How to Create an Outline in Microsoft Word

By Joseph Levine

When you write a complex document, using an outline is a handy way to organize it. Microsoft Word 2013 calls outlines “multilevel lists.” You can use an Outline view to rearrange an outline by promoting or demoting heading levels or by moving headings within a level. To start an outline, click the "Multilevel List" icon in the Paragraph group on the Home tab of the ribbon and then select a list type.

Choose an Outline Numbering Scheme

The numbering scheme you choose when you select an outline type is a matter of personal preference. You can choose from several types of alphanumeric or decimal formats. All outline types can have up to nine levels of headings, but, it’s best to avoid going beyond five heading levels in any document for clarity. After you choose a list type, any new heading style you select displays in the document with the selected numbering scheme. Add optional text paragraphs under any heading.

Use Outline View to Organize Your Outline

Outline view displays a structured format in which you can quickly rearrange your outline. To work in Outline view, select the “View” tab on the Ribbon, and then select “Outline.” Use options in the Outline Tools group to sort the outline. You can point at any of the options to view a description of its effect. For example, the left and right arrows promote or demote a selected heading in the outline. To move text paragraphs with their parent headings, collapse the paragraphs under their headings by selecting the heading and then clicking the collapse icon.