Word document losing its heading numbers and bullet points RRS feed

  • Question

  • I'm working on a document in MS Word 2016 Home & Office edition (and it's the latest up to date version). 

    The document has headings, including heading 1 and heading 2, and each has chapter numbering. I also have dot point bulleted lists in various places. For example, various sections of the document look like this:


    1. Introduction

    1.1 Overview

    The purpose of this document is to demonstrate the error in MS Word.

    1.2  Scope

    The scope of the document includes:

    • bullet point lists
    • and level 1 and 2 headings


    When I scroll through the document, for some reason many of the headings keep losing their numbering, and many of the bullet points disappear. Sometimes a level 2 heading will suddenly get a bullet point, rather than a chapter number. For example, the above document example ends up looking like this regularly (i.e. every single time I open the document and scroll up and down in it, at least 1 section ends up looking like this):


    1. Introduction


    The purpose of this document is to demonstrate the error in MS Word.

    • Scope

    The scope of the document includes:

          bullet point lists

          and level 1 and 2 headings


    In other words, the level 2 headings either lose their numbering or the number changes to a bullet, and the bullet point lists lose their bullets.

    If I use format painter on any one heading to correct the problem, it corrects all headings and bullet point lists in the document instantly.

    On the other hand, if I do not fix any of the headings, and instead save, close and reopen the document, the headings and bullets all magically return in their correct format.

    It leads me to believe there is a defect in the way MS Word is displaying the numbering and bullets

    Any ideas what the problem might be?

    Friday, January 8, 2016 12:33 PM

All replies

  • This may be a display issue, since you said that closing and reopening fix the problem.

    If, instead of closing and reopening, you switch to Print Preview (Ctrl+F2) and then go back to the previous with (ESC), then what happens? Does that also fix the problem?

    Stefan Blom, Microsoft Word MVP

    Monday, January 11, 2016 8:53 PM
  • Hi,

    What's the build number of the Microsoft Word you are using?

    In addition to Stefan's suggestion, we may also try running a repair of your Office installation to see if it helps. To do this, please follow:

    1. Go to Control Panel.

    2. Click Programs > Programs and Features.

    3. Click the Office product you want to repair,  and then click Change.

    4. Click either Quick Repair > Repair or Online Repair > Repair.

    In addition, you may also have a look at the following KB article and try the steps to see the result:



    Steve Fan
    TechNet Community Support

    Please mark the reply as an answer if you find it is helpful.

    If you have feedback for TechNet Support, contact tnmff@microsoft.com.
    • Edited by Steve Fan Tuesday, January 12, 2016 1:53 AM
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 1:50 AM
  • Thank you for your suggestion Stefan, much appreciated. In this case, after pressing Ctrl+F2 to enter print preview mode, and then Esc to step back out of it, the bullets & numbering problem was still there in the document.
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 10:16 AM
  • OK, that was a bit of a long shot. At least now we know that repaginating does not make a difference.

    Have you installed any updates recently?

    Stefan Blom, Microsoft Word MVP

    Wednesday, January 13, 2016 12:11 AM
  • Hi Steve & Stefan,

    I believe I have the latest version of Word 2016 - it's version 16.0.6366.2036

    I tried running Quick Repair through Programs & Features, though it does not appear to have solved the problem.

    I'm going to try running Online Repair this evening, once I'm finished work for the day. Will keep you posted on how it goes.

    Thank you again for your assistance & suggestions, much appreciated.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2016 7:38 AM
  • Note that similar issues are being discussed in the Microsoft Community:


    Stefan Blom, Microsoft Word MVP

    Wednesday, January 13, 2016 10:00 AM
  • Hello,

    Any update on this issue?


    Steve Fan
    TechNet Community Support

    Please mark the reply as an answer if you find it is helpful.

    If you have feedback for TechNet Support, contact tnmff@microsoft.com.
    Tuesday, January 19, 2016 9:11 AM
  • This bug is still not fixed as of January 24, 2016.  Does anyone know the status?  Is the Word team working on it?  It's very annoying.
    Sunday, January 24, 2016 8:05 PM
  • Do you see the problem in a particular document only?

    Stefan Blom, Microsoft Word MVP

    Sunday, January 24, 2016 10:54 PM
  • This just happened to me on a 300 page document, using Word 2013. Frustrating isn't the word for it.

    Thursday, March 16, 2017 3:22 PM
  • This just happened to me on a 300 page document, using Word 2013. Frustrating isn't the word for it.


