As you type Microsoft Word documents, you change formats such as margins, tabs, and type sizes. These changes soon become laborious, especially if you have alternating elements such as headings and paragraphs. For example, you type a heading, change it to 16-point type, type a paragraph, change it to 12-point type, type another heading, change it to 16-point type, and so on. Then, if you decide after you’re finished that the headings should be a different type size, it’s more work to go back and fix the headings one by one. It’s enough to frazzle even the calmest Microsoft Word user. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Enter Styles. Styles are your electronic housekeeper. You type the paragraph, then the style cleans it up. For example, if you have a heading, followed by text, then a heading, then text, create a style for each. So, instead of manually reformatting each time, you choose a style and Word applies the correct formatting for you.
Editing becomes a breeze, too. Let’s say you want to make all your headings 14-point type instead of 16-point type. Instead of changing each heading, you change the style, and like magic all the headings become the new size.
In the following sections, you will learn the quickest ways to create, apply, and edit styles.
Create New Styles
For demonstration purposes, open a document with several paragraphs. You can use the following procedure to set up styles in new documents, too. Highlight one of the paragraphs. Set margins, font, type size, and other formats. With the paragraph still highlighted, click in the Style box on the Formatting toolbar, as shown in Figure 1. Type a name for the new style, which will have the formats you just chose. Press Enter. You now have a new style.
Figure 1: The Style box
Now, apply your new style. Click in a paragraph — you don’t have to select the whole paragraph to apply the style. You can select more than one paragraph at a time too and apply the style to all the paragraphs. Click on the arrow next to the Style box to reveal the Style list, as shown in Figure 2. Choose the style you just created. The paragraph now looks the same as the one you formatted — no muss, no fuss.
Figure 2: The Style list
When you apply the style, it changes everything in the paragraph to the new style formats, eliminating any bold type or other formatting you may have previously applied to the paragraph.
Looking Under the Hood
What makes Word so smart? Take a look.
Figure 3: Define styles based on your formatting check box
It’s good to know what makes Word tick. In the case of styles, it’s the Define styles based on your formatting check box that makes Word create styles automatically, as shown at the bottom of Figure 3. You can find it in the Tools menu in the AutoCorrect Options command under the AutoFormat As You Type tab. By deselecting the Define styles based on your formatting check box, you can turn off the automatic styles function. It’s so simple to use though, it makes sense to leave it selected.
Editing Styles the Easy Way
Now that you have your styles in place, you can easily update them to reflect changes. Let’s say, for instance, you want to change all your headings from 16-point type to 14-point type. You change them all but they still don’t look right, so then you decide you want them all to be 18-point. No problem.
Choose Styles and Formatting… from the Format menu. The Styles and Formatting task pane appears. Select the style you want to automatically update, in this case a heading. Right-click the style, and then click Modify. Select the Automatically update check box, as shown in Figure 4, click OK, and then close the task pane.
Figure 4: Automatically update check box
If you highlight a heading a style has been applied to and choose a new size for the font in the Formatting toolbar, all the headings that have that style will update to the newly chosen type size. Just be sure to highlight the paragraph mark in addition to the text or the change won’t apply to all the headings, just the text you highlight. Deselect the Automatically update check box to turn off automatic style updating.
Delete a Style
Now that you’ve been messing around with styles, you may be wondering how to get rid of unwanted ones. Here’s how: Choose Styles and Formatting… from the Format menu. In the Styles and Formatting task pane, right-click the style you want to delete, and then click Delete.
Styles Follow Function
Another nifty Word feature is being able to automatically choose a style to follow another style, a useful tool, for instance, if you know a heading will always be followed by Times Roman 12-point text. You can assign a style that will automatically make the heading a certain size and the text following it another size. After you create a heading style and a text style, as just described, choose Styles and Formatting… from the Format menu. In the Styles and Formatting task pane, right-click a heading style, and then click Modify. In the Style for following paragraph box, choose the text style you want to follow the heading. Click OK, and then close the task pane. From now on, when you apply the first style to a heading, the next paragraph will automatically display the text style you chose.
Formatting in Microsoft Word can be arduous if you stick to old habits of fixing elements one by one as you go along. Learn how to use styles, and you’ll be formatting documents quicker than you can say “indented paragraph.”