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If the document you’re creating includes equations, you might plan to number or label them. For both standard and nonstandard formatting, we’ll show you how to add numbers and labels to equations in Microsoft Word.

Number Equations in Microsoft Word

Whether you plan to use a table of figures or not, numbers allow you to reference your equations. And you might have a requirement to use customary numbering for the equations in your document. According to sources, including Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), the standard is Arabic numerals in parentheses and right-aligned.

You can accomplish all of this using the caption feature in Microsoft Word with a few tweaks. So, open your document and select your first equation. On the References tab, click “Insert Caption” from the Captions section of the ribbon.

On the References tab, click Insert Caption from the Captions section of the ribbon.

While Word does offer a feature for labeling equations here, you’re only numbering them with parentheses in this instance. This means creating a new label. Click “New Label.”

Click New Label

In the New Label window, type your left parenthesis and hit “OK.”

Type a parenthesis and click OK

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If you want to select a different number format, click “Numbering,” choose what you’d like to use, and click “OK.”

Pick a caption numbering format

You’ll see the starting parenthesis with the first number per the formatting that you selected. Type a space, and then your closing parenthesis. Optionally, select a Position for the caption and click “OK.”

Now that you have your equation number, select it and go to the Home tab. Click “Align Right” in the Paragraph section of the ribbon.

On the Home tab, click Align Right in the Paragraph section of the ribbon.

This scoots the number caption to the right where it belongs.

Right-aligned number caption

If you need to remove the default italics from the caption, select it, go to the Home tab, and deselect “Italics” in the Font section of the ribbon.

Italics button in the Fonts section

You can follow the same process to add numbers to your remaining equations. You already have the new label ready, so click “Insert Caption” from the ribbon. The sequential number is automatically inserted into your parenthesis caption. Just type your space and closing parenthesis and click “OK.”

Insert next number caption

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Then, right-align the next caption in the document, and you’re set!

Label Equations in Microsoft Word

If the document you’re creating with your equations is for personal use or doesn’t need to follow a standard numbering convention, you can caption your equations with labels, if you like.

Open your document and select your first equation. On the References tab, click “Insert Caption” from the Captions section of the ribbon.

On the References tab, click Insert Caption from the Captions section of the ribbon.

In the Caption pop-up window, select “Equation” next to Label. This sets both the word and the number as the caption. Optionally, select a Position for the caption and click “OK” to apply the caption.

Again, you can adjust the text for the caption or align it on the page using the Font and Paragraph sections on the Home tab.

Add any subsequent equation captions that you need the same way, and you’ll see each numbered sequentially next to your label.

Insert next label caption

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If you need help writing your equations, take a look at our how-to for using the ink equation feature.

Profile Photo for Sandy Writtenhouse Sandy Writtenhouse
With her B.S. in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She learned how technology can enrich both professional and personal lives by using the right tools. And, she has shared those suggestions and how-tos on many websites over time. With thousands of articles under her belt, Sandy strives to help others use technology to their advantage.
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