Beyond the Help files . . .



Access  ¨  Excel  ¨ FrontPage ¨ Outlook ¨ PowerPoint ¨  Word ¨    Miscellaneous  ¨  Tutorials  ¨  Windows  ¨  Free Downloads



Understanding Styles in Microsoft Word

To use styles, I believe it's helpful for one to understand their purpose, which is to provide standardization of formatting through a document or a group of documents. There are other benefits to using styles in Microsoft Word, though, and you'll learn about them here.

If you already understand styles and would like to visit our extreme tutorial, click here.

What is a Style?

A style is nothing more than a specific set of formats that are saved "as a set", which is called a "Style". For instance, when you read a paperback book, virtually every chapter's title looks the same. Perhaps it is Times New Roman, Bold, 18-pt, and centered. When you read a textbook, each Tip may have the same border around it, and each exercise may have the same red font used as its heading. Styles help us do this. They're so easy to use, but not quite as easy to understand.


One of the biggest problems with using styles is that people create this gorgeous template with styles, and then copy information from the web or other external documents, and now there are 20 more styles in your document. It's difficult to restrict this from happening, particularly if you're not the only user of the template. See this article for more information.

Another problem is often caused because we use the default Heading 1 style and alter it to suit us. Then someone else comes along who isn't aware of styles, and they decide to italicize it. Rather than changing the style, they manually italicize each Heading 1. Someone who knows what they're doing comes along and doesn't get the same result when they apply the Heading 1 style. Doh! When and if you create styles in a template, do a final review to ensure absolutely that all the styles have been properly created and/or changed.

Outline numbered styles can be tricky. See this article for more information.

Styles have a setting to Automatically update. I wish they didn't. See this article for more information.

What Styles to Use?

I prefer to use the built-in styles whenever possible. Using, for instance, the Body Text style, I can alter it. This does not affect all documents, it only affects the active document or—if you save it as a template—documents from this template. However, you can create your own custom styles. See this article.

Typical Styles

When I develop a template for a manual, I generally include the following styles:

Components of a Style

There are two types of styles: Paragraph and Character.

Paragraph Styles

A paragraph style has more format possibilities than a character style. For instance, a paragraph style could be bold and also double-spaced.

Above we show the dialog for modifying the Heading 1 style.

For List Bullet and List Number, the likely following paragraph would be another List Bullet or List Number, so I leave them to be the same style.

Character Styles

A character style might be any text that is bolded. For instance, suppose we always want our company name to appear in bold red font, regardless of the formatting of the paragraph in which that text resides. We can create a character style for it. I've called it MyCharStyle in the graphic below.

Unfortunately, when I apply the MyCharStyle style to some of the words in a paragraph where the style is already bold, it unbolds it, as you can see below, so be careful what font attributes you choose when creating your own character style.

The following attributes cannot be built into Character styles: Tabs, paragraph spacing, paragraph alignment, paragraph indents, bullets, numbering.