Word: Dot leader sporadically missing from table of contents: Fixed

This is the first of two posts; other is here.

So I’ve got a Word file with a table of contents (ToC) that, every so often, is missing the dot leader (row of dots) between name and page number. Like this:

image grabbed from faulty Word file

Example of Word table of contents with dot leaders missing and page numbers in wrong place (see Mean and Mode).

Now, I checked that this is not just a display problem, and yes it does print like that too. The ToC was put in using Word defaults with the headings all styled as H1, H2, H3. Nothing out of the ordinary.

So of course I did a web search and found: https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/msoffice/forum/msoffice_word-mso_other/dot-leader-sporadically-missing-from-table-of/78038ac4-4df2-46a7-93c6-4939ef3056d2?auth=1 (hence the title of this post of mine).

But this page does not give an explicit fix, at least, not for the average user. But it does give the hint – note that the entries that are not working are short. For example, I can change ‘Mode’ to ‘Mode Mode’ and it is ‘fixed’:

Screen grab of the Word document with Mode replaced by Mode Mode (made longer). Now the spacing works properly.

If the entry is long enough, no problem (see ‘Mode’).

So the simplest solution is to rephrase the headings to be a little longer. Easy but suboptimal. Note that putting it back to just ‘Mode’ and updating the table recreates the error.

Here is the solution (at least in my context).

(1) On the Home ribbon, expand the list of Styles by clicking on the little arrow at the bottom right of the styles pane.

screeenshot from Word showing where to click to expand the Styles pane

Expanding the Styles pane.

(2) Then Go to TOC 3 in the Styles list

(3) Right click and select ‘Select All Instances’

(4) Right click and select ‘Modify’

(5) Select ‘Format’

(6) Select ‘Paragraph…’

(7) Change ‘Hanging’ indent to ‘(none)’

(7) On the same dialog, select ‘Tabs…’ (bottom left corner).

(8) Highlight the first tab stop (there will likely be two) and delete it by selecting ‘Clear’. There should now only be one tab stop, that giving the page number position (15.9 cm in the picture here).

(9) Make sure the button beside ‘2 …..’ is checked. Then OK all the way out and bingo, fixed.

(10) Caveats: I don’t know how this solution might interact with other ToC styles and formats. It worked for me, YMMV. Also, if the change is not saved back to the template (ie, this change is made permanent) then when the file is reopened and attaches the template, it will revert to the faulty version. Solution is to either do a manual fix each time (or at least each time you want to print the document) or to make a custom template and attach that.

The latter is better. The simplest thing is to find the template you are using (File → Options → Add-ins → Manage: [Select ‘Templates’ from the dropdown menu] then click OK and the template and its path will appear in a little text box in the dialog that comes up) and then find it in your file manager and make a local copy of it, either in your personal Templates folder or in the same directory as the Word .docx file you are working on, depending on whether the change is just for this document or for all future documents. Then use the ‘Attach…’ button beside the name of the template to browse for your copy of the template.

That will attach the copy to the Word file. Then do the changes noted above, but with one addition: The change will be stored to the template if you select ‘New documents based on this template’ in the ‘Modify Style’ pane. When you close the Word document, Word will/should ask you if you want to save changes to the template. Or, at least, that’s how it looks.

Alternatively, see post ‘Changing a Word template to fix the dot leaders in the ToC‘.

Wordy McWordFace


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About Darren

I'm a scientist by training, based in Australia.

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