Using Styles in Microsoft Word

The following article refers to using styles without using the Styles and Formatting task pane, which will be covered in another article.

In Microsoft Word, a style is a set of predetermined text attributes or characteristics(such as Bold, Italic etc). When you open a blank document, Word defaults to using the "Normal" template and the "Normal" style for any text you add to the document by typing. Text that is copied from another source can be pasted into the document using its existing text characteristics, or you can apply an existing style to the text. Word comes with many default styles, and also allows you to define your own styles. You can preview the existing styles by choosing the Style command under the Format menu.

Word has many pre-defined styles that can be used for body text, chapter and section headers, footnotes, lists, notes, and tables, among others. Using pre-defined styles can save time and create a document that is easy to read and looks very professional. Styles can also ensure that documents created by many users in an organization have a uniform look.

Styles can be used by Microsoft Word to modify many characteristics of a document, paragraph or text selection at once. This is very nice if you decide to make major changes to the formatting of a document after you've already started working on it.

Some Word functions depend upon styles. If you create a document with a Table of Contents, Word will organise the TOC based on the styles you've applied in the document. Find and Replace can also be configured to search for text in a particular style.

To experiment with styles, select some text in a document and choose Format > Style. Choose a style from the Styles list and choose Apply.

The text you highlighted should now reflect the characteristics of the style you chose. You can undo the changes to your text by choosing "Undo" (ctrl-z) from the Edit menu, or by re-selecting the text and applying the "Normal" style.

We'll now modify an existing style.

Although Microsoft Word comes with many predefined styles, you may find it desirable to make modifications to an existing style. A modification could include changes to the font, font size, text attributes, line spacing and any other characteristic controlled by the style.

To modify an existing style, choose Format > Style. From the list of styles, choose the one you'd like to modify. Word will show you the existing properties of the style, including its name, the type of style it is, the style it was based upon, and the style that normally follows it when a paragraph mark or line break is entered.