Lining Up Dots in a Table of Contents

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There are two ways to make a uniform table of contents (TOC) in Microsoft Word. Unfortunately, each way involves a few steps that are nearly impossible for the occasional user to figure out alone. This guide is designed to make your paper-writing experience a little less frustrating!

The more advanced way of creating a table of contents should be used for very long papers with multiple chapters or components. This involves first dividing your chapters into segments, then inserting a table of contents in the front of your paper. Every "divided" segment appears in an auto-generated TOC like magic! It won't be necessary to type in the titles--they are pulled from your paper automatically.

If this sounds like the best process for you, you should go to Generating a Table of Contents.

Table of Contents in Microsoft Word

Screen shot courtesy of Microsoft Corporation.

To type your own TOC, you must finish writing the final draft (see the article on proofreading) of your paper. You don't want to make any changes once you create a table of contents because any changes could make your TOC wrong!

  • Next, go to the beginning of your paper and insert a blank page for the TOC.
  • Type in the name of your first chapter. Then space once and type the page number for that chapter. Don't type any dots!
  • Repeat this for each chapter. Just type the name--space once--then type the number.
  • Next, you will highlight a line.
  • Right click on the highlighted area and a menu list will pop up.
  • Select "Paragraph" from the list that pops up.
  • A box will appear. Select the "Tabs" button at the bottom. See an image on the next page.

Inserting Dots that Line Up in Your Table of Contents

Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft
Screen shot courtesy of Microsoft.

At this point you should be looking at a box entitled Tabs.

  • In the box for "Tab stop position" type 5 as indicated by the blue arrow.
  • In the "alignment" area, select right as indicated by the yellow arrow.
  • In the"leader" area, select the choice for dots or lines, whichever you prefer. The pink arrow in the picture above shows the selection for dots.
  • You are almost done. Select OK.

You have just set up the page so that pressing the tab on your computer will insert a segment of uniform dots. Place your cursor between a chapter name and the page number in your table of contents. Press the "tab" button, and the dots will appear! Do this with each chapter on your TOC.