How to Build an Index in Word 2016

By Dan Gookin

An index is a document reference or list Word 2016 can build and format, providing that you know the trick: You must mark text in a document for inclusion in the index. Once the words are marked, an index field is inserted, which displays the index.

Select index entries in Word 2016

To flag a bit of text for inclusion in an index, follow these steps:

  1. Select the text you want to reference.

    The text can be a word or a phrase or any old bit of text.

  2. On the References tab in the Index group, click the Mark Entry button.

    The selected text appears in the Mark Entry dialog box.

  3. If the entry needs a subentry, type that text in the Mark Index Entry dialog box.

    The subentry further clarifies the main entry. For example, the word you select (the main entry) might be boredom and you type In a waiting room as the subentry.

  4. Click one of the buttons, either Mark or Mark All.

    Click the Mark button to mark only the selected text. Click the Mark All button to direct Word to include all matching instances of the text in your document.

    When you mark an index entry, Word activates the Show/Hide command, where characters such as spaces, paragraph marks, and tabs appear in your document. Don’t let it freak you out.

    Because Show/Hide is on, the Index code appears in the document.

  5. Continue scrolling your document and looking for items to place in the index.

    The Mark Index Entry dialog box remains open as you continue to build the index.

  6. Click the Close button when you’re done, or just tired, to banish the Mark Index Entry dialog box.

  7. Press Ctrl+Shift+8 to cancel the Show/Hide command.

    Use the 8 key on the keyboard, not on the numeric keypad.

Place the index in the Word 2016 document

After marking bits and pieces of text for inclusion in the index, the next step is to build and place the index. Do this:

  1. Position the insertion pointer where you want the index to appear.

    If you want the index to start on a new page, create a new page in Word. Putting the index at the end of your document is what the reader expects.

  2. Click the References tab.

  3. In the Index group, click the Insert Index button.

    The Index dialog box appears. Here are some recommendations:

    • The Print Preview window is misleading. It shows how your index might look but doesn’t use your actual index contents.

    • Use the Formats drop-down list to select a style for your index. Just about any choice from this list is better than the From Template example.

    • The Columns setting tells Word how many columns wide to make the index. The standard is two columns. One column looks better on the page, especially for shorter documents.

    • You might prefer to use the Right Align Page Numbers option.

  4. Click the OK button to insert the index into your document.

    What you see is an index field, displayed using the information culled from the document.

Review your index. Do it now. If you dislike the layout, press Ctrl+Z to undo and start over. Otherwise, you’re done.

If you modify your document, update the index: Click the index field. Then choose the Update Index command button from the Index group. Word updates the index to reference any new page numbers and includes freshly marked index entries.

  • Feel free to add a heading for the index because Word doesn’t do it for you.

  • Use a Heading style for the index header so that it’s included in your document’s table of contents.

  • Word uses continuous section breaks to place the index field in its own document section.