Figure caption numbering incorrect in Word

If you want to make an intuitive reference to an image, you can insert a caption. You can quickly add a caption to a picture or photo in Word by using the Insert Caption function. Word will automatically number your captions of tables or figures. However, sometimes the caption numbering of the figure is incorrect in your Word document and not sequential, which can be a problem. You will find out that figure caption numbers do not show in the correct order. This article will show you how to insert a figure caption in Word and explain how the numbering works. Read about the solutions to fix the wrong numbering in figure captions.

How to insert a caption in Word

Open your Word document and add an image. Now you can add a caption to a picture by following the steps below.

  • Right-click on the image
  • Selection opens up > Click on Insert Caption > The Caption dialog box opens up
how to add caption to picture in word

Or you can use this method below.

  1. Go to the References tab
  2. Click on the Insert Caption icon > The Caption dialog box opens up

how to add a caption to a photo in word

Create a new label

In the Caption dialog box, you can choose from three different labels. A label is a text that shows up before the picture numbering, which you can select by default, such as Equation, Figure, or Table. Note that these labels are different when you change your language settings in Word.

There is also an option to create a new label yourself. Click on New Label in the Caption dialog box underneath > This will open a new box called New Label where you can write your customized Label > Lastly, click OK.

In our example below, we have used the word Photo.

how to add a caption to a photo in word

Once you have made your new label and clicked the OK button, you will automatically go back to the Caption dialog box. Here, you will find the customized word (e.g., Photo) under Caption and the Label selection. Now you have to click OK in the Caption dialog box to confirm the changes.

Insert a new label in the caption dialogue box.

Figure caption numbering incorrect due to errors in Seq field

Sometimes the captions don’t follow the same order even though the numbering under the figure is correct. This is because when you add a caption to a picture, photo, figure, and other items in Word, it automatically sets the identifier in a Seq field.

{ SEQ Identifier }

Seq stands for sequence, and it numbers the captions. For more details on Seq fields, read the Microsoft article about Fields codes: Sequence field.

When you insert captions via References > Insert Caption, Word sets the Seq field equal to the label you have selected. You can view the field code in the Seq fields and other types of fields. Turn the field code display on by pressing Alt + F9. It will look like the example below.

{ SEQ Figure \* ARABIC }

All the Seq fields with the same identifier count as one series of consecutive numbers. Therefore, every time you add, delete or change an item with its Seq field, you must update the remaining items with its Seq fields to maintain a new sequence.

Remember that you will only see a Seq field if you add a caption to a picture or photo via References > Insert Caption in Word. If you add a caption manually, you will not get automatic numbering, and there is no Seq field. So a caption with the identifier Figure could look like the example below.

Figure { SEQ Figure \* ARABIC }

If you have copied content with captions from another document, the captions may not use the same identifier or label. The same problem happens if you create Seq fields manually in Word. For example, some captions use Figure as an identifier, while others use Table as an identifier. In this case, you will have two different series of captions that count separately, e.g., one numbering for Figure and another numbering for Table.

Solution of wrong figure caption numbering in Seq field

There is no problem with the caption itself, but sometimes Word won’t let you delete the label or numbering in the caption. You can fix the wrong figure caption numbering in the Seq field.

In our example below, we have inserted four different captions without any pictures. Insert a figure caption in Word > Go to References > Insert Caption > Write your caption and click OK. Unfortunately, the order of the captions is wrong. If you change it manually, the automatic numbering will not work anymore. Follow the steps below to see how you can change it.

Step 1 – The numbering of the captions is incorrect in the below picture. It states Figure 1-2-1-3 instead of Figure 1-2-3-4.

seq field figure numbering incorrect order

Step 2 – Display the Seq field codes by pressing Alt + F9. Now, you should be able to see the Seq fields of all the captions. However, as you can see below, the third identifier of the Seq Field looks different from the others as it states SEQ Figur instead of SEQ Figure. It can occur when you copy a caption from another document or write captions manually.

Caption SEQ field code display on by clicking Alt + F9

Step 3 – Now, you should change the Seq field of the third caption. You can do this by copying the Seq field of the correct figure caption and past it instead of the third caption. Or you can correct it by writing the same Seq field as the other figure. Now the Seq field will look all the same.

Step 4 – Once you correct the Seq fields, you should press Alt + F9 to go back. There is a chance that the order of the caption is still incorrect, like the left picture. It is because you have not updated the captions.

  • You can do this by selecting all the captions > Press Alt + A
  • Then update the numbering of the captions > Press Alt + F9

Now the numbering of the caption figure should look like the right picture below.

If you did not fix the correct order of the caption numbering, please read about the following problem to find the solution.

Problem caption number for figures incorrect

If you have two pictures next to each other, you may want to label them correctly to make the readers understand. However, even if you start to label your pictures in the correct order, the automatic caption number for each picture shifts.

In our example, we will start to insert a caption for the left picture in Word.

  1. Go to the References tab
  2. Click on Insert Caption > The Caption dialog box opens
  3. The caption automatically states Figure 1 > Now you can write a caption > Click OK.
  4. The caption under the picture looks correct.
figure caption numbering incorrect in Word and switches numbers

Let’s say that you want to add a caption to the right photo in your Word document, as Figure 2.

