Understanding Styles in MS Word

 

Styles are one of the building blocks that Word uses in several different ways. Making use of the style feature enables you to take advantage of other features like inserting a Table of Contents, Bookmarks, and other referencing tools. But even if you don’t want to learn these more advanced features, learning to use Styles will still save you time and energy.

~ Applying Styles | Modifying Styles | Creating New Styles ~

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The easiest way to wrap your mind around Styles is to think of them as instructions you give to Word on how you want your text to look. You can check what instructions you’re giving Word by looking at the Style drop-down box on your Formatting Toolbar.

All text has a style even if you don’t apply any style formatting to the text yourself. The default style is called “Normal” (sometimes called “Body Text” or just “Body”), which is not to be confused with the Normal Template. Most of your document will be produced in Normal Style, with some add-ons (eg, “Normal + Italic”, meaning you’ve applied Italics to a section of Normal style text).

Occasionally you will need to apply a different style to other text, such as any headings, in your document. Instead of increasing the font size and bolding your headings by hand, apply a preset Heading style (such as “Heading 1”) to your headings.

Using preset Heading styles ensures that all your headings conform to the same specifications. You will never have to scroll through a document to check whether you used Arial 14pt or Times 16pt for the headings.

You can also change your settings more easily if you find a nicer font to use, or want italicised headings instead of bold.

Applying Styles to Your Document

To apply a preset style to your text, highlight it and select the style from the Style Drop-Down Menu on the Formatting Toolbar.

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Modifying Styles

(Word 2003)

  • Click FORMAT, STYLES AND FORMATTING… (or the Styles and Formatting button on the Formatting Toolbar)
  • In the Task Pane, click the down-arrow of the style you wish to change and select MODIFY…
  • In the Modify Style dialog box, use the Font drop-down box, bold, italic, and underline buttons, and alignment buttons to alter the style until it looks the way you want it to. (You'll also notice check boxes to select options to "Automatically update" and "Add to template". More about those below.)
  • If you’re feeling more adventurous, the Format floating menu (bottom left of the dialog box) gives you more advanced options for changing and setting up your style.

(Word 2007)

  • In the Styles section on the Ribbon, right-click the style you wish to change and select MODIFY…
  • In the Modify Style dialog box, use the Font drop-down box, bold, italic, and underline buttons, and alignment buttons to alter the style until it looks the way you want it to. (You'll also notice check boxes to select options to "Automatically update" and "Add to template". More about those below.)
  • If you’re feeling more adventurous, the Format floating menu (bottom left of the dialog box) gives you more advanced options for changing and setting up your style.

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Creating Your Own Styles

Creating a new style is very similar to modifying an existing style, because all new styles have to be based on an existing style. The difference is that instead of merely changing one style, you now have two styles. This is useful if you still want to use the existing style in your document, in addition to the new style.

(Word 2003)

  • Click FORMAT, STYLES AND FORMATTING…, In the Task Pane, click NEW STYLE…
  • In the New Style dialog box, type a name for your style, and select an existing style to base the new style on.
  • Use the Font drop-down box, bold, italic, and underline buttons, and alignment buttons to alter the style until it looks the way you want it to. Click OK to accept all your settings. (Again, you'll notice check boxes to select options to "Automatically update" and "Add to template". More on that later.)

(Word 2007)

  • Select some text and alter the font and other attributes until you have the style you want.
  • Right-click on that text and select STYLES >> "Save Selection as a New Quick Style"
  • Type a name for your style.
  • You also have options to alter the style further by clicking MODIFY. (Again, you'll notice check boxes to select options to "Automatically update" and "Add to template". More on that below.)
  • Click OK to accept all your settings.

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Changing Your Mind

You will notice that the Modify Style dialog box has a checkable option called “Automatically Update”. Using this option allows you to make any changes you want to your text, and Word will automatically change all the other text in that style to match your changes.

This is great for keeping consistency, but can be annoying if you didn’t want the rest of the document to be updated.

TIP – click UNDO once to reverse the update. If this happens to you often, access the Modify Style dialog box and uncheck the box next to Automatically Update.

If you do make a change that you want reflected throughout your document, simply:

  • Highlight the text you’ve changed
  • Click the Styles and Formatting button on your Formatting Toolbar to access the Task Pane
  • Click the down-arrow next to the original style (not the new one that’s been created with “+ [your changes]” after the style name)
  • Select “Update to match selection”

Alternatively, you can do either of the following to change the appearance of a particular style:

  • Right-click on an area of text with the style you want to change.
  • Click “Select Text with Similar Formatting”
  • Make the changes

OR

  • In the Styles and Formatting Task Pane, click the down-arrow of the style you want to change
  • Click “Select all [number] instance(s)”
  • Make the formatting changes

These last two options are temporary changes. If you continue typing outside the changed style area, using the original style, your new typing will not reflect the changes.

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Making the Changes Permanent

You’ll also notice, alongside the Automatic Update option on the Modify Style dialog box, is an option to “Add to template”.

Checking this option will save any changes you make to the style over the style setting in the Normal template. Therefore, every time you open a new blank document, the styles you added or changed on the template will be available to you.

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copyright © Elsa Neal 2005, 2010

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Elle Carter Neal

Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and the teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, holding childhood slumber-party audiences entranced until the early hours of the morning. Elle decided to be an author the day she discovered that real people wrote books and that writing books was a real job. Join Elle on her new publishing adventure.