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Tables of Contents: How On Earth Do I Format These???

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A table of contents is one of those things that most people expect in a book, but almost no one knows how to put it there in the first place. And if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can be a formatting nightmare!

Well I’m here to take the dread out of that horror with this article on formatting your very own table of contents.

I specifically go over my favorite formatting tool to use (spoiler alert, it’s Atticus), as well as how to do it with more common tools like Microsoft Word and Google Docs.

So let’s dive in!

First, What’s the Easiest Way to Format Tables of Contents?

In this section, we’re going to discuss the easiest way to format your Table of Contents (ToC), so you can get back to doing what you do best – writing!

First things first, let’s talk about why a ToC is necessary. Whether you’re writing a nonfiction or fiction book, a ToC is crucial in organizing your content for your readers. It helps them quickly navigate your book and find the information they need.

Plus, it just looks professional.

Atticus Table of Contents

Now, when it comes to formatting a ToC, you need to make sure it works for both print-on-demand and ebook versions of your book. This can be a daunting task, but fear not! There’s a tool that can do all the heavy lifting for you – enter Atticus.

I’ve talked about Atticus in a lot of my other posts, but in case you’re new here, Atticus is an all-in-one writing tool that not only allows you to write your entire book, but it can also create a ToC with just a few clicks.

You can see my review of Atticus here.

If you’ve already written your book in a Google or Word document, no problem! You can import it into Atticus and it will automatically create the ToC based on the Heading 1 and Heading 2 styles used for your chapter headings and subheadings.

One of the great things about Atticus is that it allows you to include subtitles in your ToC. You can choose to list subheads with chapters or hide back matter, depending on your preference. P

lus, when you’re ready to export your book, Atticus will generate an EPUB file with a navigable ToC for ebooks and a print-ready PDF file with a professional ToC for print books.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

However, not everyone has or wants Atticus, so in the next two sections, I’ll cover how you can do the same with Word or Google Docs. Just understand that it would be a lot easier with Atticus.

Formatting TOCs in Microsoft Word

To get started with your table of contents in Word, make sure your ToC goes at the front of your book. To do this, insert a new page before the ToC. To insert a new page, navigate to the Insert tab, select the Blank Page option, and make sure the cursor is in the right place.

Now it’s time to add the ToC! Navigate to the References tab and select the Table of Contents button. A dropdown menu will appear with several automatic table of contents options to choose from, or you can select a custom table and customize the options to fit your needs.

references word table of contents

It’s important to ensure that your chapter headings and subheadings have the proper heading level (Heading 1 for chapter titles and Heading 2 for subheads) from the Styles menu on the Home tab. This will ensure that the ToC is properly formatted and easy to navigate for your readers.

But what if you make changes to your document after creating the ToC? No problem! To update the ToC, simply click on the top of the table and select the Update option. This will automatically update the ToC with any changes you’ve made.

Formatting TOCs in Google Docs

Creating a ToC in Google Docs is a breeze! Simply put the cursor where the ToC will appear, go to the Insert dropdown menu, hover over Table of Contents, and choose a style – either page numbers or blue links. It’s that easy!

To separate the ToC from the body of the document, use a Page Break, which can also be found in the Insert menu. This will ensure that your ToC is properly formatted and easy to navigate for your readers.

Proper formatting of your chapter titles and subheads is necessary for the ToC to work correctly. Make sure to use the appropriate headings styles, such as Heading 1 for chapter titles and Heading 2 for subheads. This will ensure that the ToC is properly formatted and easy to navigate for your readers.

But what if you make changes to your document after creating the ToC? No problem! To update the ToC, simply click anywhere on the ToC section and select the Refresh symbol. This will automatically update the ToC with any changes or new chapters you’ve added.

Other Formatting Needs

Now that you know how to create a table of contents (ToC) in Microsoft Word and Google Docs, it’s time to talk about other formatting needs for your book. While inserting a basic ToC is simple, formatting your book for publication is still necessary to ensure a professional-looking final product.

Some tools may have trouble populating an existing ToC, requiring you to troubleshoot the formatting on your own. That is why I recommend Atticus (is there a broken record in here?).

Atticus themes toc

Atticus takes care of all the formatting for you, so you don’t have to spend hours trying to figure out the technical details. And Atticus allows users to preview the ToC (and other formatting needs) in various pre-made themes and formats.

Atticus is a one-time fee ($147) tool with all future updates included, so you can use it to format all your future books as well.

Plus, with Atticus, you can focus on writing the best book possible while the tool takes care of the technical formatting details.

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