  1. First, click on the right picture where you want to enter the caption > Go to the References tab
  2. Click on the Insert Caption button
  3. Now the Caption dialog box opens up, but the figure numbering is wrong.

For example, in the picture below, you can see that it automatically states Figure 1 in the Caption dialog box. Also, the left picture automatically changes from Figure 1 to Figure 2. But why is this happening?

Figure 1 caption in text box wrong, because the picture is set with text wrapping

Check if a picture is in line with text or with text wrapping

The problem occurs when you have pictures set With Text Wrapping. For example, let’s say that you have two images next to each other, and of them is set something else than In Line With Text. In this case, each caption ends up in a text box. The right picture in the example below is set with text wrapping. You can check that by clicking on the picture or text box underneath it once. Now an icon called Layout Options appears. Click on the icon to see which layout you have selected for this particular picture.

You can also check it in the Picture Tools tab when you click on the picture. Finally, in the ribbon, you can either click on Position or Wrap Text, which will give you the same options.

Once you add a caption to a picture set with text wrapping in Word, the figure caption numbering becomes incorrect. The numbering of the captions depends on the positions of the text box anchors, which will be explained later. Read further to understand how to insert a caption of a figure in Word with the correct method.

Picture with text wrapping makes the figure caption numbering incorrect

Solution for figure caption numbering correct due to With Text Wrapping

Follow the steps below to fix the wrong order due to Pictures With Text Wrapping. You already know how to insert a caption of a figure in a Word document. For this example, we have inserted four pictures in a Word document with incorrect numbering.

  • Go to the Home tab
  • Press the ¶ button under the Paragraphs group. It displays object anchors as well as other non-printing marks.
  • Or use the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + 8
Click on the paragraph button to see the paragraph in the word document

Sometimes you will not see the object anchors immediately. It is because you have not clicked inside the text box under the picture.

  • Click inside a caption to see its anchor. See the below picture for further illustration.
Click inside a caption to see the paragraph and anchors in the word document
  • Now click and drag the anchor so that it appears in the correct sequence.
    • Click on an anchor and move it downwards if you want the numbering to come in second.
    • Click on an anchor and move it upwards if you want the numbering to be first.

Sometimes you have to bring the anchor to the end of the document to change its caption numbering. Look at the picture below to see how to drag the anchor icon down. Please check the location of the anchor for the individual text fields with incorrect numbers. Then, please do the same steps for figure 3 and drag its anchor down.

Drag the anchor down to change the figure caption numbering to come in second

The caption numbering does not always change immediately, but that is not a problem. Read the following steps to see how to update the caption numbering in your Word document.

  • Update the caption numbers by switching to Print Preview > Use the shortcut Ctrl + F2 or shortcut Ctrl + P. Now you will see the correct order of your captions on the right side.
  • Then go back to the current view by clicking on the arrow in the upper left corner > Use the Esc button.

These problems do not occur if your pictures are In Line With Text in Word, and therefore it is the safest way to add a caption to a picture. There is no need to move the anchors anymore.

Update the caption numbers by switching to print preview and go back by clicking on the arrow


You have learned how to insert a caption of a figure in Word. However, sometimes the figure caption numbering is incorrect in Word. If you have pictures set with text wrapping, there is a high chance of having the wrong order numbering in your captions. It could also be due to the wrong identifier in the Seq field, which can easily be changed manually. Now, you can add a caption to a photo in Word using the correct method.

10 thoughts on “Figure caption numbering incorrect in Word”

  1. I have an issue, that I can’t google. I have a document from my customer. They said it’s 75% their part, and I don’t have to change it, and other 25% will be my work. But they had a total mess in captions. First 13 looked ok (i think there were two authors of this document), and rest behaved very strange, so I removed them, and just made a copy and paste of the last one. And after that instead of 50 indexes I have something more than 1000, because one of them is repeating itself under next numbers like crazy. Is there any solution for that?

    • Likely, this is not an Office problem but rather a keyboard setting. It sounds as if your keyboard has “hijacked” some shortcuts. There is no setting in Word that can start Windows viewer. Try holding the Fn (function) key to make these shortcuts work. Try to press on Alt + Fn + F9 to toggle field codes.

      • Thanks! Alt-Fn worked! Now if I could only figure out how to fix an incorrect caption number that can’t be deleted in the Captions dialog box! No field code appears.

      • i use laptop and for me none of short cut keys worked to open that window. in fact the moment i press first key alt word highlight yellow squares with letters indicating to select next key for accessing menu or tool.
        Also my word document changes at random caption numbers. every time i insert a new caption literally all previous ones change at random.

        • Another program not related to Word has likely hijacked that keyboard shortcut. Try to press the Fn (Function) key when using one of the F1-F12 keys. When you hit Alt + Fn + F9, it does Alt + F9.
          If that does not solve the problem, try resetting the keyboard shortcuts in Word or adding another shortcut to the command.
          You can also toggle the field codes in the Word Options box. Go to File > Options to open the Word Options box. Then click on Advanced > Show document content. Select > Show field codes instead of their values.


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