By Reché McKeague
Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of the original 2014 blog post.
Most of our research usually ends up in a written document. As good researchers and writers, we always indicate the source of our research. (Right? Right.) As a result, knowing how to efficiently footnote our research can be as helpful as knowing where to go to find the research in the first place. So, I present to you: cross-referencing footnotes in Word.
I most commonly cross-reference a footnote when, in a later footnote, I refer to an earlier footnote by supra. The benefit of inserting a cross-reference, rather than just typing in the earlier footnote number, is that inserting a cross-reference creates a hyperlink within the document. So, if you add or delete footnotes before or between the earlier footnote and the supra, rather than having to go through and manually change all the “supra note #,” with the click of a button Word will update all the footnote numbers for you. Depending on the length of your document, this can save you hours of mind-numbing work.
How does it work? Just follow these simple steps:
These instructions will also work on a Mac; just substitute “command” for “Control” and “fn – F9” for “F9.”
Cross-referencing footnotes has some limitations. For example, Word will not change cross-references if you change the content of the footnote referred to. Cross-referencing only picks up footnote number changes when footnotes have been added or deleted. If you delete the footnote to which your cross-reference was linked, when you try to update the references, “Error! Bookmark not defined” will appear where the number was. You will then need to create a new cross-reference. This is yet another reason to get in the habit of including enough information in your footnotes, even in your early drafts, that you remember to which source each footnote should refer even if the cross-reference link is broken!
Cross-referencing is not limited to footnotes. If formatted properly, you may also cross-reference to headings, bookmarks, numbered items, endnotes, equations, figures, and tables. You can find a lot of helpful information on the web by simply searching “cross-reference [whatever] in Word.”
Thank you to Professors Larre and von Tigerstrom of the University of Saskatchewan, College of Law, for bringing cross-referencing footnotes to my attention. I hope that you find the information as life-changing as I did.