Word: Repeating text within a document

January 3, 2011


You have some text in a Word document that you’d like to repeat later in that document. You don’t want to write it twice (or more), and you’d rather not copy/paste it from the other location as that means that you’ll have to remember to maintain it in both places if there are changes. If another author takes over the document, they may not know that they have to update this text in two or more places if there are changes, either.

Of course, it would be nice if you could use a tool designed to deal with this sort of single sourcing (such as Author-it), but you’re stuck with Word.



You assign a bookmark to the text you want to re-use, then insert a cross-reference to the bookmark text. Whenever you change the original text, you only need to update the fields in the document for the changes to apply to the second (or third) instance of that text.

Here’s how:

  1. Select the block of text you want to repeat later in the document. This text can be a phrase, one or more paragraphs, a bulleted list, a table, etc.
  2. Insert a bookmark for the selected text (Word 2007: Insert tab > Bookmark).
  3. Give the bookmark a meaningful name, click Add, then click OK.
  4. Go to the place in the document where you want to re-use the selected text.
  5. Insert a cross-reference (Word 2007: References tab > Cross-reference).
  6. Select Bookmark as the Reference Type, and Bookmark Text as the Insert option.
  7. Select the bookmark name you added in Step 3, then click Insert.
  8. Whenever you change any text in the original list, just click inside the other list, then press F9 to update it (or Ctrl+A then F9 to update ALL fields in the document).


In some situations, you might want to repeat a block of text in a document, but when the document’s finished, you might want to break the link between the two.

For example, a colleague had a PPE (personal protective equipment) list near the beginning of her document that she needed to repeat in the main procedure table. Once all the reviews were completed and the document signed off, the procedure table was to be split from the main document into a new document of its own. So she needed to break the link between the original PPE list and the one in the procedure.

To break the link:

  1. Select the field that contains the re-used text.
  2. Press Ctrl+Shift+F9.

[Links last checked January 2011]


  1. Thank you. This was very useful and much easier than trying to use a form. I just needed to repeat a revision date on multiple pages without having to put it in the header or footer and without having to edit each page individually when updating the rev. date. This was the right way to do it with limited effort.

  2. Many Thanks, really i liked it.

  3. Thank you!! very useful. I was crazy looking for this freat solution.

  4. This is a big help, thanks.

    Is there a way to make it update automatically?

  5. Hi Michael

    There are some Word Options settings that *might* do what you want. In Word 2010 (and likely 2007), try these:
    * File > Options > Display panel > Printing Options section > Update fields before printing
    * File > Options > Display panel > Printing Options section > Update linked data before printing
    * File > Options > Advanced panel > General section : Update automatic links at open.

    I haven’t tried any of these so I don’t know if they’ll do what you want.

    Another alternative would be to use a macro to update fields and bookmarks on opening or saving the document. Try these for possible solutions and let me know if one of them works for you:
    * https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2008/01/25/update-fields-in-headers-and-footers/ (I don’t know if any of these solutions — or those in the Comments — work for bookmarks too)
    * https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/word-macro-to-show-all-formatting-on-opening-a-document/ (this one talks about the AutoOpen macro — you’d have to add info to it for updating the bookmarks)


  6. Thanks, this is really great information. I cannot seem to figure out how to update these cross references when the document is protected (but the cross referenced fields are editable). Any idea how I might be able to do this? Thanks in advance.

  7. There is an even easier way to duplicate text in MS Word 2010: Insert -> Quick Parts -> Document Property -> Company.

    Repeat this for every field you want to be duplicated. Now, whenever you change the text in one field, all of the other related fields will be automatically duplicated!

    Don’t want it to say “Company” initially? No problem. Just type in another word like “Name” or whatever it is, and that will duplicate in the related fields, and will update automatically once new text is filled in.

  8. Thank you Natasha for the great tip!

  9. This was EXACTLY the information I needed. Concise and easy to follow directions. Thank you.

  10. This is a great instruction, and works with Word 2010. But in 2010 the the insert cross-reference is under Link (in Insert ribbon), in same place as the “Bookmark” creation step. That’s handy.

    One problem I have still is that the original text is in a bulleted list, but I don’t want the formatting to carry over in at the cross-reference point. It does by default, and if I manually remove it, it comes back when I refresh. Any ideas?

  11. I may have answered my own question. I tried it again with different piece of text and it only took the text. I’m guessing I accidentally copied a piece of formatting the first time.

