Word: TOC picks up Figure and Table captions and other oddities

September 14, 2012

I’ve seen normal text and images in an automated Table of Contents (TOC) and they’ve been easy to find and fix. Typically, a heading style has been applied to the paragraph containing the text or image, and thus it gets reported in the TOC where the TOC is set up to display text in several levels of headings. Changing the paragraph’s style back to a body text style then updating the TOC solves that problem.

However, a work colleague reported that the TOC in one of his documents was picking up some figure and table captions as well, plus some other weird stuff. I walked him through finding out what styles were applied to the paragraphs and all seemed to be OK (I work remotely, so all this was done over the phone). I also got him to re-insert the TOC — that didn’t work either. He said TOCs in other docs in the suite of docs that used the same template were working fine.

So he sent me links to two of the documents — one where the TOC was misbehaving and the other where it was working as it should.

I looked at the misbehaving TOC and there was nothing obvious I could see that was causing the problem.

However, I noticed a setting for Outline levels that was turned on in the Table of Contents Options window of the Table of Contents window (References tab > Table of Contents > Insert Table of Contents > Options button).

I wasn’t sure what it did, so I turned it off, re-inserted the TOC and voila! all the odd entries in the TOC disappeared and it was back to how it should be. My colleague was very happy.

The weird thing is that the other document, where the TOC worked fine, also had this setting turned on, but it wasn’t reporting these odd entries. I left the other document set as it was (‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’). I still don’t really know what that setting does and why it caused the TOC to misbehave in one doc where it was turned on, but not another that used the same template.

[Links last checked September 2012]


  1. This was exactly what I needed to find. Thanks for the tip.

  2. The same problem I was facing and did what you mentioned above and the TOC worked fine again. thanks.


    Why do you people stay so calm? I can’t stand having to deal with such a POS tool–rebel!! Rise up!! Stand in your cube, on your desk, clench fist above head and shout: “I WILL NOT USE POS MICROSOFT SHIT EVER MORE!”

  4. Hi,
    I tried to untick the Outline levels option, but it didn’t work. However, in the styles block at the same window, you can look for the ticked styles and untick the ones that you don’t want to appear in the TOC, probably the style of table or figure captions is ticked there and this is why it is shown in the TOC.

  5. Thank you so much! this has frustrated me for a while now.

  6. Hi,
    I have been struggling with the same bug for some time. Removing the “Outline Levels” check box solved the problem. You save me a lot of work. Thank you for sharing.

  7. I was having the same problem with a few tables showing in my TOC. I googled “table showing in table of contents” and waa-lah found this page. It worked for me. Thanks so much!

  8. good on you… for this

  9. In stead of un-checking Outline Level, scroll through the TOC Levels, find Caption (or any other goofy $#!+) and delete the level number.

  10. Reset button shown on the screenshot in the original post worked for me.
    References -> Table of Contents -> Custom Table of Contents -> Options -> Reset

  11. Thanks Dear!
    God Ble.ss You

  12. I tried all these damn tricks and nothing is working, I still have tables, pictures and other maps coming up in my TOC. soooo pisssed right now. Spent over 25 hours on this SH**.

  13. Hi Darrick

    Did you try this: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2008/09/30/pictures-in-a-word-table-of-contents/?


  14. Theres another way to fix it, you goto References, Table of contents, Select the image, then Click Add Text->Do Not Show in table of contents. The above solution did not work for me.

  15. Nice workaround, Mike! Thanks for sharing it.


  16. In stead of un-checking Outline Level, scroll through the TOC Levels, find Caption (or any other goofy $#!+) and delete the level number.

    by Denny May 3, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    But I have no idea how to remove the caption appearing on my list of level. can you help me here

  17. Reducing the levels in TOC worked for me. Good to find help online :-)

  18. This post saved my sanity – thank you! Awesome!!

  19. If you click on the figure or table in the actual document and then look at the styles bar you will find the figure or table is formatted as a heading rather than ‘normal’. Click the normal style, then go back to the TOC, click and update the fields – the figures/tables should be removed

  20. Thank you for saving my hair from being pulled out!!

  21. may God bless you for this frustrating mess

  22. Thanks Alison June 29, this was extremely simple and worked for me!!

  23. If a figure appears in TOC, highlight the figure in document, go Home, in Styles click the bottom arrow on the right and hit Clear Formatting. Update the TOC.

  24. Thanks Fred. Your suggestion is similar to my earlier blog post (under the ‘easy to find and fix’ link above). It works most of the time, but in the instance I documented above, for some reason changing the style just didn’t work.


  25. The problem is caused by having your picture saved with a heading-type STYLE. In my case, I had headings over each picture, and sometimes the picture ended-up with the heading style. In most cases, I could just click on the picture, and change its style back to normal, but in some cases that didn’t work, or the heading went to Normal, and wouldn’t show-up in the contents when I changed it back to a heading. I think this happens if you use a ctrl-return to generate a line-feed, instead of a proper return. Going back and making sure there was a hard “ENTER” between the heading and the picture separated them. For headings that wouldn’t go back into the navigation pane and TOC (they looked like a proper heading, but didn’t show-up in the headings list), I found the trick was to highlight them from left to right, so that it also highlighted some blank space to the right of the last letter. Then when I clicked the HEADING2 style, it worked properly. This worked with every one that I had a problem with.

  26. This fixed it, thanks for taking the time to post this fix!

  27. Thanks. It helped me too. I was worried from last 3 days.

  28. Thank you so much! I’ve been dealing with this for weeks! I created another file, headings etc. because of word help.

  29. OMG thanks a lot – solved my problem!!!

  30. Hello. Is anyone still reading answers to this post? Do I need to delete the entire TOC before I attempt any of these suggestions here? Also, I’m having issues just formatting APA level headings in my paper. Paragraphs are becoming justified for no reason, entire paragraphs are becoming bold in addition to appearing in the TOC, etc. Help please!

  31. Hi Candice

    Typically, whenever you go to choose to ‘update the entire table’, the previous TOC automatically gets removed and rebuilt.

    Your issue sounds as though some paras are styled with a Heading style (even though they may appear normal). Go to those paras and check the style applied to them, apply the correct style, then update the TOC again to see if they disappear.


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