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Introduction to Styles in Word

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Today I’m going to provide an introduction to the styles feature available within Microsoft Word. Working with a document is not only about entering the content, but also about making that content easy to read and understand. One of the ways you can achieve this is through the formatting of text and elements within the document.

Personally I am a huge fan of styles and I use them on a very regular basis. In fact, I’m using them right now as I type up this draft post on my computer. Styles provide an easy and efficient way to apply consistent formatting to any document and make it very simple to change stying across an entire document at any stage in the future.

You may also like to check out how to create a Table of Contents using styles.

What is a Style?

Styles are essentially a group of formatting properties that you use under a single defined name. Instead of individually applying a font style, size, bold or italics, paragraph spacing or any of the formatting choices available, you can save all these individual settings as a group which is defined by a single name.

There are four main types of styles which I have outlined below:

Paragraph and CharacterParagraph and characters styles are used to format the majority of the text found within a document as it includes individual characters which you may wish to format and also entire paragraphs. Some styles can be used for both characters or paragraphs and these are called Linked styles.
TableTable styles are used to determine how a table will be formatted. This can include everything from table or cell alignment, borders and shading, and even the font used within the table.
ListList styles allow you to format numbered list and bullet lists. You can create specific alignments for numbers or symbols and also the positioning of the text within the lists.

The Styles Gallery

The Style gallery provides an easy way to access the built-in styles. The gallery is displayed on the Home tab of the Ribbon and can give you a visual representation of what the style looks like along with the name of the style.

Some useful tips

Some useful tips relating to navigating and viewing styles include:

  • The styles listed in the gallery are the most commonly used styles so you will find that the options displayed will change depending on the document and what you have used previously.
  • Generally, body text within your document is formatted as the Normal style.
  • Headings should be formatted as one of the built-in Heading styles and you have up to Heading 9 already defined and ready to use.
  • In the bottom right corner of the Styles group, you will see a button called the Styles Dialog box launcher. This button will launch the Styles task pane which gives you a vertical list of the styles available.
  • The Styles task pane allows you to access some additional functions when working with Styles so I highly recommend you explore this panel.
  • When using the Styles task pane I recommend you enable the Show Preview option as this gives you a visual preview of each heading style rather than just seeing the name. The Show Preview checkbox is found at the bottom of the Styles task pane.

How to apply a style to text

To apply a style to text, follow these steps:

  1. Open Microsoft Word
  2. Open a document which you wish to use with styles or create a sample file by typing in some sample headings such as below:
  1. With this example, I am creating my own recipe book which will be full of all the foods I love to cook. I am going to have multiple headings setup for the type of meal it is (Entree, Mains, Desserts) and also subheadings under each type of meal to identify what type of food the recipe relates to
  2. To apply a style you simply need to highlight the text you wish to format then click on the style from the Styles gallery on the Home tab
  3. Highlight the first line of text which in my example is the text My recipe book
  4. Select Heading 1 from the styles gallery
  5. The text will now be formatted the same as the Heading 1 example
  1. Now select the next line of text. You will need to ask yourself this question, is this heading the same type of heading as what you have selected as Heading 1 or is this more of a sub-heading of the first?
  2. In this example, our main heading for our entire document is going to be: My recipe book. Our subheadings will be Entrée, Mains and Dessert. We will then have subheadings of those for the different types of main dishes we will be including
  3. Highlight the second heading type and apply the Heading 2 style by clicking on the style
  4. Repeat this process and highlight headings Mains and Dessert and apply Heading 2 style to these
  1. Now repeat the process and highlight Beef, Chicken, Fish, Lamb and apply Heading 3 style to these
  2. Now that we have applied some heading styles we can then continue creating the document by putting recipes into the various sections we have set up
  1. Later if we decide that we want to change the font or colour used in any of our headings we only need to change the setting within the style and any text we have formatted with the style will automatically update

Edit a built-in Style

Now that I have some content in my document I’d like to customise the way my headings all look. I can do this in one go by editing the Style formatting which will then filter and apply through to any text where I have applied that particular style.

  1. From the Styles panel hover your mouse over the Heading 2 style and locate the drop-down arrow on the right
  1. Choose Modify from the options
  2. The Modify Styles dialog box will appear:
  1. Make any changes you wish to the formatting for Font, Font Size, and Colour.
  2. Click OK to save the changes
  3. Each of the headings using the Heading 2 style will now be updated to the new formatting you chose
  1. Repeat these steps to edit any other heading styles you wish to change.

I hope you have enjoyed learning some of the basics of using Styles within Microsoft Word. Don’t forget to take a look at the post on how to how to create a Table of Contents using styles.


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