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You can bold and italicize to your heart’s content when you write a letter to your grandmother. That’s okay. When you write a document of any decent size, say bigger than three pages, you must use styles. Here’s why.
Why you need to use styles
The last unit study I wrote has 5,687 words in 70 pages. It has eight level 1 headings and 47 level 2 headings. I didn’t count the level 3 headings. The document has a bunch of links in it, tables, and pictures. Each picture has captions under it. There are a few quotes in the document. Now, let’s say after I wrote it, I need to change the color of the level 2 headings. Forty-seven changes are required. Maybe the URLs need to be in a special font with a unique color, and that requires another ridiculous amount of changes.
There are two problems here. Firstly, I would need to make a lot of changes. Secondly, there’s no way I’d find everything and the document will have formatting consistency errors in it.
The solution is easy and simple. You need get yourself in a slightly different mindset, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll never go back.
How to use styles
(This tutorial assumes you’re using Word 2007 or 2010. MS Word 2003 also has styles, but you access them in a different way than using the ribbon.)
Find the styles in Word. To do this, open a document, go to the Home tab, from left to right go over to the fourth section, which is styles.
First, select the best base style for you. In the styles section (Home tab, fourth section from left to right) click the drop down arrow under Change Styles. Roll over Style Set and then make your choice of Default, Distinctive, Elegant, Fancy, Formal, Manuscript, Modern, Newsprint, Perspective, Simple, Thatch, Tradition, 2007, and 2010.
Apply a style
Click on the line you want the style applied to. Click on the style.
Change to a different style
Click on the line you want to change and then click on the new style.
Change a style
Hover over the style you want to change in the styles section (Home tab, fourth section from the right). Right click and select Modify. A Modify Style Dialog Box pops up. The first screen of the dialog box has the most commonly changed stuff in it like font, size, bold, and color. To change other things, like tab settings, paragraph settings, borders, and numbering, click on the Format drop down box on the bottom left side. Once you have made all the changes, click OK. Every piece of text in the document that is that style will change to match the new style settings.
Create a new style
First, you need to open the styles window. Go to the styles section in the ribbon and click on the pop out icon on the bottom right hand side of the section. This icon is small and shows an arrow pointing to the bottom right inside a little, tiny box. Once you click on that, a new window will show all the styles in the document, not just the most commonly used ones. On the very bottom of this window, on the left side, is an icon for creating a new style. The icon has a sunburst in the top left hand side and it has a blue letter A and a purple letter A. Click on the icon and a new dialog box shows up called Create New Style from Formatting.
Put a useful, meaningful name in the Name field. Sometimes I have rather strange heading names, but they make sense to me like “Chapter Title,” “URLs not on my website,” or “Indented paragraph, 1/2 inch on left and ride side.”
Under Style type, generally, you’ll select paragraph. A paragraph style formats an entire paragraph. A paragraph is everything between returns. So, if you type a sentence and then hit enter or return, that sentence is its own paragraph. If you type five sentences and then hit return, those five sentences form a paragraph. If you type five sentences and then hit Shift-Enter and type five more sentences, then all ten sentences form a paragraph, because a paragraph is separated by returns or enters, and a shift-enter doesn’t count.
The other most common option for Style type is Character. Character styles only count for exactly the highlighted text. Character styles are useful if, say you have a URL inside of a sentence. You can select the URL and set it to a character style. The rest of the text in the paragraph stays with the original style.
Select something in the Style based on drop down menu. Selecting something in this field means that all properties that you don’t specifically specify will be inherited from the style you select. So, for example, you have the Normal font set up as Calibri, 12 pt, and Black in color. If you then create a font called “mini italics” and set the Style based on to “Normal,” your new style, mini italics, will inherit Calibri, 12 point, and black. You can change these settings, but whatever you don’t change will be the same as its parent.
After you’ve made all your changes, hit save.
Gwen Nicodemus owns and operates Shiny Newts, LLC. Shiny Newts solves technical and documentation problems for its customers in a timely, professional manner–often going “above and beyond”–by providing custom services and pre-packaged services. Visit http://www.ShinyNewts.com to watch videos on how to use Joomla, Photoshop, and Word or to read Gwen’s ebook, “Write a Marketing Plan by Filling in the Blanks.”
©2010, Gwen Nicodemus