Using Microsoft Word’s Table of Authorities


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If you regularly have to produce appellate briefs in Microsoft Word, you already know that one of the most painful tasks occurs at the end: compiling the Table of Authorities. (And if you don’t do appellate briefs in Microsoft Word very often, compiling your first TOA will come as a rude shock.)

If you’re not lucky or well-heeled enough to have one of those fancy-schmancy plug-ins that makes Microsoft Word’s one legal-specific feature a lot more user-friendly, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the process before crunch time. Here’s the lowdown on how to organize, mark and produce your next Table of Authorities.

Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.

What can you cite?

By default, Microsoft Word organizes your Table of Authorities into seven sections:

  1. Cases
  2. Statutes
  3. Other Authorities
  4. Rules
  5. Treatises
  6. Regulations
  7. Constitutional provisions

And that’s the order in which authorities will be organized in your TOA. If you’ve got a citation that doesn’t fit into any of those seven categories, there are nine other slots you can define for those, for a total of 16 sections.

How do you mark a citation?

Select the citation using either your mouse or keyboard. To mark the citation, either press ALT-SHIFT-I (which works in all versions of Word from 2002 through 2010) or click on the References tab with your mouse and select Mark Citation:

Mark citation button in Microsoft Word

Either way, you’ll get a dialog box that looks like this:

Mark Citation dialog in Microsoft Word

Click the Category button on the right and assigned the citation to one of the categories. (If you need to make your own category, just select the next number and type the new category name in the “Replace with” field to rename it, then click OK.)

If you’ve got the same case cited multiple times and you’re sure your short citation format is consistent throughout your document, you can click Mark All to mark all instances of this case at once. If you’re more cautious, click the Next Citation button, and Word will find the next text string that resembles a legal citation and allow you to mark that, too.

Before you generate that TOA

Once you’ve marked all your citations, you’d be wise to scroll through your document and make sure you haven’t missed any. First, though, turn on the Show/Hide feature (that button that looks like a paragraph symbol on the Home tab). What you’ll want to ensure is that every citation has markup around it that looks something like this:

Hidden text markup for Table of Authorities

Between those two curly brackets, you can see the codes that tell Word what table this is marked for (TA = Table of Authorities), what the long citation is (\l), what the short citation is (\s), and what category to place the authority in (\c 1 = “cases”). If you need to make corrections (for instance, moving a citation from “Cases” to “Statutes”), you can do it directly in this markup, or you can delete the markup and re-mark the citation correctly.

Generating the TOA

Place your cursor at the point in your document where you want the TOA to begin (usually just under the heading “Table of Authorities”), go to the References tab, and click the Insert Table of Authorities button (unfortunately, it’s not labeled, but it’s the one in the upper right-hand corner):

Insert TOA button in Microsoft Word

You’ll get a dialog box like this:

Click on each category and make sure the formatting is correct. If everything looks okay, click the OK button to insert your new Table of Authorities.

What if the TOA isn’t formatted quite right?

Here’s where having some familiarity with the Styles feature in Microsoft Word becomes invaluable. Select the category that needs reformatting (or “All” if that’s appropriate) and click Modify. The Styles that control the formatting in the TOA will be listed in the next dialog box:

Clicking on the Modify button in this dialog box takes you to yet another dialog box in which you can modify the Style on which the TOA text is based:

Yes, this takes a little practice

This is, unfortunately, one of the most frustrating features in Microsoft Word (which is why I linked to a plugin search above). You’d be wise to take one of your old briefs, make a “play” copy, and try this feature out before your next brief comes due.



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  • TLM

    Just used this feature for the first time today on Word for Mac 2011. It does take some practice, but after a few citations it really makes sense and it makes the whole process so much easier!

  • Carol

    When I run my TOA, there are several sites out of order. I can manually move my cites, but when I update my TOA, it goes back to the wrong way. Is there any way to permanently change the incorrect order so that when you update it stays correct?

    • When you say “out of order,” I’m not sure exactly what you mean. Are some cites appearing in the wrong TOA section? Or are you trying to get cites to appear in alphabetical or some other order?

  • Carol

    Here are two examples:

    42 U.S.C. § 300aa-25(a)
    42 U.S.C. § 300aa-l et seq. [The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986]

    The second cite should appear before the first one.

    It happens to me again:

    Wis. Stat. § 450.11(2)
    Wis. Stat. § 51.30(l)(b)
    Wis. Stat. § 893.04

    The middle cite should appear before 450.

    • Here’s what a Microsoft “support answers engineer” had to say about this:

      A Table of Authorities is supposed to have the citations listed alphabetically within each category. You cannot customize the Table of Authorities to sort it automatically.

      If you want the citations to appear in the same order as they have been numbered (i.e., R.7, R.85, R.106), then you have to sort it manually i.e., to cut and paste the citations properly after the Table of Authorities has been inserted or sort it by highlighting the citations and using the sort option in word under home tab. But make sure that you do not update the fields (Table of Authorities) after you have made the changes manually.

      Not the answer you were looking for, I’m sure, but it’s how the alphanumeric sorting works. Sorry there’s currently no way to fix this. Maybe version 2013 will deal with this better.

  • Carol

    thanks for your assistance.

  • Maryanne St Paul

    my TOA formatting symbols show when I print or save document as pdf. why?

  • Freda

    I’ve been reviewing a third-party product called CitationWare ( for my firm. This product takes the pain out of producing a Table of Authorities. It scans the brief and automatically inserts the TA codes for you. It can use native Word ToA headings or its own headings. I’ve been using and supporting Word (and WordPerfect) since the late 80’s and CitationWare has been the best product I’ve seen for the price. In the 90’s, my firm used Full Authority by Lexis. That product was discontinued and we went back to marking the document the way Ms. Savadra teaches above. Best Authority by Levitt & James came along and while it is a great product, it is out of our price range.

    For the tests, I’ve been running CitationWare on briefs that have already been filed. CitationWare has produced ToAs that are identical to or “better than” the briefs that were filed. Here’s what I mean. The attorneys here prefer to create their ToAs manually.CitationWare identified citations that the author missed or which the author included in the manual ToA but later decided not to use. Bottom line: CitationWare will help you to create a more accurate ToA faster and will pay for itself the first time you use it because of the time it will save. I have found their tech support to be very responsive.
    I tested Carol’s Wisconsin statutes and CitationWare sorted those in the correct order.

  • Don’t forget that you may not want to select “Mark All” as it can cite all cases with the same name that may be different. For instance, if you have “Collins v. Miller” and “Collins Action”, selecting “Mark All” will mark all under Collins when you actually need to mark one at at time for the “Collins Action.” Be careful with your mark all selections!

  • Julie

    Does anybody know of any plugins for mac?