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.1

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 2016) or go to the References tab with your mouse and click Mark Citation:

Mark Citation button in Microsoft Word 2016

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

Microsoft Word 2016 Mark Citation dialog box

Click the Category drop-down below and assigned the citation to one of the categories. (If you need to make your own category, just click the Category button on the right, 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:

Word-mark-citation-hidden-text-2016

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.

Once you’ve finished double-checking everything, turn Show/Hide off by clicking it again (it will turn light grey to match the surrounding Ribbon, indicating it is toggled off). Otherwise, your TOA pagination will be thrown off.

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 in the upper right-hand corner:

word-2016-toa-insert-toa-button

You’ll get the Table of Authorities dialog box:

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.

Here’s a quick video illustrating this process:

What if the TOA Isn’t Formatted Quite Right?

Here’s where having some familiarity with the Styles feature in Microsoft Word becomes invaluable.

In the Table of Authorities dialog (illustrated above), select the category that needs reformatting (or “All” if that’s appropriate) and click Modify in the lower right-hand corner. The Styles that control the formatting in the TOA will be listed in the next dialog box:

Microsoft Word 2016 Style dialog box

The “Table of Authorities” Style controls the individual TOA entries’ appearance in your TOA, while the “TOA Heading” Style controls the headings (Cases, Statutes, etc.).

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:

Microsoft Word 2016 Modify Style dialog box

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.

Originally published 2012-09-20. Updated 2016-10-25.


  1. Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2016 for Windows. 

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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?

    • legalofficeguru

      See the paragraph right above “Generating the TOA” – you have to turn off Show/Hide to hide the codes.

  • Freda

    I’ve been reviewing a third-party product called CitationWare (www.Litera.com) 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?

  • James Wheeler

    If one need to break one’s citations into categories more finely (e.g., separating federal cases from state cases), one can change the pre-existing categories in the same way one adds new ones. However, if one attempts to change the categories of authorities (or add new ones for that matter), one needs to know that the categories are not stored in the document but in the computer’s settings. Thus if one works on multiple devices (e.g., both a laptop and a desktop) the table of authorities can become garbled, with citations in the wrong categories, unless one remembers to change the categories on all the devices one uses.

  • Tonya Mastin

    The easiest way to generate a TOA is to create the document using Styles [not in Normal] then the table can be generated automatically without the need of marking every citation manually. Unfortunately, most people (lawyers) drafting briefs do not know how to use Styles thus making the generation of the TOA a bigger hassle than it has to be.

    • legalofficeguru

      I think you’re confusing TOA (Table of Authorities) with TOC (Table of Contents). You can generate a TOC using Styles.