3. Using Styles to Format Text

Adapted from Shauna Kelly's page: http://shaunakelly.com/word/concepts/styles.html - Modified to refer to the controls in the Ribbon versions of Word

What this page is about

For those of you who have just joined us, this is a page in the series of Basic Concepts in Word. Use the menu at left to go to the different pages.

Each Basic Concept page has three sections:

This page also has an addendum on managing styles and getting the Body Text style to show itself.



Step 1 Type the first few paragraphs of text

This page is about how to format your text using styles. To demonstrate how styles work, we will use the first few paragraphs of the sample document.

Type the first few paragraphs of text (following the rules for typing in Word discussed in the previous Basic Concepts page). Don't worry yet about formatting or fonts or making text bold. Your screen should look something like this (assuming you have clicked the ¶ button to display end-of-paragraph markers):

About foxes and lazy dogs¶

The purpose of this document is to learn how to use Microsoft Word¶

This is a story about a fox that jumped over a lazy dog. The only purpose of the story is to use all 26 letters of the alphabet.¶

The story¶

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.¶


Step 2 How to format text using styles

Obviously the text we have on the screen so far isn't what we have in mind for a nicely formatted document. We need to make the Title and the Headings large and bold. And, we need space after the paragraphs.

To achieve that, you need to do two things:

  • You need to tell Word which paragraph is the title, which paragraphs are headings, and which are body text. To do that, we will apply a style.
  • You need to tell Word that the Title should be large and bold, the Heading should be large and bold, there should be space before or after paragraphs. To do that, we will modify a style.

Step 3 How to see Word's styles

We need to get a bit organized before we can continue. For the moment, would you just trust me and do the following? We can worry later about what we did.

  • Click on the Home tab in the Ribbon. (It is probably already showing.)
  • You should see something like the following on the right half of the ribbon.

    (Don't worry if your screen shows different styles or they look different. Word 2013 has moved the Change Styles button to a different ribbon.)
  • This is the Quick Styles Gallery. They give you a preview of how a style will look in your document.
  • This gives you some basic styles, but not all of them.

Step 4 How to format the title of your document

The first paragraph is the Title of the document, and we need to tell Word that it's the Title.

Put the insertion point anywhere within the first paragraph, which is the Title. To do that, click in that paragraph with your mouse, or use the arrow keys.

Move your mouse pointer over the Title style at the far right of the Gallery. (If you don't see the Title style, click on the scroll bar on the right side of the Gallery until it is displayed.

The text in your document will preview the appearance of the paragraph with the Title style applied. You can hover over other styles to see what they look like as well.

Click on the Title style and it will be applied to your title.

You can now see two things:

  • When you clicked on the Title style, it got a box around it in the Gallery instead of the Normal style. This tells you that you have applied the Title style.
  • The format of your text changed. It may be bold text in the 26 pt. Cambria font, with a bottom border (as shown below). Or, your machine may have set it up differently. In any case, you may prefer that your title is smaller, or not bold, or flush right, or green with a pink border. You may prefer more or less space before or after the paragraph. You can modify the way Word displays your Title. But for the moment, let's just accept it the way it is, and keep going.

Step 5 How to format Body Text

The first paragraph of our document was the Title. The second and third paragraphs are body text. For now, we will format these using the Normal style. (See addendum below on setting up Body Text style on your computer to use it instead of the Normal Style.) Use the mouse or the arrow keys to move the Insertion Point into the second paragraph (the one that starts "The purpose of this document …"). From the Gallery, choose Normal. Then repeat that process for the third paragraph. Your text will now look something like this:



Normal style may be defined differently on your machine. But you can probably see that the Normal style has some space after each paragraph. That's why you don't need to press Enter twice after a paragraph.

Step 6 How to format Headings

The way to make your headings large and bold is to format them using the Heading 1 style.

The fourth paragraph of our text ("The story") is a heading. Position the Insertion Point anywhere within that paragraph. Use the Style Gallery to applly the Heading 1 style. Then apply the Normal style to the paragraph after the Heading. Your screen should then look something like this:



Your machine may be set up so that Heading 1 is formatted differently from what's shown here. It may be a different font, a different size, a different colour, or with more or less spacing before or after the paragraphs. If you don't like the way that Heading 1 is formatted, you can modify the Heading 1 style.

Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+S to save your work.

Quick Review

Let's go back and review what you've done.

