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


23 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
      Xio on September 15, 2020 Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing this information!!! I had the same issue and I solved thanks to your comment. 🙂

  • 4
    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

  • 5
    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?

  • 6
    lisa on June 25, 2019 Reply

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

  • 7
    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

    • 8
      Kathy on January 7, 2021 Reply

      Use a bookmarks. Highlight the section you want in the TOC. Insert, Bookmark and name it. Now go and create the TOC. When it’s done, right click on the TOC and select Toggle Field Code. Then right click again on the code and select Edit Field. Click Field Codes, Options, Select /b for Bookmark, click Add to Field. Then in the Field codes text box, enter the name of the bookmark. Click OK and Toggle the Field Code back to a TOC. Works like a charm.

  • 9
    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?

    • 10
      Kathy on January 7, 2021 Reply

      The Navigation Pane is build by the Outline Levels in the styles. If you don’t want a Heading showing up in your TOC, use the Options button when you define it and remove the outline level. Super easy.

  • 11
    rpmsk on June 14, 2020 Reply

    Hey, great tip! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • 12
    Harry on June 26, 2020 Reply

    Ditto to this request

  • 13
    Karl on August 6, 2020 Reply

    Use the Custom Table of Content … in the “Table of Contents” drop down. Look under “General”, and “Show Levels” then change it from the “3” default to “2” … this displays only Headings 1 and Headings 2 in the standard Styles menu.

  • 14
    Gervais on August 14, 2020 Reply

    You have probably got over this issue by now. I have just had the same frustration and made my own workaround.
    I wanted to exclude some level 2 headings from the ToC and couldn’t.
    I made a custom style for the L2’s I didnt want to include.
    If you highlight your level heading then right click and open Style and hit custom style I just called it something else; MyLev2, but it has the same format so looks no different.
    To then remove from the ToC
    In the references, table of contents, Add Text tab I ticked the dont add to table. It didnt and the headings didnt disappear in the body of the document and they didnt lose their format as they were now some else- which wasnt associated with the Toc.
    It worked through the rest of the document where I needed it to also and I reduced my ToC to one page which was my aim. hope this helps.

    • 15
      eunike on February 19, 2021 Reply

      Thanks! This is exactly what I was looking for!

    • 16
      LLiu on February 2, 2022 Reply

      This works perfectly. Thank you.

  • 17
    Monika on September 23, 2020 Reply

    Thank you so much!!!! This has resolved my endless frustration. No Youtube tutorial would help. Thank you so much!

  • 18
    HLJ on August 19, 2021 Reply

    i fixed this for me by
    1. selecting the TOC
    2. go References tab > table of contents> custom
    3. then in the pop up at the bottom changed the Show Levels box from 3 to 2
    3. OK
    4. update the table

  • 19
    Nam on September 13, 2021 Reply

    Useless instructions by the author!

  • 20
    lis7 on October 2, 2021 Reply

    I’m hoping someone can help me with what I’m trying to do. I have a Word document, created by someone else, which has individual pages that divide the document into sections. The TOC appears to be set up as a manual TOC with two levels displayed. It doesn’t appear that the author using a “Heading 1” style to set up the section titles in the document, and the TOC appears to be pulling the formatting (bolded) for the sections from the section page formatting (regular text), which she appeared to overwrite manually for those pages.

    The document will be going in a binder with physical labeled section dividers, so I have no need for the individual section pages that are currently in the document, and don’t want them to be included in the pagination count either. However, would still like the names of the sections to appear in the TOC. Is there a way to do this? Thanks in advance for any guidance 🙂

    Should note that the originator of the template doesn’t care if I make changes to her formatting, so that is not an issue here.

  • 21
    Judy Hewitt on November 5, 2021 Reply

    fabulous, just the help I needed in cleaning up a document. (Other sites were not helpful.)

  • 22
    sim thanh dat on March 15, 2022 Reply

    The Table of Contents shown when you open a Microsoft Word document is generated automatically. The easiest way to hide headings (headings are not included in the table of contents) from the Table of Contents is to edit the styles. A style edits how information in your Word document appears, based on its format, structure, and style. This can apply to page numbers, titles, headings and various other elements inside paragraphs.

  • 23
    Mark on September 27, 2023 Reply

    Hi Kathy, your a magician!

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