  12. Even easier…since it’s in a bulleted list it shows up in the “numbered items” when I go to create a bookmark. So I can insert it without creating a separate bookmark first. And doing it that way only carries the text, not the bullet.

  13. I like how one thing leads to another and you eventually solve it yourself, and learn something new in the process ;-)

  14. While I can duplicate the text within the document, how do you get it to work in the footer, automatically?

    The Revision Number (bookmark) is on the front page and is supposed to replicate on the bottom of each page. The Auto Update settings are all selected and a Ctrl-F9 of the whole document still doesn’t update the footer. You have to go into the footer and Ctrl-F9 separately.

  15. A quick and easy way to get Word to update everything is to switch to Print Preview then back again. That will often sort it out. Alternatively, switch to Draft view/mode, press Ctrl+A, then Shift+F9.

  16. I have been unable to find a solution using the various methods referenced above.

    My problem: Unable to find a method that copies hyperlinks in a table (not just the text) to multiple locations in the document.

    TABLE: [ A B C D E ..Z ] each letter a hyperlink to a bookmark.

    This (1) row table is filled with letters of the alphabet representing hyperlinks to bookmarks within the document that is updated frequently. This table when updated needs to be copied to 30 locations within the document.

    The methods I tried copied text only, not the hyperlinks.

    What method, if any, would allow me to copy the tabled hyperlinks?


  17. I have tried to use the bookmark as described, and it works the first time I use it. But when I change the original text, it deletes the bookmark and then I receive “Error! Referenc source not found.”

    How do you set up automatic text that can be changed?

    In my example, my bookmark text is “Customer”, and this flows through the document. As soon as I update it to, for example, “Acme” and F9 to update, I get the error.


  18. Have you got your bookmark marks showing? If not, you’re likely deleting the marks as well as the text. Search this blog for info on how to turn on bookmarks.

  19. Many thanks for this. I have tried the above idea and get the text to insert so it is the same but when I change the original text it doesn’t update the other cross references? I am using word 10. What am I doing wrong?

  20. Hi Paul

    The only thing I can think of that’s not working is Step 8 above (update fields). In addition to the methods documented in Step 8, you can also select the entire document (Ctrl+A), then right-click and select Update Fields. You *may* have to do this twice.


  21. Many thanks. That’s seems to work – you are right you just need to keep pressing update until it comes through. Is there a way of automating? I assume I could just write a macro and attach a button so the users just need to remember to action. What about when the document is opened you closed will the document be automatically be refreshed? Many thanks again

  22. Hi Paul

    There are options to update all fields on printing (File > Options > Display > Printing Options section) and another for ‘updating automatic links’ (whatever that means!!) under File > Options > Advanced > General (near the bottom of the window). You’d have to test that one out.

    I’d hesitate to allocate a key combination or macro to this when it’s already built in to Word — you can either teach your users to use your button/key combination, OR teach them to update fields with F9 (or the right-click method) TWICE. I know that I’d prefer to teach the built-in method as they can use that wherever they go. With a custom macro etc. they can only use it on docs created from your template.


  23. Rhonda many thanks for your help and advice. Paul

  24. Thanks, too bad it is not properly automatic, like i think it should be.

    What Natascha said back in the days:
    There is an even easier way to duplicate text in MS Word 2010: Insert -> Quick Parts -> Document Property -> Company.

    Repeat this for every field you want to be duplicated. Now, whenever you change the text in one field, all of the other related fields will be automatically duplicated!

    Don’t want it to say “Company” initially? No problem. Just type in another word like “Name” or whatever it is, and that will duplicate in the related fields, and will update automatically once new text is filled in.
    by Natasha April 25, 2014 at 6:22 am

    Does not work. It does not link the boxes.

  25. Thank you very much!! I have been struggling with this for a long time, and I think you have shown a solution that I’ve been looking for – for a long time.

  26. thanks for the help

  27. Great help, thanks

  28. so helpful! thanks!!!

  29. Hi all! I successfully added the bookmarks and cross-references and was very excited until I realized they won’t update. I can press F9 until the cows come home and all it does is delete the field. Where am I going wrong?

  30. Hi Vicki

    If F9 doesn’t work, try right-clicking inside the cross-referenced text, then selecting ‘Update Field’.

    To make sure you’re updating in the right place, turn on field shading (see https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/word-show-those-fields/) — you should be updating from within the text with the gray background.


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