  • You typed several paragraphs of text.
  • Different paragraphs serve different functions. You told Word that the first paragraph was the Title, the next two paragraphs are Normal, the one after that is a Heading, and the last paragraph is Body Text.
  • You told Word what function the different paragraphs serve by choosing the appropriate style from the Style menu.
  • Word applied the formatting appropriate for the Styles to your paragraphs.

Step 7 But I don't like the way the text is formatted: How to modify a style

A style is a collection of formatting instructions. The formatting instructions are a description of how the style is to look. The style definition includes information about the font, text size, text colour, background colour, paragraph alignment (for example, aligned left, or centred), and the amount of space before or after the paragraph. A style can even be formatted to include a border, shading, an indent or automatic numbering.

If you don't like the way, say, the Title style is defined on your machine, you can modify the Title style.

Try this, just as an experiment. We'll modify Title to be orange.

Right-Click on the Title style in the Styles Gallery and pick "Modify" from the context choices presented.

In Word 2002, to change Body Text to blue, do this.

  • Put your cursor somewhere, anywhere, within any one of your Body Text paragraphs.
  • At the bottom left of the Style Modification dialog, click Format then Font.
  • In the Font Color section, choose Orange.
  • Click OK, OK, Apply.

Modifying a style affects all uses of that style in the Document

The most important thing to note here is this. When you modified the Title style to be orange, all your Title paragraphs will become orange. That's why styles are really powerful. No matter how big your document is (it might be 1,000 pages long), you can change all your Title paragraphs to orange with half a dozen clicks of the mouse.

Experiment! You're not going to send this test document to anyone, so it doesn't matter what kind of mess you make. If you don't like orange text, try green by modifying the title style as you did above. If you prefer your Heading 1 style to be larger or smaller, try a different font size by modifying the Heading 1 style. Put more or less space before or after the Title by modifying the Title style. You could try removing the bottom border or adding a top border.

For more information about modifying styles see How to modify a style in Word.

See also: Microsoft Word Styles: A Deep Dive with Word Expert Greg Maxey 08-25-2021




This page has shown you how to format your text using Styles.

  • Tell Word what function a paragraph serves by applying a style. To do that, put the cursor or Insertion Point anywhere within the paragraph. Click the arrow in the Style box and choose the Style to apply. Read more about how to apply a style.
  • A style is a set of formatting instructions. Word will apply the formatting instructions when you apply a style.
  • To modify the Heading styles to suit the formatting you prefer, modify the style. Read more about how to modify a style .
  • When you modify a style, all the text formatted with that style changes automatically.


Go to the next concept: 4: Use tables and tabs to arrange text, not spaces
or continue to read the Curiosity Shop box.

For more styles: See Q&A Styles in Word by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP

Curiosity Shop: More about heading styles

1. Why does Word have 9 Heading styles?

If you really explore, you'll find that Word has 9 Heading styles. They're called Heading 1, Heading 2 etc. Only huge technical documents would use all of them. You might use two or three levels of headings. You won't even see most of these ordinarily until you've used the heading style above.

Here's an example that uses Heading 1 for main headings ("Chocolate") and Heading 2 for subheadings (for example, "Dark chocolate"). This picture shows the style that has been applied to each paragraph.

Example of text showing what styles might be appropriate for different kinds of text

The 9 Heading styles are really important styles, because they have "magic" properties. When you come to do larger documents, using Heading styles can save you hours of work in creating a table of contents or index or automatically numbering figures or tables in your document.

2. Numbering headings

Word can automatically number your headings. You might want your document to look something like this:

    1. Chocolate
      (a) Dark Chocolate
      (b) Milk Chocolate
    2. Bread

Don't type numbers (or letters) like this by hand. Get Word to insert them for you. If you want to add numbers to your headings, see How to create numbered headings or outline numbering in Ribbon Versions of Word .

3. Why use the Heading styles?

There are many other ways to format your headings in Word. The best way is to apply Word's Heading 1, Heading 2 etc styles. If you need convincing, here are Why use Word's built-in heading styles?.

4. Getting a different View

If you click the View tab in Word, you'll see that there are five different ways to view your document:

  • Draft
  • Web layout
  • Print Layout
  • Outline
  • Full Reading or Reading

These give you different ways to view your document. They all have advantages and disadvantages. You are currently using Print Layout view. This is the view most like what you'll see when you print your document.

