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Bullets, numbers, and lists

Three lists showing how to change format of list numbers

Callout 1 Click the list numbers.
Callout 2 Change the format.
Callout 3 The new look for the list numbers.

A little known secret of lists is that you can format the bullets or numbers separately from the text in the list items. For example, you could have standard black text with bold red numbers. You do this by clicking one of the bullets or numbers to select just them, not the text in the list items.

After you've selected the bullets or numbers, format them the way you would any other text by using the commands on the Ribbon. Finally, click away from the list to see the final reformatted list.


  • Being able to click a single bullet or number to select all the bullets or numbers in a list is extremely useful in a multilevel list. When you want to see all the items at a particular level, click one of its bullets or numbers to select all the items at that individual level.
  • If you start a list with a formatting pattern that Word can recognize, Word will apply it to each of the items that follow in your list. For example, if you make the first sentence in a list item bold, and then type the rest of the paragraph in normal text, the rest of the list items you type will be automatically formatted for you. When you press ENTER at the end of the line and start typing the second item's text, it will be bold. And after you get to the end of the first sentence, the text goes back to normal text.

The list would look like this:

  • First sentence of first list item is bold. The following sentence uses normal text.
  • First sentence of second list item is bold. The following sentence uses normal text.
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