Introduction to Styles

Styles are essential tools for formatting and streamlining the appearance of documents. They provide efficiency, consistency, and ease of use when working with complex documents.

What is a Style?

Styles are sets of formatting instructions that can be applied to paragraphs, characters, or entire documents. They contain attributes like font type, size, color, alignment, line spacing, paragraph spacing, and more. Much like a recipe card, styles provide a predefined format that can be easily applied.

Overall, understanding and effectively using styles in Microsoft Word save time on document creation, editing, and formatting processes, contributing to better consistency, professionalism, and productivity.

You may not realize this, but every paragraph uses a style.  The base style is called Normal and defines the font type, font size, justification, and paragraph spacing.  If styles are not applied to your document, you will have to apply formatting to each document, which is a huge waste of time.

Styles can be edited to suit your formatting needs.  It is a good practice to define your styles in a template.  Then each time the template is used; the styles are already set, (which saves time).  Style customizations are saved within the document or template you modify.

Five Reasons to use styles

  1. Time Efficiency: Applying styles is quicker than manually formatting paragraphs, enhancing efficiency.
  2. Consistency Assurance: Styles maintain document uniformity, minimizing the risk of errors like incorrect font sizes.
  3. Effortless Table of Contents: Utilize Heading 1-9 Styles to effortlessly create a Table of Contents in just three steps.
  4. Enhanced Navigation: Applying Heading Styles enables swift document navigation via the Navigation Pane.
  5. Simplified Updates: Styles streamline updates by allowing universal formatting changes, impacting all relevant paragraphs.

Built-in and Custom Styles

Microsoft Word includes a wide range of built-in styles that users can utilize as is or modify to suit their needs. Additionally, users have the flexibility to create their own custom styles to match specific formatting requirements. While the specific set of styles can vary based on the version of Word you’re using, here are some of the most widely used and commonly recognized styles:

  1. Normal: The default base style for paragraphs. It defines the font, size, and basic paragraph formatting.
    • Always start here…edit for all documents and templates.
  2. Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc.: Used for creating hierarchical headings and subheadings.
    • The default appearance of the Heading 1-9 styles is not well-suited for legal documents. Originally designed for corporate materials that commonly feature font color and varying styles to denote hierarchical importance, these styles are better suited for such purposes. To make them appropriate for legal documents, a recommended approach is to reset them to the standard Normal formatting and then customize them accordingly.
  3. Title: Used for document titles or cover pages. Typically larger and more prominent than regular text.
  4. Subtitle: A style for secondary titles or subtitles in documents.
  5. Body Text: A style for the main content of the document, often slightly smaller than headings.
  6. Quote and Intense Quote: Used to set off quotations from the main text. May include indentation, italicization, or other formatting to distinguish it from regular text.
  7. List Bullet, List Number: Styles for creating bulleted or numbered lists. They provide consistent formatting for list items.
  8. Caption: Used for labeling figures or tables. Often includes numbering and may be in a smaller font size.
  9. Table Title, Table Heading, Table Grid: Used for formatting tables, including titles, headers, and cell contents.
  10. Footnote Text, Endnote Text: Styles for formatting footnotes and endnotes.
  11. Hyperlink: Used to format hyperlinks, often with a distinct color and underlining.
  12. Page Number: Used for formatting page numbers in headers or footers.
  13. Header, Footer: Styles for formatting headers and footers in a document.

These are just a few examples of the commonly used styles in Microsoft Word. The actual list of styles available may vary depending on the Word version and any customizations you or your organization have made. When working on specific types of documents, such as legal contracts, pleadings, or correspondences, additional styles may be used to meet the unique formatting requirements of those documents.

Example of Pleading Template Styles

Embracing document templates equipped with carefully tailored styles offers a streamlined solution for efficient and consistent content creation. By utilizing predefined styles within templates, you ensure a uniform and professional appearance across documents. This approach minimizes the need for repetitive manual formatting, saving valuable time while upholding a polished and organized presentation. Templates with customized styles empower you to focus on content rather than formatting, enhancing both productivity and document quality.

