Cross-referencing footnotes in Word

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Feature Blogger: Reché McKeague

footnotes2aMost of our research usually ends up in a written document. As good researchers and writers, we always indicate the source of our research. (Right? Right.) As a result, knowing how to efficiently footnote our research can be as helpful as knowing where to go to find the research in the first place. So, I present to you: cross-referencing footnotes in Word.

I most commonly cross-reference a footnote when, in a later footnote, I refer to an earlier footnote by supra. The benefit of inserting a cross-reference, rather than just typing in the earlier footnote number, is that inserting a cross-reference creates a hyperlink within the document. So, if you add or delete footnotes before or between the earlier footnote and the supra, rather than having to go through and manually change all the “supra note #,” with the click of a button Word will update all the footnote numbers for you. Depending on the length of your document, this can save you hours of mind-numbing work.

How does it work? Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Enter the text to preface your cross-reference. In this example, we will use “supra,” so you would type “supra note”.
  2. Leave a space after your text, then go to Insert, and click on Cross-reference.
  3. This will bring up the Cross-reference dialogue box. Under Reference type, select Footnote. Under Insert reference to, select Footnote number.
  4. At the bottom of the Cross-reference dialogue box, you will see a large area titled For which footnote. Listed in this area is every existing footnote in your document. Select the footnote that you wish to refer to and click “Insert.” A hyperlink to the selected footnote number will appear where your cursor is in the document.
  5. Close the dialogue box, and continue composing your footnote as usual.
  6. The cross-referenced footnotes do not self-adjust every time you add or delete a footnote between the references. In order to update the cross-references, place your cursor in a footnote and select the text of all footnotes by pressing Ctrl – A. Once the footnote text is selected, press F9. A dialogue box will open saying “Word cannot undo this action. Do you want to continue?” Select yes, and your cross-references will be updated!

Cross-referencing footnotes has some limitations. For example, Word will not change cross-references if you change the content of the footnote referred to. Cross-referencing only picks up footnote number changes when footnotes have been added or deleted. However, cross-referencing is still a valuable time-saver.

Cross-referencing is not limited to footnotes. If formatted properly, you may also cross-reference to headings, bookmarks, numbered items, endnotes, equations, figures, and tables. You can find a lot of helpful information on the web by simply searching “cross-reference [whatever] in Word.”

Thank you to Professors Larre and von Tigerstrom of the University of Saskatchewan, College of Law, for bringing cross-referencing footnotes to my attention. I hope that you find the information as life-changing as I did.

2 thoughts on “Cross-referencing footnotes in Word

    Jean-Pierre Malisse said:
    June 18, 2019 at 4:03 am

    very useful, thanks a lot of this very neat procedure !!!


    Guillaume Combot said:
    December 14, 2015 at 3:10 am



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