A table of contents often abbreviated as TOC is what outlines the titles and/or gives a brief description of the first-level headers, second-level headers or even third level headers in more detailed books. It can also be referred to as Contents and the depth of the details will be determined by the length of the given book. Longer books will tend to have fewer details. The TOC is not only found in books, formal reports which are longer than 10 pages also have a table of contents. It usually comes after the title page, the copyright notices as well as the abstract if it’s available, especially in technical journals. It also appears before any list of tables or figures, the foreword and the preface.

In the printed table of contents, the page numbers will indicate where each part starts. In the digital table of contents, one will be offered hyperlinks to the specific sections. The location and the format will be determined by the publisher. For the case where page numbers appear after heading texts, some characters referred to as leaders might precede them. They are usually dots or periods that run from the section or chapter to the page numbers on the opposite side of the page. In some instances, the page number will be located close to the section or the titles. In other scenarios, the page numbers will come before the sections or texts.

Table of Contents Templates


For a document or a book that contains works of many authors put together, the name of the author will be the one used in the table of contents. In some situation the TOC will contain high-quality descriptions of the chapters in the book, the first-level header’s sections content but not subheading information.

The TOC does not include matters that precede it in a document or book. It’s numbered in roman numbers, lowercase while all the other pages are numbers apart from the outside cover.

It is good to note that you can automatically create a table of content with the help of many word processors; Microsoft word, StarWrite and WordPerfect. This can be successfully accomplished if the author uses specific styles for the headings, subheadings and titles.

How to create a Table of Contents or Update one

Using Microsoft Word one can create a table of contents by applying the appropriate heading style, for instance Heading 1, Heading 2 to the text that is to be included the table of contents. Microsoft word will search for the headings and then automatically insert the table of contents in your text.

The above way of creating a table of contents will make it easy for one to automatically update it in case of a change in the TOC. Those using Microsoft Word 2010 will have access to a gallery of automatic TOC styles. All you will have to do is mark the table of contents entries and proceed to click the preferred TOC style.

An alternative way to create a custom TOC is by using the options you choose as well as the custom styles that you’ve applied using the TOC dialogue box. One can also choose to manually type the TOC.

Typing a TOC manually

If you choose to use this option you will have to type the entries to be contained in the TOC and use the tabs to obtain the dotted lines or dot leaders between each of the entries and the page numbers. The automatic option will be the fastest if you are in a hurry. Follow the steps outlined below to create a table of contents manually;

  1. Type the entry
  2. Press the tab key and then type the page number for the first entry
  3. Select the tab stop character. If you can’t locate the tab stop character, just click the Home tab after which you could click on the show or hide in the paragraph group.
  4. Proceed to click the paragraph dialog box launcher on the page layout tab.
  5. Then Click tabs.
  6. Under the tab stop position, type your preferred location of the page number

If you want to view the ruler in order for you to type the right-margin location, click the view ruler button at the top of the vertical scrollbar.

  1. Click right under alignment
  2. Under the Leader, click on your preferred option and then click OK
  3. Press the enter key and type the next entry
  4. Press the tab key and proceed to type the page number for the second and subsequent entry
  5. Repeat this procedure for the rest of the TOC till its completion.

In case you have to make changes to the headings or pages in your document, remember that you will need to automatically update the TOC as well.

Table of Contents Examples

How to automatically create a TOC Word

This is by far the easiest way to create a TOC by simply using the built-in heading styles. One could also create a table of contents automatically based on the option that you have chosen. You could alternatively assign the TOC levels to the individual text entries.

Marking entries by employing built-in heading styles;

  1. Select the text that you want to appear in the table of contents
  2. Then on the home tab, specifically on the Styles group, click the style of your choice.

In case you don’t locate the style that you prefer, click the arrow to expand the quick style gallery

In case this doesn’t prove to be helpful, you can proceed to press CTRL+SHIFT+S in order for you to open the Apply Styles task panel. In this section, under the Style name you can click on your preferred option.

How to create a TOC from the galley;

Mark the entries for the table of contents and then you will be ready to build one by following the steps below;

  1. Click at the preferred location for TOC, this is mostly at the beginning of the document.
  2. On the References tab, in the table of contents group click on the TOC followed by a click on the TOC style that you want to apply.

In case you want to specify more options, for instance, how many levels that you want to show, click on the Insert TOC to open the TOC dialog box.

How to create a custom TOC;

  1. On the References tab, in the TOC group, click the TOC and proceed to click Insert Table of Contents.
  2. While in the Table of Contents dialogue box, make the following alterations;
  3. In order for you to change the number of heading levels to be displayed in the TOC, enter the number that you want in the box next to Show Levels, under General.
  4. To alter the overall look of your TOC, click on a different format in the Formats list. You can see what your choice would look like by checking in the Print Review as well as the Web Preview areas.

To make changes to the line that appears between the entry texts and the page numbers just click on the option in the Tab leader list.

  1. To make changes to the way heading levels are displayed in the TOC, click on Modify. Then while in the style dialog box, click on the level that you want to make changes to and then click Modify. In the Modify Style dialog box, you can make changes to the font, the size as well as the amount of identification.
  2. In order for you to use the custom styles in the TOC, just click on Options and undertake the following steps;
  3. Under the Available styles section, locate the style that you applied to the headings in your document.
  4. Then under the TOC level, just next to the style name, type a number from one to nine to indicate the level that you want the heading style to represent. In case you want to only use the custom styles, delete the TOC level numbers for the built-in styles.

Then you could repeat the two steps above for each of the heading styles that you want to include the TOC.

  1. Finally click on OK
  2. Select a TOC that fits the document type;
  3. For a Print document; in case one is creating a document that will have to be printed for others to read, it is good to create a TOC in which the entry lists both the heading as well as the page number where that heading will appear. Your readers could turn to the page that they want to get the section.
  4. For an Online Document; for a document that will be read online or in soft copy, one can format the entries to create hyperlinks. Readers will then go to the preferred section by simply clicking on the entry in the TOC.

How to Update the TOC;

In case you happened to delete or add some other sections to your TOC, you need to make alteration to your TOC to reflect an updated version of the document. Updating a TOC is not a big deal and you can follow the following steps to ease your work;

  1. On the References tab, in the TOC group just click on the Update Table.
  2. Then click on Update page numbers only or Update entire table.

How to delete a Table of Contents;

  1. On the references tab, specifically in the TOC group, click on Table of Contents.
  2. Click on Remove Table of Contents and you will be done.


Table of Contents Desings

Select the best table of contents template that suits your needs or your work specifications. You could then make changes by following the steps outlined above to make changes to the TOC to reflect what you want to attain.

Table of Contents offer a crucial purpose of guiding the readers through a lengthy book or document. They help to reduce time-wasting when one is searching for a specific section as opposed to reading the whole book. Make sure that you settle for something that will be appealing, catchy and simple for the readers to use.

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Tagged:EducationTable of ContentsWriting
TemplateLab March 24th, 2022