Using Built-In Styles to Make Formatting Easier

Applies to Word 2007, 2010 and 2013 for Windows.  Instructions for Word 2003 and Word for Mac 2011 can be found in the links at the bottom of the page.

Styles in Microsoft Word are sets of font formatting attributes that are intended to apply to all of the text in a document.  Styles allow you to easily keep a document’s formatting consistent.  For example, you will typically apply the “Normal” Style to all of the text in your document.  If you decide that you want to use a different font for all of you text, you can simply edit the Normal style, and all text that is using that style will automatically be updated.  Using styles also allows for you to use other advanced features as well, like the automatic table of contents, described in another how-to.

  1. Applying styles to a document is easy.  Select the text that you want to apply a style to.  Then in the Styles group on the right side of the Home ribbon, pick the appropriate style for the current text.  Most paragraph text in your document will use the normal style.  For titles, subtitles, and headings, use the appropriate styles of the same names.home ribbon
  2. One of the great things about using styles is the ease with which you can change formatting for an entire document.  There are two ways to change styles.
    1. Right click on the style you want to change in the ribbon, and click on Modify…  In this window you can change the formatting of the selected style.  For more advanced changes, click on Format at the bottom of the dialog box and then the appropriate option.  From this menu you can change things such as line spacing (from the Paragraph option) and bullets and numbering (from the Numbering option).
    2. Modify appropriate text with the changes you would like to make to the style like you normally would.  With the modified text highlighted, right click on the style you are changing and click on “Update Style to Match Selection."
  3. To ensure consistency, always remember to update styles when you modify text formatting, rather than just changing selected text.  Changing the font in one paragraph that uses the “Normal” style won’t change other text using the “Normal” style unless you remember to update the style after you make the chage, and will cause your document to be styled inconsistently.

Using styles for all of the text in your document allows you to ensure consistency and allows you to quickly change all of the text in your document at once, without having to change all of the formatting for individual paragraphs separately.  Using styles also allows you to use advanced features of Word such as the automatic tables of contents.

You can also change style sets easily. 

  • In Word 2013, click on the design tab in the ribbon.  From here, you can select different themes and styles and see a live preview of how they will affect your document.  Different themes and styles use different font and color schemes.  You can also change from the default color scheme of a theme using the Colors menu to the right of the styles.
  • In Word 2010, style sets can be changed by clicking on “Change Styles” next to the styles on the Home ribbon tab.  From there you can select Style Set and pick a new style.  Mousing over the style set names displays a live preview of how the new style will look on your document.  In the Change Styles menu you can also change the color and font schemes for the document.

More information about using styles is available from the following links.

Word 2013

Word for Mac 2011

Word 2010

Word 2007

Word 2003

Video Tutorial for Word 2003