Captions in documents
A caption accompanies a figure, table, equation or other object, such as a box or a photograph. Figure captions are the default.
A caption usually has three components: a customisable label (like “Figure”, “Table”, “Equation”) plus an ordered number or letter that Word inserts for you (e.g., “1, 2, 3…” or “a, b, c…”), followed by a description.
The advantages to using MS-Word’s caption fields are that, if you add, delete, or move captions, you can easily update the caption numbers all at once; and that you can list the captioned items; for example, in a table of figures or a table of equations.
Click here to open a PDF of the instructions below – with illustrations.
Changing a caption
There are different ways of inserting captions and formatting them, which you get by selecting buttons in the dialog boxes. I suggest you explore them to see what suits you. You can:
- manually position the figure and its caption.
- automatically position the figure and its caption.
- exclude the word “Figure” from the caption label.
- change the figure number to letters or to Roman numbers.
- include the chapter, section or heading number with the figure number.
Manually positioning the figure and its caption
If you have your cursor in the paragraph above or below the figure when you click on Insert Caption, the Position textbox is greyed out, and it is up to you to keep the figure and its caption on the same page.
(To keep the figure and its caption on the same page, put your cursor in the first paragraph, go to the Home tab > Paragraph group > dialog box launcher > Line and Page Breaks tab > tick the box labelled Keep With Next.)
Automatically positioning the figure and its caption
If you select the figure before you click on Insert Caption, the Position textbox is not greyed out, you can specify whether the caption is inserted above or below the figure.
Excluding the word “Figure” from the label
If you just want the number to show in the caption, tick the box labelled Exclude label from caption.
Changing the number format
To change the 1-2-3 numbers in figure labels to a-b-c or i-ii-iii, click on the Numbering button. The Caption Numbering dialog box pops up with the Format text box selected. Change the number by selecting from the Format drop-down list.
Including the heading number with the figure number
You can include the chapter, section or heading number with the figure number (e.g., Figure II-1, Table 1-A). To do this, tick the box labelled Include chapter number. The greyed-out items below it are activated:
- Click the down-arrow on the right of the Chapter starts with style label to see a drop-down list of styles. Select the style of the heading whose number you want to include; and
- Click the down-arrow on the right of the Use separator label to see a drop-down list of punctuation. Select the punctuation you want between the chapter number and the figure number
Click on the OK button or press the Enter key.
After you have added a caption to your document, there will be a Caption style in the style gallery.
To change the formatting of all the captions in your document, right-click the Caption style and choose Modify.
The Modify Style dialog box pops up, as shown below. Many modifications to the font and paragraph are available in the Formatting group, and the effect of a change is shown in the Sample text. More modifications can be made by clicking on the Format button at the bottom left of the dialog box.
Click here to find out how to list your figures in a table of figures.