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Formatting an Appellate Brief in MS Word: PC - Creating Your Table of Contents

Guide to formatting an appellate brief using MS Word on a PC or Mac.


The two basic steps to creating your Table of Contents:

  • Apply heading styles and levels to the items you want to include in your TOC
  • Generate and insert your TOC into your document

Some Preliminaries:

  • Your document headings will have different levels.  Word permits several levels, but for demonstration purposes we use 3 heading levels.
      • Main Headings = Level 1
      • Sub Headings = Level 2
      • Sub sub headings = Level 3
  • Note: 
    • "Cover Page" is typed on section 1 to serve as a marker for now.
    • The title "Table of Contents" does NOT appear within the Table of Contents; it only titles the page.  Thus, you begin applying headings at "Table of Authorities." 

First: Assign heading levels and styles:

  1. To assign a heading a level and style > highlight your first heading (e.g., "Table of Authorities" in section 2) > Home tab > Styles subtab > select "Heading 1" (because TOA is a Level 1 Heading)

Next: Format your heading:

  1. Note: Word gives you default formatting; BUT we want it to match our format (meaning the format designated by your professor)
  2. Highlight heading > right click on Heading 1 box > Modify > dialog box opens
  3. Make formatting selections using dialog box options and/or by clicking Format drop down and selecting Font, Paragraph etc.
  4. Note
    1. Level 1 Headings are usually centered, not indented (but...check your professor's instructions)
      1. To center a heading use the Center icon or CTRL-E
    2. Level 2 (& 3 etc.) headings may be indented (but...check your professor's instructions)
      1. Below are suggested indents > you may have to play around with other numbers to find ones that provide the appearance you want
        1. Click Format drop down > Paragraph
        2. A first level indent: Left > set at .3" > Right > set at .3"  
        3. A second level indent: same process > use .6" and .3"
        4. A hanging indent at first level > Left > set at .3" > click Special > select Hanging Indent > enter .2" for "By"
    3. To adjust Spacing > click Format drop down > Paragraph
      1. For spacing Before/After heading > enter the pt desired (e.g., 12pt for each)
      2. For spacing within heading > select Line Spacing desired (e.g., single)
    4. To number a Heading > click Format drop down > Numbering
      1.    Select a Numbering Style > OK
  5. Check "Automatically Update" box

Next: Adopt heading style throughout document:

  1. You want the computer to remember whenever you assign a level and style to a heading and to adopt these selections throughout the document
  2. Highlight heading > right click Heading 1 box > click "Update Heading 1 to Match Selection"

Note: If you make changes later on to a heading that's already been formatted, remember to adopt these changes througout your document by updating the heading to match selection.

Continue to apply heading styles & levels by scrolling to next heading:

  1. IF next heading is a Level 1 Heading > highlight heading > click on Heading 1 at Styles subtab > heading will be formatted automatically
  2. IF next heading is a Level 2 (or 3 etc.) heading > same process as above except select Heading 2 (or 3 etc.)

Note:  Once a level has been adopted, you will only need to highlight the heading > select appropriate Heading Level at the Styles subtab > and heading will be formatted automatically.

Remember:  The specific formatting you select will depend on your professor's instructions

Once all the headings are marked, you can generate and insert your TOC

To generate and insert your TOC:

  1. Go to top of your document > place cursor a couple spaces below the title "Table of Contents" (or where you wish your TOC to appear)
  2. Go to References > Table of Contents > select "Insert TOC" > dialog box opens
  3. Check that Show Page Number, Alignment, and proper Tab Leader are checked
  4. Click OK > your TOC will appear

Note:  At this point, the formatting of the actual TOC probably does NOT match the formatting in your document so you will need to modify your newly generated TOC.

Making modifications to your newly generated TOC page:

To modify heading sections in the body of your TOC do the following:
  1. Go to References > Table of Contents > Modify > dialog box opens
  2. TOC 1 refers to Heading Level 1 in the TOC (TOC 2 to Heading Level 2 etc.)
  3. Select Heading Level you want to modify (e.g., TOC 1) > Modify > brings up dialog box
  4. Make formatting changes from dialog box options and/or Format drop down
    1. Note: If you want more leader dots between heading and page number > Format drop down > Paragraph > right indent (try .5")
  5. Check "Automatically Update" > OK
  6. After you complete making modifications for all levels > OK > OK > OK > Yes

Other modifications > you may do some or all of the following:

  1. To modify the title "Table of Contents"
    1. To match the title "Table of Contents" to Heading 1 style > highlight title > Styles subtab > click Heading 1
    2. If the title "Table of Contents" will be different from Heading 1 style > make changes at Home tab
  2. To modify individual elements in the body of the TOC (e.g., unwanted portions of underlining, bolding etc.), do the following:
    1. To remove unwanted underlining:
      1. Highlight portion to un-underline > Home tab > click underscore (the unwanted underlining should disappear)
    2. To remove unwanted bolding:
      1. Highlight portion to un-bold > Home tab > click bold (the unwanted bolding should disappear)

Tip:  If you find it difficult to highlight the portion you want (e.g., removing underlining and/or bolding of leader lines and page number), try highlighting backwards from the end of where you want to make a change back to the beginning of the portion you want to change.  Or go back to the Modify process and remove the underlining. Then highlight the area to underline and manually re-insert it using the Home tab underscore.