In a previous article, we talked about uses for footnotes and endnotes and how to insert them into a document. One of the drawbacks of using built in functions of Microsoft Word is that the ability to customise the results is often limited. This is exactly the case when working with footnotes and endnotes.

A common scenario might be when you are carrying out some work in which you must format documents according to strict corporate style guidelines – perhaps they want numbering to restart on each page, or roman numerals instead of normal numbers. Now there is a way to edit the styling of footnotes, to a point:

  • Click ‘reference‘ tab > ‘footnotes‘ group > expand the selection

You will then see a dialogue box with various options that you can change, such as where to position the notes, how to format them and when to restart numbering.

Make your changes and then click ‘ok’

What if you want to change font or style settings?

The problem starts when you want to change to more complicated styling, for example if your client wants brackets around each footnote or normal sized numerals instead of superscript. It’s true, you could go through and change the styling of each footnote manually, but if you have a lot of them this is time consuming and quite frankly a waste of time! As a virtual assistant, I pride myself on getting jobs done as quickly and efficiently as possible, and that means making sure that I never do something manually when it can be automated instead.

Sadly, there is no easy way to make these changes, one of the reasons being that there are two insertion points in a document for each footnote; one in the main body of the text and another in the footer. If you change the styling of one, it will also change in the other instance, which 9 times out of ten is not the desired effect.

So this is where it’s useful to understand the functions of Microsoft Word in order to find a workaround. In this case, we can use the ‘find & replace‘ function after you have finished adding all of your footnotes as normal.

How to make style changes to footnotes & endnotes

  • Firstly, view the document in draft view by going to ‘view‘ tab > ‘document views‘ group > draft


  • View the footnotes pane by clicking ‘reference‘ tab > ‘footnotes‘ group > show notes


  • Place your cursor the beginning of the first footnote in that pane and activate the find and replace function by going to ‘home‘ tab > ‘editing‘ group > ‘replace

In this example we want to change all superscript text to normal style; here’s how:

  • In the ‘find‘ box enter ^02  or ^f – this will search for footnote references only. To find endnotes use ^e
  • In the ‘replace‘ box do not enter any text, but place your cursor in the box here, this will replace the contents of each footnote with whatever is in ‘find’ box (it’ll make sense in a moment!)
  • Click ‘more‘ and the dialogue box will expand to give you more options
  • At the bottom left hand corner click format > font (ensure your cursor is still in the ‘replace’ box)

  • In the resulting dialogue box, you can format the font however you would like, changing font, style, colour etc. In this case, all we want to do is make sure the ‘superscript’ box is left un-ticked.
  • Click ‘Ok

  • Click ‘Replace All

You should then get a pop up telling you how many items have been replaced and that’s it!

To change your footnotes to contain other styling, you simply need to alter what you place in the ‘replace’ box. For example, to add brackets around your footnotes try entering (^&) or to add a full stop after the footnote number use ^&.

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