An Introduction to using Styles in Word

What are Styles?

You’ve probably noticed a block of Styles in your ribbon in Word, and you may very well have ignored them, or you may have wondered what they are, and why they are there.

Word ribbon showing Styles

Styles are a means of applying specific formatting to different parts of your document, like the headings, weblinks, bullets and numbers, etc.

Word has a range of default styles, but styles are fully customisable. Here are some of the things you can set using styles:

  • Font type and size
  • Font style (bold, italic, underlined)
  • Indents
  • Line and paragraph spacing
  • Proofing language
  • Bullet or numbering formats for lists
  • Text effects (including strikethrough, super- or subscript, small capitals or all capitals)
  • Shortcut key for that specific style

Why use styles?

But why bother with styles? It’s easy enough to format a document perfectly well without them. This is true, but here are some reasons why Styles can be useful:

Format a document consistently

You may want all your first level subheadings indented, capitalised and in bold. You could do this by hitting tab, and using CapsLock and Ctrl-B. If your document is short, or you only have main headings and one level of subheading, then applying this consistently is usually fairly easy. If, however, you’re working on page 50 out of 80 and you have 3 levels of subheading, applying a style is much quicker than referring to your formatting notes, or scrolling back to your previous first level subheading.

Change your document format quickly

When you review your document, you may decide you want subheadings in small capitals instead of all capitals. If you’ve styled each subheading manually, you’ll have to remember to change each individually too. Instead, if you’ve applied styles, you simply need to update that style, and each instance will update across the document.

Style multiple documents consistently

It is a good idea to have and use a consistent corporate style. Using styles (and templates) can be a great way to make sure multiple documents use the same style.

Create a table of contents automatically

If you’re working on a long business report, thesis or dissertation you may need a table of contents. You could draw this up manually, but then you need to remember to update the headings and page numbers if you make any changes. Alternatively, if you use heading styles, you can get Word to create and update you table of contents (watch out for a blog explaining how to do this!).

What else?

There are a few other useful things you can do with Styles:

  • Move around your document easily using the navigation pane.
  • Collapse sections without deleting them (though do remember to reopen the sections if you want them to print).
  • Work in outline view so you can demote or promote headings.
  • Create internal cross-references easily.


As you can see, learning to use Styles and applying them can save time and help you to produce a consistently formatted document (or documents). My next blog will show you how to apply and modify styles. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions about Styles, or if there are other aspects of Word you’d like me to explain in a future blog, I’d love to hear from you.

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