What is a multilevel list

Create and work with multilevel lists in Microsoft Word

With Microsoft Word, you can easily create and format multilevel lists in your documents. You can choose from a variety of formatting options, including bulleted lists, numbers, or letters. Let's take a look.

How to make a multilevel list in Microsoft Word

Creating a multilevel list in Word is easy. Start by writing out one or more lines of your list, with each element of your list on a different line. Then select these lines.

On the Ribbon's Home tab, click the Multilevel Lists button, then click one of the built-in list types shown in the drop-down menu.

Your list will now be formatted in the style you selected.

And yes, at the moment it's a one-level list. The truth is that single-level and multilevel lists in Word don't technically differ that much. Only when you promote and demote list items does it become a multilevel list.

Demoting and promoting lines on your multilevel list

Demoting a row in your list indents the row and moves it to a lower level in the list. Applying a line does exactly the opposite.

Demote or promote a list item by pressing Tab or Shift

Start by placing your cursor at the beginning of the line you want to demote or promote.

To move this line down to a lower level in the list, just press Tab.

You can also demote a line multiple times by pressing the Tab key as many times as you want. Here we have downgraded the third line on our list twice.

Repeat these steps if you want to add four, five, or even more levels to your multilevel list.

You can also promote a line (move it back one level) by placing the cursor at the beginning of the line ...

And then press Shift + Tab.

You can also demote or promote multiple rows at a time by selecting them.

and then press Tab or Shift + Tab.

Pick a specific list level for a line

While the Tab + Shift + Tab combination is probably the easiest way to move lines up or down in your list, Word has a menu option to choose a specific level.

Place your cursor anywhere on the line you want to change (or select multiple lines if you want to change multiple lines).

On the ribbon's Home tab, click the Multilevel List button, point to Change List Level in the drop-down list, and then select the level you want.

The line (or lines) you selected will be changed to this layer.

How to quickly change the type of your multilevel list

Sometimes you can decide that you want to change the base type of the multilevel list you are using. Perhaps you originally chose numbers, but now you want to use bullets. Or you just want a different numbering scheme. In either case, you can easily make this change.

Place the cursor anywhere on your list. It really doesn't matter where as it will change the entire list.

Open the Multilevel Lists drop-down menu again, this time just clicking one of the other standard list types in the menu.

Your entire list changes to this new guy.

How to customize your multilevel list

So what if you want to change something your list likes the way only one level of rows is numbered, or how the levels are aligned. You can do that too. Multilevel lists in Word are pretty customizable, so you can change just about any aspect.

First, place the cursor anywhere in your list. Open the "Multilevel List" drop-down list and select the "Define New Multilevel List" command.

The Define New Multilevel List window opens, providing a number of basic options for customizing the appearance of the lines in your list. There is more here, however, than what can be imagined. So click the "More" button at the bottom left.

Your window should now look like this, with a number of additional options on the right.

Here is the overview. First, select the level of the list that you want to change. You can either click on the simple numbered list on the left or on a line in the middle window that shows what the list actually looks like.

Below that, you'll find a number of options for changing the number format and positioning for the selected layer.

Here's what you can do there (and note that this list includes the additional information that will be shown by the "More" button):

  • Enter formatting for number: You can enter the text for the line number as you want it to appear in this field. Click the Font button on the right to change the font used for the layer.
  • Number style for this level: Use this drop-down menu to change the style of the selected number level. You can change it to pretty much any number or bullet you want. You can even shuffle bullet points into a numbered list this way (or vice versa).
  • Enter the level number from: Use this drop-down menu to include a previous level number. This way you can create line numbers like 1.1. 1.1.1; and so on.
  • Start with: Select the number or letter where you want the numbering to begin.
  • Restart list after: Let the list restart after it reaches a specific number or letter.
  • Position: Use the controls in the Position section to change how the selected number layer is aligned and indented. You can also click the "Set for All Layers" button to control the alignment and indents for the entire list. You can also choose to insert a tab character (the default), a space, or no character after the line number.

At the top right of the window you will find a few additional options including:

  • Apply changes to: Choose whether you want to apply changes to the entire list, from where the cursor is in the list, or only to the levels you selected.
  • Link level with style: You can use this drop-down menu to associate a style with the selected layer, whether it is a built-in Word style or one that you have created. This can be especially useful for associating levels with heading styles.
  • Level to be displayed in the gallery: This drop-down list lets you choose the level of the list that appears in the Gallery on the Word Home tab. In all honesty, it's not a very useful option, and it's usually best to keep the default setting - level 1.
  • ListNum field list name: Use this field to associate the layer with a name that you can then use with Word's LISTNUM function. This is useful when creating functions to generate lists.

After making changes to a specific level, you will need to repeat the process for each additional level of the list that you want to change. So select a level, make your changes, select the next level, make those changes, and so on.

When you've changed all of the layers you want, click the OK button and your multilevel list will now show your changes.

Here's how to transform your multilevel list into a new style

After customizing the multilevel list, you may want to use the same formatting for other lists - including lists in other documents. You can do this by converting the list to a style.

Place the cursor anywhere on any line of your list, open the "Multilevel List" drop-down menu again, this time select the "Define New List Style" option.

First give your new style a name in the "Define new list style" window.

Now there are a number of formatting options available in this window. You can change the font, character formatting, type (number or bullet), and a few other things that you could change as you customized your list.

While these options can be useful if you want to create a quick new multilist style from scratch (i.e., if you haven't already created and customized a list that you want to turn into a style), it is highly recommended that you not deal with it. Instead, it's much more effective to build your list, customize it using the more powerful tools we talked about in the previous section, and then create your style. The new style includes all of the customizations you've already made to the list.

One option to look out for is whether you want the style to be available only in the current document or in new documents based on the template attached to the document. The latter is what you'll want to choose if you need to access the style while creating other documents.

Choose what you want and then click OK to save your new style.

Now you can choose this style (or any other list style you have created) from the Multilevel List drop-down menu anytime you want to create another multilevel list.

And now you know more than you ever wanted to know about creating multilevel lists in Word.