As with most things in life, there’s an easy way to do things in Microsoft Word, and a there’s hard way. Using styles might seem like too much effort when you're busy, but this feature can save you a great deal of time should you ever need to change a document's formatting later.
If, for instance, you decide to change every heading in a document from Calibri to Times New Roman, turn numbers into bullets, add extra spacing around headings, or make dozens of other tweaks to a document, styles can simplify those tasks. Allow me to show you my 10 must-know secrets of working with Microsoft Word styles.
Styles in a Nutshell
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, here's what you need to know about styles: You can apply Microsoft Word styles to any text by selecting the text, clicking the Home tab, and choosing a style in the Styles Gallery. Hover your mouse over the style, and you can see what the text will look like before you apply the style to it. When you do apply a style to text, you also can apply an entire collection of formats to the text with just that one click. Word saves styles along with the document, so they travel with the file wherever it goes.
1. Make Your Styles Your Own
Using styles helps you streamline the creation and editing of documents, but the default styles won't always be exactly what you want. You can make the styles your own by changing how they look. To do this, click the Home tab, right-click the style you want to change in the Style Gallery, and choose Modify. For example, you might want to change the Title style, as it uses a very large font but is otherwise handy to have. With the Modify Style dialog box open, make changes to the style’s attributes.
You’ll find the basic formatting choices in the middle area of the dialog box. You can bring up more advanced formatting options, such as those available in Word's Font, Paragraph, and Numbering dialog boxes, by clicking the Format button at the foot of the dialog box and choosing your desired option from the list.
When you've made your tweaks, click the New Documents Based On This Template option if you wish the changes to be available to all future documents that use the current template. If you want the altered style to be exclusive to the current document, leave the Only in this document option selected. Click OK to confirm your changes.
2. Change a Favorite Format Into a Style
When none of the styles in the Style gallery suit your needs, you can create one by example. First, format a paragraph the way you want the style to look, or choose a paragraph that’s already formatted appropriately. Select the text, click the Home tab, and, in the Styles Gallery drop-down list, choose Save Selection as a New Quick Style. Type a name for the style, and click OK. The style will automatically appear in the Styles Gallery.
You can now apply your style to any text by selecting the text and clicking the style's name in the Styles Gallery. If you want the style to be available to all future documents you create in this template, right-click its name in the Style Gallery, choose Modify, click the New documents based on this template option button, and click OK. Word will save the style into the template.
3. Turn the Clock Back to Word 2003
One generally unpopular change that Microsoft introduced with Word 2007 (and carried forward to Word 2010) is a new paragraph default style that includes excessive amounts of space between paragraphs. You can go back to the tighter paragraph layout that was standard in Word 2003 by selecting any existing text in the document and, under the Home tab on the Ribbon, selecting Change Styles > Style Set > Word 2003. This action applies the Word 2003 paragraph styling to the document, causing the excess spacing to disappear.
Next Page: Stripping Out Excessive Formatting