The complete guide to create a professional looking Microsoft Word reports and documents

Microsoft Word is one of the most popular tools for creating reports and documents. Whether you are a student, professional or anyone who does documentation works, proficiency in Microsoft Word is a skill that is necessary for today’s digital age. In this post, I am going to guide you in creating a professional looking Microsoft word reports and documents. In Microsoft Word, if you use the correct procedure, you can auto-generate some special contents like the table of contents/ tables/ figures, reference list etc…

For clear understanding, I am going to follow the below steps in this tutorial. It is not necessary to follow the same order in creating the document.

  1. Identify main part of the document
  2. Insert section breaks
  3. Styling and numbering of heading
    1. Styling of headings
    2. Numbering of headings
  4. Adding table and image captions
  5. Referencing
    1. Adding Sources
    2. Insert Citations
    3. Create Bibliography
  6. Create an Index
    1. Mark the entries
    2. Create the Index
  7. Adding headers, footers and page numbers
    1. Adding headers and footers
      1. Turn on/off link to previous
      2. Adding Headers
      3. Adding Footers
    2. Adding Page Numbers
      1. Adding Page Numbers to Existing Footer
      2. Adding Page numbers  (Direct Method)
      3. Change the starting page number
  8. Insert and update table of content
  9. Insert and update list of tables and figures

1. Identify main sections of the document

In a professional report, the appearance or look of the report as well as it’s flow is very important. So, you should first identify the main sections of the report. The sections given below are the most common sections in a professional report. (in this post  I assume that you know the meaning of bellow terms)

  • Cover Page
  • Preface
    • Title Page
    • Abstract
    • Acknowledgements
    • Table of Contents
    • List of Figures
    • List of Tables
    • List of Acronyms
  • Main chapters
  • References
  • Appendixes
  • Glossary and Index

2. Insert section breaks

Sections let you set specific page layouts and formatting options for different parts of a document. Once you get used to works with sections, you will find how useful it.

First, create a separate page for each section mentioned above. Then, insert section breaks between each section.

To insert section breaks, go to Page Layout tab and in the page setup group, select breaks and then select Next Page option in the section breaks group.

Page Layout > Breaks > Next Page

MS Word - Insert Break

3. Styling and numbering of headings

In order to generate the table of contents, caption numbering and to take the advantage of the Navigation Pane correctly, you need to style and number the headings appropriately.

3.1. Styling of headings

The heading styles are listed in the style group in the home tab of the ribbon. To apply heading 1 style, select the heading you want to style and then select the heading 1 style. Right-click on the heading style and select modify to modify the style. Watch the bellow animation to understand it more clearly.

MS Word Styling of Headings

3.2. Numbering of headings

Now you need to add numbers to your headings. Here we add numbers to headings in the main content only. To add numbers;

First, click once on the heading which required numbering. Then click the Multilevel List in the Paragraph group of Home tab and select 

Once you do that, numbers will be added to all the headings. Remove the numbers added to preface topics by deselecting the numbering option as shown in the following animation.

MS Word - Numbering of Headings

4. Adding table and image captions

If you are adding figures, tables or maps etc… in a professional document, you should caption them as well as describe them in the text. To generate the list of tables and list of figures in the preface section, the tables and figures have to be captioned correctly. You can easily access the caption function by right-clicking on the object to be captioned as shown in the below animation.

Right-click on the object to be captioned > click “Insert Caption

Select the appropriate label; Figure, Table or you can create custom labels like Maps…

Including chapter numbers in the label makes it easy to uniquely identify the object anywhere in the document.

MS Word - Adding table and image captions

5. Referencing

If you are obtaining information from another source, you must reference them. Meaning, you need to include the detailed information about the source in the text as well as under the bibliography section. There is a number of well-accepted citations styles. The default MS Word installation includes a number of styles and you can select the appropriate one for your document.

First, select the appropriate citation style from the citations & bibliography group under the references tab (here I use Harvard style).

5.1. Adding Sources

To add a new source, go to;

References tab > click Insert Citation> click Add New Source…

Or

Reference tab > click Manage Sources > click New

5.1 MS Word - Adding Sources

5.2. Insert Citations

Once you add sources to the document as explained above, the list of citations is available in the Insert Citation dropdown list under the Citations & Bibliography group in the References tab.

To add a citation to the text, click on the location (place the cursor) where you want to add the citation. Then go to;

References tab > Citations & Bibliography group > click Insert Citation > click on the citation you want

5.2 MS Word - Insert Citations

5.3. Create a Bibliography

After you add sources to the document as explained earlier, now you are ready to create a bibliography. Generally, the bibliography is added at the end of the content section of the document (i.e. after the conclusion).

