Word: Stop Word from auto capitalizing the first word of bullet items

February 21, 2013

Well, I didn’t think it was possible, but it is! You CAN stop Word from auto capitalizing the first word in a bullet list item, but there’s a trick to doing it.

By default, Word has the settings for Capitalize the first letter of sentences and Format the beginning of list item like the one before it turned on (in Word 2010, both settings are under File > Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options, on the AutoCorrect and AutoFormat As You Type tabs, respectively). Make sure these settings are both turned on. Yes, it seems strange to keep the Capitalize the first letter of sentences turned on, but you need this on for all you normal sentences. Unfortunately, Word considers any bullet list item to be a ‘sentence’ even if it’s not, and so it automatically capitalizes the initial letter of the first word. This is a real pain if your style guide says NOT to capitalize list items that are sentence fragments, single words etc.

So, how do you stop Word from auto capitalizing the first letter in each bullet item? You have to tell Word to undo what it’s just done, and then it will ‘remember’ that choice for subsequent items in the same bullet list. Bottom line: Ctrl+Z.

Here’s how:

  1. Type a lead-in sentence to a bullet list as normal (the first letter of the first word will automatically capitalize). Press Enter to go to the next line.
  2. Type the first word of the first bullet item in lower case and press the spacebar.
  3. Immediately after pressing the spacebar, press Ctrl+Z. This will undo the previous action (i.e. convert the automatically capitalized first letter back to a lower case letter).
  4. Continue adding words to the first list item, as required. Press Enter for the next item.
  5. Continue adding other bullet list items — each one should now start with a lower case letter.
  6. Apply the bullet style to your list, as required.
  7. Start typing the next paragraph. Notice that the first letter of the word is in lower case — you will have to manually change this one to upper case. It’s in lower case as it’s following the ‘follow formatting’ rule (and not 100% either!). But changing one lower case letter here is easier than changing many in a long list.

Unfortunately, this trick works for a single list sequence. Once you’ve switched back to the upper case letter for the start of the next paragraph, that setting will hold for the rest of the document unless you change it again. So, you’ll have to repeat the Ctrl+Z trick after the first word in any later bullet lists.   However, once you’ve got into the habit of doing it, it shouldn’t be hard to remember.

Other tips:

[Links last checked February 2013]


  1. Amazing tip. I have been trying to work out how to do this for about two decades! Thank you so much.

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