  • Normal  – Times New Roman, 13pt, Single Spaced, Left Aligned
  • Quote – Normal + 0.5” Left and 0.5” Right Indent
  • Title BU – Normal + Bold, Center, Underline and 12pt Before Spacing
  • Body Text, Body1 – Normal + Justified
  • Body Text 2, Body2 – Normal + Double Spaced Justified
  • Body2 FI – Normal + First Line Indent 0.5” and Double Spaced
  • Numbered Lists
    • Heading 1 – Body1 + Numbering I., Bold
    • Heading 2 – Body1 + Numbering A., Bold
    • Heading 3 – Body1 + Numbering 1., Bold

Three Ways to Apply Styles

Applying Styles can be accomplished through three distinct approaches. Firstly, the Quick Style Gallery eliminates the necessity of custom toolbar buttons by serving as a means to indicate document-assigned styles. This Gallery can be personalized to showcase the specific styles intended for document use and their preferred order. Additionally, the Styles Task Pane offers a display of recommended styles for a document, with the option to access the full range of styles through the “Options” button. Lastly, the Apply Styles dialog box allows you to identify, apply, reapply, or adjust a style assigned to a paragraph, simultaneously facilitating access to the Styles Task Pane. Press Ctrl+Shift+S to open the Apply Styles task pane, then type the style name and press Enter to apply it. There are a few other ways to apply styles such as, Keyboard Shortcuts, Style Inspector, Format Painter, and even copy styles between documents using the Style Organizer.

#1 Quick Style Gallery

The Quick Style Gallery replaces the need for custom toolbar buttons to represent the styles assigned in the document.  The Gallery can be customized to display only the styles you want to be used in the document and the order of the styles can be defined as well.

Point to the Style preview in the Quick Style Gallery to see how the text will look with that Style applied.  Click the More button to display additional Styles.

  1. With the cursor in the paragraph or word(s) selected,
  2. From the Home tab | Styles group | Quick Styles Gallery,
    OR press Alt, A, H, L
  3. Point to a style in the gallery to preview the changes in the document before applying. i.e., Normal
  4. Click a style to apply to your text.
Press:To Apply:
Ctrl + Alt + 1Heading 1
Ctrl + Alt + 2Heading 2
Ctrl + Alt + 3Heading 3
Ctrl + Shift + NNormal

#2 Styles Task Pane

The Styles Task Pane displays the recommended styles for a document.  Click the Options… button to display “All” styles.

  • Dockable Pane: The Styles Task Pane is conveniently dockable, allowing flexible placement according to your workspace preferences.
  • Default and Recommended Styles: Upon opening, a recommended list of default styles is displayed, providing a seamless starting point for formatting decisions.
  • Customization Options:
    • Easily switch to viewing All styles, expanding your choices for document aesthetics.
    • Styles can be sorted alphabetically, streamlining the style selection process.
  • Visual Preview: The pane offers a dynamic preview option, showcasing the visual impact of each style. This assists in making informed formatting decisions.
  • List or Preview View: Toggle between a concise list view and an illustrative preview, adapting the pane’s display to your preferred style exploration method.
  • Apply Styles: The Styles Task Pane includes the Apply Styles functionality, empowering you to efficiently and consistently format your document with just a few clicks.
  1. With the cursor in the paragraph or word(s) selected,
  2. From the Home tab | Styles group,
  3. Click the Dialog box launcher button
    OR press Ctrl + Shift + Alt + S
    Displays the Styles Task Pane
  4. Select a Style from the list to apply, i.e., Heading 1
    See “Customize Styles Task Pane” for more options.

#3 Apply Styles Dialog Box

Use the Apply Styles dialog box to identify a Style you have applied to a paragraph, apply, reapply, or modify a style, and display the styles task pane.

  1. With the cursor in the paragraph or word(s) selected,
  2. Press Ctrl + Shift + Alt + S
    Displays the Apply Styles dialog box
  3. Select a Style from the list, i.e. Heading 1

Note:  See “Style Alias” section to learn another quick way to use the Apply Styles Dialog Box and Style Alias features.


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