Training > Tutorials > Microsoft Word > Getting Started with Styles
Getting Started with Styles
If you're formatting your documents by applying font and/or attribute changes all over the place, you're wasting your time!
[Note! This is a basic, beginner's article to styles. Be sure to also check out the additional, related article along the right banner, to gain more insight to several related issues.]
Why Should I Care?
Avoiding styles is a hobby for some Word users. They go through 35 mouse clicks in 12 formatting dialog boxes, just to avoid using a style. If you're one of those who says, "I'm not a designer; I don't need to learn how to use styles," think again. Have you ever typed a report and then at the last minute been asked to change the font for the section title? And there are 20 sections. How much time did you spend on those edits?
If you didn't set up your section titles with styles, you had to browse through your document, section by section. Every time you found a section title, you selected that line, applied the new font, saved your document and moved to the next title. Twenty times!
If you had taken the extra minute or two to apply a style to each section title when you were writing the report, all you need to do is change the font in that one style and the fonts in all the section titles, with that same style previously applied throughout the document, will change!
Saving time is a good reason to keep reading, but here's another. By creating and applying styles to your documents, you ensure that the formatting is consistent throughout the document. And this consistency results in more professional looking output.
Getting started with styles is easy.
Notice how the line of text has changed. You just applied the default formatting of the Heading 1 style.
Now move your cursor to the third line of text and do the same thing. Triple click to select the paragraph, click Format/Styles and apply the Heading 1 style to this line. Now move your cursor into the second line of text and select it. But this time apply the Heading 2 style. Notice that lines one and three are now the same, but two is different.
Imagine this page is a long report with lots of pages and lots of headings. Your boss just handed it back to you and asked you to change all the level 1 headings to a different font. The job that would have taken you several minutes if done manually, can now be done in a matter of seconds by adjusting the one applied style.
Modifying a Style
Now that you've ventured into the Styles dialog box, you can take the next step: modifying a style. Without any text highlighted, choose Format/Styles again to reenter the Styles dialog box. Highlight Heading 1 again by clicking once on that style name. Now click the Modify button at the right of the dialog box. Then choose Format/Font and the Font dialog box appears.
Select any new font and click OK to back out. Click OK again from the Modify dialog box and click Close in the Style dialog box. Look at your document. Not bad, huh? Notice that the first and third lines now both have the new font applied. Had this been a 50-page report, you could have the file saved, printed, and handed in before the boss returned back to his or her office.
But suppose you have to change line two (the level 2 heading) to a level 1 heading? To change the heading hierarchy, you just apply the new style setting. Triple click on line two to select the complete paragraph of text. Choose Format/Style and switch the highlighted Heading 2 style to the Heading 1 style and click Apply.
Creating Your Own Styles
Now that you've seen how to apply some of the default styles that Word includes in the default Normal.dot template, you can try creating your own styles.
First you're going to need a title for each new section of your report. Choose Format/Style and click New. Notice that Word gives you a default name called Style 1. This name isn't very descriptive, so change it to something you can remember. For this example, type SectionTitle as the name of this style.
Note! Remember to consider alphabetical order when naming styles. Example, if you have several different bullet styles, rather than naming them LargeBullet, SmallBullet, use BulletSmall and BulletLarge. This way you can easily see all your choices, listed under Bullet.
Now click Format. Start by choosing Font and select a new font for the style. Because this style is a section heading, it should stand out, so I suggest you pick a large, bold font. Click OK to return to the Style dialog box.
Design Tip! Formatting can be saved into a custom style, which can then quickly be applied to other text. Sections should have extra space before them to set them off from the rest of the text. So, rather than just pressing an extra enter to add spacing, select Format/Paragraph and locate the Spacing Before settings in the Paragraph dialog box. Click the up arrow a couple times to add 12 points of spacing before the title. Now click OK to go back out to the Style dialog.
Now back to the Style dialog, click the New button again. This time add a style for all first paragraphs after the title. Type in Para01 as the name of this style.
Good design says that first paragraphs under a section heading should not be indented (thereby avoiding a "typographic hiccup"), so for this style, you only need to set the font.
Choose a regular size font, such as 11-point Times Roman. You don't need to change any other settings, so click OK. Add one more style for the remaining paragraphs. Call this style Para02. Choose the same font as you did for Para01; but this time, click the Paragraph choice under Format and add 6 points of space before this paragraph.
Also in the Paragraph dialog box, click on the Special drop down box and choose First Line with the default setting of 0.5. This setting indents the first line of this style by half an inch. Click OK and click Close to exit the Style dialog box.