  • Draft View is useful if you want to see which styles you've applied to which paragraphs very easily. To do that, choose View > Draft. Then, using File > Word Options > View. Set the Style Area Width to about 3cm or 1.5". Word will display the style for each paragraph down the left of the screen. One disadvantage of Normal View is that you can't see any pictures in your document.
  • Outline View is useful when you're working on a large document such as a business report or academic thesis that have many chapters or parts, with headings and sub-headings and sub-sub-headings. How to save yourself hours by using Outline View properly has more information


Next: Concept 4: Use tables and tabs to arrange text, not spaces

Addendum - Using the Body Text Style Instead of Normal Style

The original page described use of the Body Text style instead of the Normal style for body text in a document. This is a very important concept and recommended. Unfortunately, recent versions of Word have made this a bit more difficult. You will need to modify the Body Text style in your normal template to get it to show up at all on yosur Quick Styles Gallery or other styles lists.

Why it is important to use a Body Text style instead of Normal.

One clear reason is that the Normal style is the basis for many other styles. Changing it will change those styles as well, changing not only letters and reports, but also envelopes and labels. You probably would like to change the body of a document without, for instance, changing captions on figures in the same way.

Controlling which styles appear in Ribbon versions of Word

To control which styles appear you will need to use the dialog launcher in the bottom right of the Styles group on the Home tab.  gives more controls, more Styles and more choices:

Styles Group Microsoft Word 2010

The resulting dialog is similar to the old Styles Pane and provides more information about the Style when you hover.

styles pane word 2010



As in earlier Word versions, hovering over the Style name gives a pop-up with information about the Style, and right-clicking on the Style name give options to modify or delete the Style.

Another way to launch the Styles Pane is the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+Shift+S. (On my computer HP has grabbed this shortcut for its System Info utility and it does not work in Word.)



By default this appears as a floating dialog. This dialog can be anchored to the right side of the page making it appear much like the Styles and Formatting Pane. Double-click on the title area (Styles) to anchor it. Drag that title bar into the page to float it again.

  In Word 2007 and later at the bottom of this Style pane there are two checkboxes, three buttons, and the Options... choice.


The Show Preview checkbox shows the Styles in the list as previews of the Style. The Disable Linked Styles checkbox changes how applying a linked Style in a document behaves. If "Disable" is checked, the linked Style behaves as a paragraph Style only when applied to a part of a paragraph. That is, the Style is applied to the entire paragraph, not just the selected portion.


The left-most button lets you define a new Style. The second gives you the Style Inspector.


The Style Inspector is a floating dialog that lets you type in your document and click to a different spot in the document to see what is going on with formatting there.

If the advanced editing option to "Keep Track of Formatting" is checked it will also show direct formatting.

The purposes of the buttons is shown in the tooltips in the screen shot.

The Reveal Formatting button gives the user the same pane as the Keyboard Shortcut Shift+F1.


We now have two places where styles are shown - but Body Text does not show up in either by default!

Getting it to show up requires that we "manage" styles.

It is the third button at the bottom of the styles pane which gives you the tabbed dialog to "Manage Styles." The Manage Styles dialog has four tabs at the top giving access to four different sets of controls to manage Styles. 

At the bottom of each tab of this dialog are choices for "Only in this document" or "New documents based on this template" as well as the buttons for Import/Export, OK and Cancel. The choices for the "scope" of the change (this document/template) are applied when the OK button is pressed under any of the tabs. You can set options under each tab before pressing OK. If you change your mind before pressing OK and cancel, none of the changes under any of the tabs are applied.

For now, we are looking at the second tab: Recommend.


Shown to the left is the Recommend tab which lets you assign recommendation values and mark styles to be hidden or displayed in lists. Those values determine where Styles show up in the Quick Styles gallery and the order if you display Styles "as recommended." Multiple Styles can have the same values, in which case they will be sorted alphabetically in that value. While the default is to show styles "As Recommended," when the Style name is known, it can be helpful to sort  them in Alphabetical order as shown.

It also lets you hide Styles from various views either until used or always.

(When a style has ever been used in a document, it will show up in the list of Styles in Use even if it is not actually in use.)

Here we see the default setting for the Body Text style. That is, to show it if it has been used and to rank it last. No wonder we couldn't find it! Word lets you change this by: (1) assigning a priority. I generally assign a fairly high priority. (2) clicking the Show button. Then select the button for "New documents based on this template" and click on the OK button. This will move it to the top of the list in the Styles Pane. It still is not in the Styles Gallery.

To get it to display in the Styles Gallery as well, right-click on it in the Styles Pane and tell Word to add it to the Quick Style Gallery.



(To be completed later by Charles Kenyon. I'm in the process of translating Shawna's basic concepts pages to Ribbon Versions of Word and that will have to wait to add finishing touches.)


Next: Concept 4: Use tables and tabs to arrange text, not spaces