Microsoft Word: Add and Edit Alt Text

Images can add context, clarity, and meaning to a document; in other words, images can enhance the accessibility of your document.  However, it is essential that you add strong alt text to each image, chart, graph, or other non-text element in your document - otherwise, screen reader users will hear the word "image" but not know what the image is. 

Creating alt text in Microsoft Word

  1. Choose one of the following:
    • Select any image and press the Alt Text button in the Format ribbon tab.
    • Right-click an image and select Edit Alt Text.The Alt Text pane opens on the right side of the document body
  2. Describe the image content and context.
    • Be accurate and equivalent 
      Think: what is the meaning that a sighted user gets from this image, in this context?  Or, what meaning would be lost if this image disappeared from this page? Use those ideas to write your alt text.
    • Be succinct, not redundant. 
      Typically no more than a few words are necessary. Do not provide information that is already in the text surrounding the image.
    • Omit the phrases "image of ..." or "graphic of ..." to describe the image. 
      If the fact that an image is a photograph or illustration, etc. is important, it may be useful to include this in alternative text. Otherwise, screen readers already announce that the item is an image.

Marking an image as "decorative"

Decorative objects add visual interest but aren't informative (for example, stylistic borders). People using screen readers will hear that these are decorative, so they will know they aren't missing any important information.

We recommend that you explain the content and context of an image, even if you initially think it is decorative.  If it truly carries no meaning, consider removing it entirely.

  1. Right-click any visual element.
  2. Select Edit Alt Text. The Alt Text pane opens on the right side of the document body.
  3. Select the Mark as decorative check box. The text entry field will be grayed out.

Alt text resources

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