Living just east of Crazy

Building a Table of Contents (Typesetting your manuscript – article 4)

Written By: Eddie Snipes - Mar• 06•12

Whether your book is fiction or non-fiction, it needs a table of contents. Aside from the fact that readers need it to locate the chapter they want, a book with a table of contents looks more professional, and readers can browse the contents to get an idea of what to expect from your book.

Word users have an easy path to creating a table of contents, but it does take a little preparation.

Let’s first talk about what we expect our table of contents to display. If your book is fiction, most likely the only information needed is the chapter name and page number. If it’s non-fiction, you’ll need to decide how much information the reader needs in order to find the right chapter and subtopic.

Unless your book is a technical manual, most likely you won’t need more than two levels. Beyond two levels, the contents begin to look crowded. If the content of your non-fiction book is well identified by the chapter name, then stick with one level. However, if your topic has a lot of subtopics, give the reader a few levels in which to find the subtopic they want. For example, suppose your book is on gardening. One chapter may be on vegetables, one on flowers, trees, composting, etc. Under vegetables, having subtopics in the table of contents on potatoes, tomatoes, beans and other plants would be helpful. But having subtopics under beans would be cumbersome. The chapter may have additional subtopics, but the table of contents probably should not. Of course, that’s my opinion, so you may want to do it your way.

Consider these things while planning your table of contents. You’ll need to know how much you want to present in a moment.


Headings and headers are not the same thing. We looked at headers when looking at the header and footer options. Headings refers to how the text in the body of your document are formatted. Below is a list of common headings:


Normal is the main text of a page. Each paragraph you type is normal by default. In this article, we’ll be focusing on Heading 1 – 3.

A chapter title should always be set to Heading 1. Subtopics should be heading 2 or 3. Below is an example:


If this was the complete content of the book, it would produce one of the following tables of contents:


The first example creates a table with all three headings. Heading 1 is the chapter, heading 2 is the subtopic under heading 1, and heading 3 is the subtopic under heading 2. Decide which format is best for your book, and choose the depth of your table of contents when you insert it.

When formatting my book, I always use headings to indicate a topic or subtopic – even if I don’t plan to use them in a table of contents. It makes formatting easier and more consistent.

To insert a table of contents, first format all your chapter headings and subtopic headings in your manuscript.

Insert a page break right after your title page and make sure the cursor is in that page.

Look at the menu in Word 2010 and click on ‘References’. Click on the Table of Contents icon at the upper left. See below:


If you plan on using all of your headings in the table, click on Automatic Table 1. This will give you a table similar to example 1 above.

If you only want to use heading 1 or 1 and 2, click on ‘Insert Table of Contents’ at the bottom of the drop down menu. See below:


Choose the number of levels. See below:


3 will show headings 1 through 3. Choose the level that fits your book.

Note: If you have trouble finding a heading, you can use a shortcut. For example, if you want to turn a line of text into heading 3, but Word only shows up to heading 2, press Ctrl-Alt-3. This will create heading 3. This shortcut will also work with heading 1 and 2.

Here is an example from my current book. Since the topics are clear from the chapter titles, I only have one level.


The Table of Contents is not dynamic, but it can be updated easily. Any time you add text, change the page lay outs, or do anything that might change the page numbers or headings, update the table of contents. Simply put your cursor over the table, right-click, and choose ‘Update Field’. When the window pops up, choose to update the entire table. That way Word will import any headings you have added as well as update the page numbers.

I hope this helps you in laying out your manuscript and takes you one step closer to a professionally typeset book.

Authors pay hundreds of dollars or more to get their manuscripts typeset. Researching these things took a lot of work and I’ve made them available to you for no cost. If you want to show a small token of thanks, purchase one of my books on Amazon. The ebook versions are only .99 cents.

Eddie Snipes © 2012

View the other articles in the series by going to http://www.eddiesnipes.com/writers-tips/

Buy I Called Him Dancer here. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. If you act now, I’ll include four other emotions for the same low price. It’s holding on to a 5 star rating. Find out why. Where else can you get that much entertainment for less than a buck?

Simple Faith: How every person can experience intimacy with God – the ebook version is a free download. Click Here.

Feel free to email me by clicking here.

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  1. Wow, great info, Eddie! This series is a great resource. Thanks for sharing it!

    • Eddie Snipes says:

      Thanks Vonda. I wish I had known these things last year 🙂 But if I hadn’t struggled with it, I wouldn’t have felt the need to write it.

  2. Ann Knowles says:


    I’d have to purchase several books to pay you for all the wonderful instruction you give to us. I did buy “I Call Him Dancer” when it was first published and loved every second of reading it. When can we expect another novel?

    Thank you so much for all the time you take to help other writers. I look forward to e-mails from you because I know it’s something GOOD! Just want you to know you are appreciated!


    • Eddie Snipes says:

      Thank you, Ann! Your support is greatly appreciated. I do have a couple of new novels in the making. I’m trying to finish my discipleship work first. Hopefully a new one will be out this year. Thanks again!

    • Eddie Snipes says:

      Thanks, Ann! I truly appreciate your support, and I’m grateful these articles have been helpful for you.

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