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How To Form Neat References and Citations in MS Word

How To Form Neat References and Citations in MS Word

Let’s imagine that you have to find a particular book or case to refer to in your day-to-day legal documents. Untidy cross-references and tables can make it difficult to read and understand the whole context of the doc. 

Web search for the wanted sources is a great idea but sometimes you need to find some info that does not exist online. Or it may just messily fly around the internet. Here come good old libraries where every material is sorted alphabetically, hence, it’s easier to find. 

Legal documents also need order, from title page to annexes, along with well-built references and citations. MS Word has all the essential and handy tools to create a proper document structure in one References tab. With its same-name instruments, this tab can help lawyers tailor many key document elements like Table of Contents, Cross-references, Citations, and Table of Authorities. 

In this manual, we will see how the References tab works in Word and how legal pros can arrange all the contents in documents in the way they need.

Table of Contents

Let’s start from the Table of Contents section of the References tab on your left.

When you unfold it, you are provided with a list of Automatic and Manual templates. You can work on an Automatic template only if Word has identified headings as styles in your legal document. If you would like to shape headings and make them stand out in your document, you can find more details in our guide to styling in MS Word.

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Manual templates of Table of Contents enable you to organize your document contents as you need and by hand put chapter levels and titles. Let’s insert one of these templates 一 and voilà, now you can start filling in the Table of Contents.

Remember that you can always Update Table, or Remove it, by clicking on its upper name field in the document. Note that if you have already added one format of Table of Contents, you cannot add one more in the same document.

If you would like to change the template you chose, in the same section press Custom Table of Contents. A new window will pop up.

Here you can edit the number of contents (levels) for your Table and tick formatting options if you need. The Modify and Options tabs provide you with styling settings that you can apply to your Table of Contents. Mainly, you can set up the Table’s formatting and define its main properties as in the Modify window below.


Suppose you need to cross-link the contents in your document. In the middle of References, find the Cross-references section. Click on it to see the settings window.

Based on the example of numbers above, Word has identified numbered lists in your document and suggests putting the references as numbered items. 

Let’s say you need to cross-link the Purchase Price term with its definition (for a better view, we have highlighted it in the example below). To create this cross-reference, put the cursor on ‘Purchase Price’, then go to the aforementioned Cross-references window and choose the needed clause where this term is explained in the doc. After you press Insert, you will see a figure reference. You can always fix its formatting and make it perfect for you using Word’s Home tab.

Citations & Table of Authorities

In MS Word, Citations go hand in hand with Table of Authorities

Before you insert this Table, you have to cite important document contents like Cases, Statutes, Rules, Treatises, Regulations, Constitutional Provisions, etc. After you have highlighted the wanted spot in the document, go to the right side of the References tab and click Mark Citation. A new window will pop up. 

From the dropdown Category list, you can select the type of the marked entity in your text. If the content is too long, you can make it shorter in the field below. After you are done, click Mark. See the new citation right in your document body. 

Although its formatting may not look clean, you can always tailor it in the way your document is formatted using the classic Home tab.

Now the final step is to add the Table of Authorities that collects all cited contents in the document. Usually, they are placed at the end of the doc. Click Insert Table of Authorities, and the new window will appear.

It has the same templates and some extra options as in the Table of Contents window. You can always fix the Table of Authorities as you need. After setting up, all your highlighted citations will be displayed in this Table at the end of your document.  

Clear contents are the key to well-structured and shiny legal documents. Once all tables and references are properly formed in MS Word, the next reviewing steps will flow even more smoothly.

Additionally, when dealing with legal documents, it’s essential to understand and leverage the benefits of a Master Use License Agreement to govern the use of copyrighted material effectively.

In MS Word, you are free to edit all default templates of Tables and References as you need. Also, for more productive work with legal documents, you may consider Word’s plugins like Loio. These industry-focused add-ins can help you proofread your documents more thoroughly and get more insights into the file’s quality.

We hope that with this manual all tables, cross-references, and citations will become easy to find and handy to work with in MS Word.

Article by Yevheniia Savchenko

Yevheniia Savchenko is a Product Content Manager at Lawrina. Yevheniia creates user interface copies for Lawrina products, writes release notes, and helps customers get the best user experience from all Lawrina products. Also, Yevheniia is in charge of creating helpful content on legal template pages (Lawrina Templates) and up-to-date information on US law (Lawrina Guides). In her spare time, Yevheniia takes up swimming, travels, and goes for a walk in her home city.

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