Word: Remove formatting from cross-references

March 12, 2010

Sometimes you’ll add a cross-reference to a figure or table, and part of it (the number usually) will display in bold text. Or perhaps you’ve inserted the cross-reference in a table but the font used in the table is smaller than that used in the body text, yet the cross-reference displays in the larger font.

I’m not sure what causes it but here’s how to fix it:

  1. Right-click on the cross-reference field, and select Edit Field.
  2. The Preserve formatting during updates check box should be checked — check it if it’s not, then click OK.
  3. Select the cross-reference field, and manually change the formatting to what you want it to be (remove the bold, make the font smaller or larger, or whatever formatting is ‘out of whack’). It should now hold for any future updates of that field. You can test it by updating the field.

(Hint: If you use fields a lot and need to know where they are in your document, turn on the option to always show them shaded in gray.)

See also:

[Links last checked February 2012]


  1. Hi, I was happy to find your tip, but it doesn’t work for Word 2008 for Mac. When I ‘right click’ on the cross-reference my menu has ‘update fields’ and ‘toggle field codes’ but no ‘edit field’. Any suggestions?

  2. I’m sorry — I don’t have a Mac so I can’t confirm this, or tell you how to do it another way. Does the Help have anything on editing a field?

  3. […] field from within this dialog box. Occasionally, and for no reason I can discover, the ‘preserve formatting’ option for an inserted cross-reference field goes missing. I don’t know whether it’s on insertion or something that an author does with it later […]

  4. I am trying to locate help on Cross reference font color formatting. I want all cross references to be in red. so I format them to do so. Then when I go to print Word changes them to black. How can I get my Cross referenced font to stay red?

  5. Hi Astra

    First, a really obvious question to ask: Are you printing to a color printer? If so, are your printer’s default settings set to print in color or in black and white/grayscale?

    Second, I tested changing the color of a x-ref to red and it held for printing even after updating the fields in the document.

    However, when I right-clicked on the x-ref and selected ‘Edit Field’ to check the settings, it reverted to black on clicking OK and I had to reapply the color. I was looking at ‘Edit Field’ to make sure that the ‘Preserve formatting on update’ check box was selected — it was by default.


  6. Hi, i seem to have a problem that whenever i print the document the cross-references will print out in a big font even though on the screen they are small and in italics, any tips?



  7. Hi Rebecca

    Did you try the method above?

    Other than that, I can’t think why they’d print out in big font, when they show small on the screen. Unless you’re printing to PDF… Sometimes the PDF printer driver doesn’t convert/render fonts correctly, even though they are fine on screen (see paragraphs 4 and 5 in this blog post: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/default-vista-fonts-not-available-office-2007/).

    If neither of these solutions work, I suggest you ask your question on the Microsoft Answers forum for Word: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/word


  8. I am having a problem with cross references. When it updates, it only changes a portion of the field. ie if it is an address, all in one field, originally formatted to bold and 14 pt: 1234 Your Street, Unit 5. It may change only a portion of the text and un-bold it and make the font smaller. I have tried the preserve formatting on & off. I am at a loss at to why it only effects a portion of the text in the field…

    Please help if you can….

    Thanks! Tanya

  9. Hi Tanya

    I’ve just added links to two other blog posts about cross-reference formatting (under ‘See also’ at the end of the main article). Take a look at those — I suspect one of them may solve your problem.


  10. how the hell do you do this on a mac?!

  11. Hi Joel

    I don’t use a Mac, but I would have thought you could do the same steps as above. Obviously not.

    There’s some info on field codes for Word for Mac 2011 here:
    * http://support.office.com/en-us/article/Insert-or-update-a-field-code-2a7911a3-3041-4e74-85e3-49632bbf33ca
    * http://word.mvps.org/mac/fieldsinmacword.html
    * http://support.office.com/en-us/article/Insert-and-format-field-codes-in-Word-2010-7e9ea3b4-83ec-4203-9e66-4efc027f2cf3


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: