Word: Cross-reference dialog box doesn’t show some headings

September 16, 2015

Whoa! I came across a glitch in Word 2013, and checked if it also occurred in Word 2010 (yep). It’s possibly in earlier versions too, though I can’t recall coming across it in those. This glitch could have been around for years, but I just never had this combination of circumstances that caused it to occur.

It’s likely you may not figure out what’s causing it. So here’s what I discovered with some testing…

If you:

  • have track changes turned on, then
  • delete the first letter(s) or words of a heading (i.e. text styled with a heading style, whether outline numbered or not), and
  • don’t accept those changes

then the heading text (and number, if you use heading numbering) disappears from the Cross Reference dialog box (under Headings) and you can’t select that heading to make a cross-reference to.

I’m not talking about deleting an entire heading — that would be expected behavior. I’m talking about deleting the FIRST letter at the beginning of a heading! Letters or words deleted within a heading still show the heading in the Cross Reference dialog box, but NOT if you’ve deleted the first letter.

Accepting the tracked change is one solution — the heading reappears in the Cross Reference dialog box (under Headings) then. But this is NOT a satisfactory solution for situations where your track changes MUST be shown for the client (e.g. for a regulatory authority that wants to see any changes made to the original document).

However, if you’re using outline numbered headings, the heading is listed under the ‘Numbered Items’ reference type on the Cross Reference dialog box.

Related to this is a blog post I wrote several years ago on missing cross-references for table and figure captions where track changes had been turned on that resulted in the caption numbering changing as tables/figures were added/deleted from the document: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2009/10/16/word-macro-to-fix-track-changescross-references-issues/

[Link last checked September 2015]


  1. Hi Rhonda
    Thanks for that, it explains something that has happened a number of times to me that I have usually just started again to get over the problem.

  2. […] Update September 2015: Five years and at least two versions of Word later and most of these issues remain… And there’s another one — if you have track changes on and delete the first character of a heading, then that heading isn’t shown in the list of Headings in the Cross Reference dialog box. It’s still listed in the Numbered Headings list, but that’s only applicable if you use outline numbered headings. See this post for the circumstances under which this occurs, and some workarounds: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/word-cross-reference-dialog-box-doesnt-show-some-headings… […]

  3. saved my life, thanks!

  4. Same problem in Word 2016.

  5. Its 2020 and this is still a thing (Word 2016). I was going mad over this til I found this post from google. Fortunately, accepting changes was ok for me.

    Looks like many people have reported this to the microsoft overlords, fat chance of them doing anything about it I think.

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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: