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Headings in documents

Headings and subheadings should provide an outline of page content, so users can understand how the page is structured and easily navigate between headings.

For an overview of this issue, see Headings in our IT Accessibility Checklist.

Techniques for Word

In Word, add headings using the built-in heading styles (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.) available in the Ribbon. To change the appearance of any of these heading styles, simply right-click on the style button and select “Modify.”

Screenshot of Microsoft Word, showing a heading added with the Heading 1 style

Techniques for PDF

If a PDF document is created from an authoring tool that supports headings and exports to tagged PDF (e.g., Microsoft Word), and these features were used properly when authoring the document, the document’s heading structure should be preserved within the PDF.

This can be checked and/or edited using either of two methods in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC:

Using the tag tree

To inspect the tag tree of a tagged document, follow these steps:

  1. From the View menu, select Show/Hide > Navigation Panes > Tags. This will display the tags in descending order from top to bottom.
  2. Review the tag tree of the PDF, checking to be sure headings are tagged as headings at the appropriate levels to form an outline of the page content (e.g., <H1>, <H2>, <H3>).

Using the Reading Order Tool

Adding headings to an untagged document using the Reading Order tool is part of a manual tagging, or remediation process, and will require tagging the entire document. For more information, see the Adobe Support documentation on using the Reading Order tool for PDFs. Additional training on using the Reading Order tool to remediate a PDF document manually is recommended.

To add heading tags using the Reading Order tool, follow these steps:

  1. From the Accessibility Panel, launch the Reading Order tool.
  2. Marquee the text, then apply the appropriate heading structure from the options in the Reading Order dialogue box.

Adobe Acrobat Reading Order Panel

NOTE: Modifying PDFs can have unpredictable results. Save often! (Saving multiple versions is recommended.)

Techniques for Google Docs

In Google Docs, headings are selected from the Styles selector on the toolbar.

Screenshot of Google Docs, showing the style dropdown menu with multiple heading levels as options