To create bibliography, go to;

References tab > Citations & Bibliography group > click Bibliography > click on the style you prefer

5.3 MS Word - Create a Bibliography

6. Create an Index

An index is a list of terms and topics that are discussed in a document. To create an index first, you need to mark words or phrases for your index.

6.1. Mark the entries

To mark an entry,

First, select the text you want to mark as an index entry. Then go to;

References tab > click the mark entry in the index group > click Mark All in the Mark Index Entry dialog box

6.1 MS Word - Mark the Entries for Index

6.2. Create the Index

Once you mark the entries, you are ready to create the index in the document. Generally, the index is added to the end of the document.

To insert the index, click on the page where you want to add the index and go to;

References tab > click on the Insert Index in the Index group > then Index dialog will popup

Change the options in the index dialog box appropriately and click OK.

6.2 MS Word - Insert Index

7. Adding headers, footers and page numbers

Headers and footers are areas in the top or bottom of each page in a document. You can add title, page numbers, or dates to every page in a document using headers and footers.

You can add different content to the headers and footers of each section defined previously. This is one reason for adding section break between each section.

7.1. Adding headers and footers

Before adding headers and footers, you have to decide what header/footer is added to which section. Here I take two cases to explain this.

I do not add header/footer to the front page and title page. The footer of the preface section is different from the content section.

To make the above differences, we need to take the advantage of section breaks.

By turning off the link to previous option in the navigation group of design tab under Header and Footer Tools, we can add different headers and footers for each section.

7.1.1 Turn on/off link to previous

To access this function, you need to activate the headers and footers. You can easily do this by double-clicking closer to the bottom edge or top edge of a page. Once you do that the design tab under Header and Footer Tools will show up. The link to previous option is in the navigation group of the design tab under Header and Footer Tools.

To follow this guide, go to the third page and activate the header/footer. Then click on the header section and turn off the “link to previous”  and do it for the footer also.

Then, repeat this for the first page of chapter 01 also.

7.1.1 MS Word - Link to Previous

7.1.2. Adding Headers

To add a header first, click anywhere on the section/ page where you need to add a header. Then go to;

Insert tab > click header in the header & footer group > then click on an appropriate header style for your document.

If you want to repeat the same header to the next section, turn on the link to previous option as explained earlier.

7.1.2 MS Word - Insert Header

7.1.3. Adding Footers

You can follow the same procedure as in adding headers to add footers also. To add footer, go to;

Insert tab > click footer in the header & footer group > then click on an appropriate footer style for your document.

7.1.3 MS Word - Insert Footer

7.2. Adding Page Numbers

If you try to insert page numbers to existing header or footer through Insert > Page Number, the existing header or footer will be replaced by the new page number. So, you can use either of following two methods to insert page numbers into the document depending on the situation.

Generally, the preface section of the document is numbered with Roman numerals. The main content is numbered with Hindu–Arabic numerals, starting from number 1.

7.2.1. Adding Page Numbers to Existing Footer

You can use Quick Parts to add page numbers to existing header or footer. To add numbers;

Double-Click on the Footer (or Header) > Click Quick Parts in the insert group of the Design tab under Header and Footer Tools > Click Field > select Page as the field name > Select the number Format > click OK

7.2.1 MS Word - Insert Page Numbers to Existing Footer

7.2.2. Adding Page numbers  (Direct Method)

If you do not have already added a footer text (or header, if you are adding page numbers to the header), you can directly add page numbers by using Page Number option in the Header & Footer group under the Insert tab.

Insert tab > click Page Number in the Header and Footer group> select the appropriate style for your document

7.2.3. Change the starting page number

If you have properly set the section breaks, you can change the starting page number of a particular section. The Section Breaks and Link to Previous options are discussed in point 2. and 7.1.1. of this post.

First, click on a page of the section which needs to change starting page number. Then go to;

Insert tab > click Page Number in Header & Footer group > click Format Page Numbers > Activate the Start at radio button under the page numbering section > set the page number > click OK

7.2.3 MS Word - Change starting page number

8. Insert and update table of contents

If you have correctly styled your headings and set the page numbers correctly, inserting the table of content is simple.

First click (place the cursor) at the beginning of the page which we left for the table of content. Then go to;

Reference tab > click the Table of Contents in the Table of Contents group > click on a suitable style or click Custom Table of Contents…

8 MS Word - Insert Table of Contents

9. Insert and update list of tables and figures

Once you added captions to tables/ figures or any other custom objects, you are ready to generate the lists of those objects in the preface section.

To generate the list of tables or figures, place the cursor at the beginning of the page we left for the list of tables or list of figures as appropriate.

Then go to;

References tab > click on the Insert Table of Figures in the Caption group > Select the correct Caption Lable in the dialog box > click OK

9 MS Word - Insert List of Figures

 

That’s it and thank you for reading all the way to the end!

Please share this with your friends if you think they might benefit from this article too.

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