Type some text to represent a SectionTitle for your report. Press Enter and type some text for the first paragraph. Then press Enter just once again and type another paragraph of text. Now apply your styles, move to the title and triple click to completely select it. Choose Format/Style and apply your SectionTitle style.
Move to the first paragraph, select it and apply your Para01 style. Select the next paragraph and apply Para02. Check it out! Try adding more text, modifying the styles and see how they change. Just THINK how much time you'll save now.
If all this clicking seems time consuming, it's because I'm showing you the conventional way to create and apply styles. But now let's pull a few tricks out to make this process move along faster. For starters, you can link successive styles together so they're automatically applied as you type. Press Enter a few times to move down your practice page. Now press the shortcut combination keys of Control/Shift/N to apply the Normal style to this line.
Choose Format/Style and highlight your SectionTitle style; click Modify. Notice a drop-down input box called Style for following paragraph. Click on the down arrow to open this box and highlight the name of Para01. Click OK. Now highlight the style Para01 and click Modify again. This time choose Para02 from the input box as the style to follow.
After closing the Style box, click Format/Style and apply your SectionTitle style (to the blank line) and start typing your title. Press enter and type your first paragraph. Then press enter and type your second paragraph.
Notice anything? Although you didn't directly apply styles to these paragraphs (other than the title), they are formatting themselves just the way you want them to look. These styles are now linked; Word now knows to apply these styles successively when you press the Enter key to end the current style.
Using the Toolbar
Once you understand how to create and apply styles using the menus, you can cheat a bit and make this process work faster, too.
First check that you have your Formatting Toolbar turned on. Choose View/Toolbars and see if the Formatting toolbar is selected. This toolbar has a drop-down box that holds the names of the styles for your document. This list is the same as the one you saw when you selected Format/Styles.
By learning to use this Style Window on the Formatting toolbar, you can create, modify and apply styles more quickly. You don't even have to access the Style dialog to create or modify styles.
Open a new blank page. Type three paragraphs of text. Now triple click to select the first paragraph. Change the formatting of this paragraph using the Format menu commands or the Formatting toolbar. Select a new font size, center the paragraph, and make it bold (hit Ctrl/B). While the paragraph is still highlighted, look up at your Formatting Toolbar and find the windows that says Normal. That box is the Style Window, which currently indicates that the paragraph has the Normal style applied.
Click on the word Normal to highlight it. Type in a new style name, such as NewStyle01. Be sure to press Enter to apply that new style to the currently highlighted paragraph. Highlight the second paragraph. Make a few minor formatting adjustments so it looks different from the first paragraph. Now type another new name by typing the name into the Style Window (call this NewStyle02) and press Enter to apply the style. You've just created two new styles.
Select the third paragraph, and click the down arrow next to the Style Window to open the drop-down list box. Scroll to find the NewStyle01 style and click on that style. Look at paragraph three. You've just quickly applied a new style to this paragraph.
To practice modifying a style from the Style Window, highlight the first paragraph. Change its formatting slightly. While the paragraph is highlighted, click the drop-down arrow for the Style Window from your toolbar. Even though the current style name, NewStyle01, is already highlighted, click on it again. A dialog box pops up.
This dialog box is asking you whether you want to 1) redefine the style using the selection as an example, or 2) return the formatting of the selection to the style. In other words, should the style named NewStyle01 be changed to look like this paragraph does now; or should the currently highlighted paragraph be changed back to NewStyle01's saved formatting? Choose the first option to redefine this style. Notice that paragraph three has now also changed to the new look of paragraph one.
If you had a few dozen pages of text with this style applied, think of the time you'd save when you need to change the formatting of the style.
If you create terrific styles, you may want to share them with others (but then again, you might want to keep them all to yourself<grin>). You may want to pass styles from the document in which they were created to another document or save them as globally accessible styles by copying them to your Normal.dot. You move your styles using Word's Organizer.
To access the Organizer, choose Format/Styles/Organizer.
Notice that there are two lists. Below each list is the name of the document or template in which these styles are currently available. Although Normal.dot is usually the default shown on the right side, you can close that template and open any other document or template as well. Then you can easily copy any styles from one file to another. You can also just email or drop your document on a network drive to allow others to open the file. Then they can use the Organizer to move Styles from your document to their templates.
Now that you have the knowledge, use it. Turn this knowledge into a skill. Take the time to create and apply styles to your next project. Sure, styles may seem like a struggle at first. But, with a little practice and repetition, you'll soon wonder how you ever got along without them.