    If this is happening with just one document, that document is likely corrupt. Try copying all content, minus the final paragraph mark (¶), into a new, blank document and see if that fixes the problem.

    The bug mentioned here was in Word 2016 and it was fixed last year; see https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/office_2016-word/fixed-12616-word-2016-doesnt-display-your-document/b7bb4017-8ae5-41ab-881b-03199d24ba83.

    Stefan Blom, Microsoft Word MVP

    Thursday, March 16, 2017 4:20 PM
  • This is the MOST VEXING problem with Words Headings and TOC feature.  I spend hours creating numbered headings as below:

    1. TOC Heading One

    1.1 Subheading

    1.2 Subheading

    2. TOC heading TWO

    2.1 Subheading

    2.2 Subheading

    After hours of working on a document these headings withing the text itself consistently magically disappear as do the headings in the style menu forcing me to recreate them (which itself is freaking ridiculously tough to do)

     WHY OH WHY are these numbered headings not included in default menu??????!!!!! Why should a customer have to constantly create these??

    MICROSOFT - you need to fix this problem NOW!

    Tuesday, November 28, 2017 12:40 AM
  • Once you have set up your numbered headings, you can save the document as a template. That way, you can reuse the numbering format whenever you want.

    Stefan Blom, Microsoft Word MVP

    Tuesday, November 28, 2017 2:01 PM
  • I meat same problem during working on 100 pages documents. Few pages before finish of editing I lost all heading numbers and bullet points. Despite of fact that auto safe function was on and that I was saving (ctrl + S) every few minutes after closing and reopening of document all headings and bullet points disappeared!

    Strange thing is that all tabulators and text format still looks as it should, "only" the numbers and bullet points disappeared. It happen second time! Last time I lost all numbers when I was on page 40, now only few pages before finish. 

    During all editing all numbers and bullet points were OK, also every few minutes I was closing and reopening file just to be sure that all is fine. After last closing and reopening everything disappeared. Also as I save the file before closing there was no auto safe backup file.

    Any idea why does it happening? Now I'm scared to start doing everything third time as I may lose all numbers when I'll on the last page... There is an option to safe document as a separate file every few minutes but that's not a point to proceed this way!

    Sunday, December 3, 2017 10:08 PM
  • I just had the same problem and it's terrifying because I worry about what other changes I may have lost. Why do the bullets and headers just disappear?
    Sunday, January 28, 2018 5:04 PM
  • In the Templates and Add-Ins dialog box, clear the option "Automatically update document styles."

    To display the dialog box, click Document Template on the Developer tab (Word 2007 and later).

    Stefan Blom, Microsoft Word MVP

    • Proposed as answer by Charles Kenyon Monday, January 29, 2018 1:38 AM
    Sunday, January 28, 2018 11:21 PM
  • Hi Stefan,

    We're experiencing the same problem.

    Last week, I had to update our doc styles twice and just today I had to do it again.

    The "Automatically update document styles" is already clear (checkbox is not ticked).

    Any more recommendations?

    Monday, March 5, 2018 2:46 AM
  • Not exactly the same problem, or the solution would work. I suggest posting a new question.

    Charles Kenyon Madison, WI

    Monday, March 5, 2018 3:34 AM
  • In what way are you updating the styles? Note that multilevel numbering requires that you set it up carefully.

    As Doug wrote, it is probably better to start a new thread. Be sure to provide detailed information (version of Word etc.).

    Stefan Blom, Microsoft Word MVP

    Monday, March 5, 2018 2:55 PM
  • I have exactly the same problem. I have number of different documents which have to be updated regularly. I can assure you, they are not corrupted. When I save an updated document in PDF the format looks fine, then when I save the word after reopening the word the formatting is all over the place. This issue is so frustrating. I feel like I have tried everything; I had my IT dept. looking into this, I had system re-installed, I had recent updates, I can keep adding, the list is endless. I have copied and pasted the text into the new document and started the formatting from new... NOTHING HELPS... Can someone please help with this? After spending two days updating work documents I checked all of them and half have the formatting messed up again. I feel like crying today...
    Wednesday, September 19, 2018 2:48 PM
  • If you had exactly the same problem, the solution would work.

    I suggest posting a new question on the general answers forum.

    List the actual things you have tried, not just "everything."

    Say what is happening that you do not expect.

    Charles Kenyon Madison, WI

    Thursday, September 20, 2018 6:17 PM