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How to insert and edit footnotes in Microsoft Word

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Not everyone uses footnotes in their documents by any means, but if you happen to want to insert one and have never done so before, the good news is it's a simple process. 

Editing them post-creation is a tad more involved, requiring a little ferreting around in menus, but it's hardly a difficult matter when you know what you're doing. So in this article, we're going to show the uninitiated how to insert a footnote in Word 2013, and then get it looking just how you want it.

To create a footnote in Word, first of all position the cursor at the end of the sentence (usually, but they can go mid-sentence if needed of course) that your note will refer to. Then, in the top menu, click on the References tab, and then in the second section from the left in the Ribbon, click on the Insert Footnote command (or use the keyboard shortcut which is Alt+Ctrl+F).

The reference number of the footnote will appear in superscript (smaller and slightly raised) in your document, and the same number will appear at the bottom of the page under a short line. The cursor will automatically move down to the bottom, and you can type in your reference text. And that's all there is to adding a basic footnote. If you go back and add a footnote before one you've already done, Word will automatically keep the numbering correct and in order, incidentally.

Should you wish to edit the footnote to make it more to your liking, you can. Perhaps you want to change the font of the note, or even the size of the superscript number in the text.

To change the font of the footnote, first of all highlight your footnote text with the cursor. Now go back to the Home tab on the top menu, and under Styles in the Ribbon, at the bottom right there's a tiny little button you can click (see the screenshot at the top of this article); or you can use the keyboard shortcut which is Alt+Ctrl+Shift+S. This brings up the full Styles menu, which grants access to the hidden bits including footnote editing.

Go to the bottom of the Styles box which has popped up, and click the third icon from the left which is Manage Styles. As long as you've highlighted your footnote text before visiting this menu as we noted in the last paragraph, Word will automatically have selected Footnote Text (Hide Until Used). In case you didn't or it hasn't, you'll have to scroll through the 'Select a style to edit' menu, find it and select.

Now click the Modify button below, and you can select a new font and font size under formatting. You can also choose from other options; for example, to italicise the text, or underline it – all the usual formatting stuff, which works just as it does elsewhere in Word. Make your changes, click OK, OK again, and they'll be implemented.

If you want to modify the footnote reference (superscript) number itself, then select that (in the body of the text) and it will automatically be picked out by Word when you open the Styles box (Alt+Ctrl+Shift+S), and then click the third icon from the left which is Manage Styles, the same as the process above.

Again, you then click Modify, although in this case you'll need to click the bottom left button, Format, which produces a dropdown menu, and select Font to change the font. Also note that you can turn off superscript here, and switch to subscript (where the reference number is lowered, as opposed to raised above the text).

You might notice there's an Advanced tab here where you can fine-tune details like the size of the spacing between characters. You can get things looking exactly as you'd like, and again, when you're done click OK, OK, and then a third OK to finalise the settings and see the changes implemented in Word 2013.

For more on Microsoft's word processor, see our 9 top tips for Microsoft Word 2010.