      Title for table 2 in Word 365

      To create such a title, don't type any text in the Caption field, leave it, then do the following:

      1. Create a caption without a title.
      2. Position cursor after a caption number and add a new line (by pressing Shift+Enter) in which type of title you need.

        Note: You can press Enter and create a new paragraph instead of a new line. See how to create a List of Tables (Table of Figures) for more details.

      3. Format the caption to adjust line spacing (see how to change caption line spacing).
    • In addition, MLA style recommends using a hanging indent to the second line of long titles. E.g.:
      Title for table 3 in Word 365
  2. Word offers very helpful functionality to create a text that can be displayed in a List of Tables instead of a caption text. See how to create a Table of Contents Entry.
  3. For most requirements, the number and the title should be without an ending period. If you need a period after a number, type it in the Caption field.
  4. If a table spans more than one page, the first page of that table should have a complete caption; the subsequent pages should have an abbreviated caption consisting of a label, a number, and the word Continued. E.g., “Table 3. Continued”.

Using an AutoCaption

See Adding captions with AutoCaption.

Group a table and its caption

According to all requirements, a table (or its part) with its caption should appear on the same page. Word adds captions for tables as a regular paragraph with selected Keep with next option. See how to keep lines and paragraphs together for more details.

See also how to keep a table row on one page and keep a table on one page of a Word document.

Edit or modify a caption

Microsoft Word adds numbers in captions as fields.

Caption field in Word 365

You can show all fields in a document with a gray background, see how to turn on or turn off highlighting of fields in a Word document.

  • Labels:

    If needed, you can change the label. Word for Microsoft 365 will update the reference if available. In this case, Word will not create a new label and a separate numbering. Be careful!

  • Numbers:

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

    • In some cases, Word will update it, and you will lose your changes,
    • Otherwise, the caption number may stop updating automatically.
  • Text:

    To add or modify a caption text, click on it and change what you need, like in a regular paragraph.

Do not forget to format a caption according to the requirements you use!

Delete a caption and an unnecessary label

If you need to remove some caption, select the caption paragraph (full line or several lines) and press Delete. Do not forget to update fields in the document!

To remove the unnecessary label, do the following:

   1.   Open the Caption dialog box.

   2.   In the Label dropdown list, select the label you want to remove.

   3.   Click the Delete Label to remove a custom label:

Delete Label in Captions dialog box Word 365

Note: You can't delete predefined labels: Equation, Figure, and Table.

Update caption numbering

Word automatically updates references and numbering if you insert a new text. However, copying, deleting, or moving context often leads to confusion in the document. After such operations, you have to update all dependencies manually.

To update fields in the document, select the entire document by clicking Ctrl+A, and do one of the following:

  • Press F9,
  • Right-click on any of the fields and select Update Field in the popup menu:
    Update Field in popup menu Word 365

Word will update all fields. You can be sure that the numbering and references are correct.

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

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