Add Alternative Text to Images in Microsoft Office Documents

It is important to tag your images properly with alternative text when creating documents so they are readable and accessible by individuals with disabilities.

Accessible documents benefit everyone - not just those with disabilities! For example, accessible documents benefit cell phone and tablet users, as well as students with low bandwidth access. Accessible documents also make it easier for browsers to display them and are much easier to convert to various platforms or formats.

Alternative Text (Alt Text)

Everything you need to know to write effective Alt Text - guidance and tips from Microsoft.

Alternative text provides a textual alternative to graphics and images and serves several functions:

Alternative text should:

Adding Alternative Text to an Image

Note: Instructions may vary when using Office versions older than Office 2019 or the Office 365 web versions, and/or Macintosh Office applications.
  1. Right-click on the image and select Edit Alt Text... (Mac: CTRL + click).
    Edit Alt Text...
  2. The Alt Text pane opens on the right.

    Alternative Text

  3. Delete any auto-generated alternative text, if any.
  4. Add the text needed to convey the same essential information as the visual image conveys.
  5. Be sure to use proper capitalization and punctuation.

 Note: Some Microsoft Office applications automatically generate the alternative text for images by default. Automatically generated alternative text is rarely useful! This option can be disabled:

  1. Click the File tab, select Options
  2. Select Ease of Access > uncheck "Automatically generate alt text for me" > OK

    Ease of Access | uncheck Automatically generate alt text for me

Decorative Images

Some images are not critical to the understanding of the document. If removing the image doesn’t change the understanding, mark it as decorative. For example, NDSU logos that appear on every page should be marked as decorative since they are not conveying any specific information. As always, avoid using decorative images when possible. Consider if the visual element adds value to the understanding of a document.

Mark an Image as "Decorative"

  1. Follow the steps above to add alternative text to an image.
  2. Type the word Decorative in the Description field.
  3. Office 365 (Office 2019), do not check the “Mark as decorative” option because it does not produce useful behavior for some screen readers.

    Alt Text Decorative | Mark as decorative unchecked

Image Layouts

It’s important to make sure that assistive technologies can read images included in documents in the correct order. Use the Layout Options in Microsoft Office to add spacing rather than adding extra space characters or returns (paragraph breaks) to produce a desired visual layout.


Wrap Text Around an Image in Word

"Inline with Text" is the default image Layout Option in newer Office versions, but the default setting may have been changed to another Layout Option at some point. Use these steps to ensure each image uses the "Inline with Text" wrapping:

  1. Click on an image to select it.
  2. Click the Layout tab on the ribbon > click the Wrap Text icon > Select In Line with Text.

    Layout | Wrap Text | In Line with Text

  3. OR right-click (Mac: Ctrl + click) > Wrap Text > Inline with Text

See Also: