Quick Tip: How to exclude headings from the Table of Contents in Microsoft Word

Quick Tip: How to exclude headings from the Table of Contents in Microsoft Word

In my motivation for starting my blog at jeffreykusters.nl, I explained one of the purposes of my blog was to simply write down stuff I was going to forget for sure. Call it a journal or a sort of external memory. This is my first blog post in that category which I have dubbed Tips & Tricks and it focuses on cleaning up the Table of Contents in Microsoft Word.

Cleaning up the Table of Contents (TOC) in Microsoft Word

As a consultant and architect, I consider myself a pretty heavy Microsoft Word user. In our line of work, we often have to create monster Word documents with numerous headings, styles, tables, figures, captions, footnotes, references, table of contents, and so on.

Today, I came across a very effective tip when dealing with Word. Often, when you open a document created by someone else, or if you copy over portions of other documents, your table of contents can get cluttered with headings you don’t necessarily want in your TOC. Maybe you have some preliminary chapters, such as a management summary, that shouldn’t be in the TOC or the heading styles are basically just a mess.

Pro tip: Having consistency in your heading styles is crucial when working in large documents. Messy heading styles also make navigating in your document via the Navigation Pane (which I personally use very, very often!) more difficult.

In the following, simple example the sections “document properties”, “document history” and “index” should not be included in the TOC:


I already created a copy of my “Heading 1” style in the past which should have excluded it from the TOC but somehow the style was modified along the way. Instead of modifying the properties of the style, I stumbled across a very easy way to do this:

  1.  Highlight the text
  2. Go to ‘References’
  3. Click on the ‘Add Text’ pull-down menu
  4. Check Do Not Show in Table of Contents


9 thoughts on “Quick Tip: How to exclude headings from the Table of Contents in Microsoft Word”

  • 1
    Mike on April 9, 2018 Reply

    Yes but all that the “Do Not Show in Table of Contents” option does is take away the “Heading” categorization for your text of interest. This excludes that text from being shown in the Headings list in the Navigation Pane.

    What if you want some text to:

    1) Not appear in the TOC;


    2) Still be considered a “Heading” so that it appears in the Headings list in the Navigation Pane so that the reader can see the Heading there and allow them to see/click it there. A great example of this would be if you wanted the TOC to show up in the Headings list but not in the actual TOC itself (because who needs to know where the TOC is in the TOC!).

    I don’t believe Microsoft will allow you to create a “Heading” that will not appear in the TOC but still show under Headings in the Navigation pane. If you can do that please let me know how.


  • 2
    Venelina on June 1, 2018 Reply

    Having the same situation, I wanted to hide heading level 3 from TOC and I did solve it by editing TOC field properties, setting Show levels value to 2 (only level 1 and 2 are included)


  • 3
    Venelina on June 1, 2018 Reply

    … additionally Options button in that dialog shows a list of all defined styles and you can select which to be included, specifying the TOC level for every style

  • 4
    Judi on May 16, 2019 Reply

    But, what if I only want to show Levels 1 and 3, but not 2. Is there a way to do that?

  • 5
    lisa on June 25, 2019 Reply

    Yes, follow Venelina reply in 2018. you could custom the level you wanna use in your TOC

  • 6
    Avraham Harris on April 27, 2020 Reply

    But the challenge I am looking to solve is how to pick a particular section, keep it’s heading style and exclude it, and only it, from the TOC. I believe this was not answered

  • 7
    Deborah on June 4, 2020 Reply

    It looks like a lot of people would like to see the TOC in the navigation pane, but not make it a heading that will redundantly add it to the table. Seems like Microsoft could fix that so we don’t have all these hoops to jump through. Are you listening, Microsoft?

  • 8
    rpmsk on June 14, 2020 Reply

    Hey, great tip! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • 9
    Harry on June 26, 2020 Reply

    Ditto to this request

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