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By Dawn Bjork Buzbee
Formatting text in Microsoft Word can be less frustrating if you know more about how Word works and applies formatting. Let’s focus in on how to most effectively use the two most common formatting actions in Word: font and paragraph formatting. (By the way, Word documents are also formatted with document and section formatting as well).
Character or Font Formatting
Character or font formatting includes in all versions of Microsoft Word include:
- Font typeface (such as Calibri, Arial, Times New Roman)
- Font size
- Font style
- Font color
- and other font enhancements
What It Is:The smallest “unit” that character formatting can be applied to is one character (letter, number, space or other). This means a line of text could have a different style of font formatting for every single letter and number including spaces although this isn’t likely or recommended.
To apply font formatting in Word 2010 and Word 2007, choose formatting options from the Home tab in the Ribbon (Font group). You can also access the Paragraph dialog box directly from the Ribbon or from the shortcut menu (right-click on selected text). A selection of common formatting actions are on the Mini Toolbar which is also available when you right-click on a selection. In earlier versions of Microsoft Word, most formatting commands are on the Formatting toolbar as well as the Format > Font menu command. For all versions, a wide range of keyboard shortcuts can be used to apply formatting. For example, press [Ctrl] + B for bold.
How Word Works:Word doesn’t have a beginning and ending code or instruction for character formatting. An enhancement such as bold or italics is either turned on or off for each individual character which can be easily visible from the Home tab of the Ribbon or in the Formatting toolbar. To remove an existing character formatting choice, just select the affected text and make the change (turn off bold, change font size, etc).
Has this happened to you? While editing a Word document, you move between two words and start typing only to see a different style of formatting than the surrounding text. Your new text is taking on the appearance of the formatting stored in the space between the words which may be different depending on the way the format was first applied. Remember every single character stores its own formatting.
Paragraph Formatting includes:
- Text alignment
- Line spacing
- Bullets & Numbering
- Borders & Shading
- and other paragraph enhancements
What It Is:the smallest “unit” that paragraph formatting can be applied to is one paragraph. A paragraph is defined by a paragraph mark at the end of the text. Paragraph marks are created whenever a hard return is created and are visible when the Show/Hide icon or button is turned on. Tip: to turn on or off the display of non-printing characters (Show/Hide) including paragraph marks, press [Ctrl] + * or click on the paragraph mark (backwards P) on the Home tab of the Ribbon or, in Word 2003 and earlier, the Standard toolbar.
To apply paragraph formatting in Word 2010 and Word 2007, choose formatting options from the Home tab in the Ribbon (Paragraph and Style groups). You can also access the Paragraph dialog boxes directly from the Ribbon or from the shortcut menu (right-click on selected text). A selection of common formatting actions are on the Mini Toolbar which is also available when you right-click on a selection. In earlier versions of Microsoft Word, most formatting commands are on the Formatting toolbar as well as the Format > Paragraph menu command. For all versions, a wide range of keyboard shortcuts can be used to apply formatting. For example, press [Ctrl] + 2 for double-spaced text.
How Word Works with Paragraph Formatting
How Word Works: Paragraph formatting instructions are not stored in a code at the beginning of a paragraph, but are stored in the paragraph mark at the end of each paragraph. If you delete a paragraph mark between two paragraphs, the paragraphs will merge and take on the formatting of the first.
Any changes to the paragraph formatting of existing text will only affect the paragraph where the insertion point (cursor) is currently positioned or paragraphs that are at least partially selected. For typing new text, just make the formatting choices you want and begin typing.
Advantages: Once paragraph formatting is set up, just press [Enter] and all paragraph formatting (as well as current font formatting) will be “copied” forward to the next paragraph. This means any formatting such as indents, bullets, tabs, and alignment does not have to be turned on for each new paragraph.
Reveal Formatting… What’s Going On
Do you want to know exactly how a section of text is formatted? Turn on the Reveal Formatting task pane by pressing [Shift] + [F1]. The Reveal Formatting task pane displays on the right of your screen. Click once into any text and the specific formatting choices will be defined.
Select… Then Do: Changing Formats
What’s the best way to apply or change formatting? What works best for me and will usually save you time and effort is to choose your formatting options as you create and type text. Then, if you need to, go back to highlight and modify existing text. Personally, I like to see the appearance as I am building a document. Some people, however, prefer to create most of their text first and then they add most of the formatting later.
Regardless of your approach, one of the major ideas to know about Microsoft Word is that existing text can most easily be changed by remembering “Select…Then Do.”
What does this mean? If you want to change the formatting of Word text, select or highlight it all first and then choose the new formatting options of your choice. Similar or surrounding text will not be changed unless it is also highlighted.
To make changes to existing text:
- Select all of the text that you want to change.
- Then, select the icon, button, or keyboard shortcut that will give you the desired results.
To change the format of text as it is being typed:
- Choose the icon, button, or keyboard shortcut for the formatting of new text.
- Type the text.
- Select another formatting choice to change formatting for next text.
Understanding how Word formatting works will simplify how you work with your Word documents.
Dawn Bjork Buzbee is The Software Pro and a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) as well as a certified Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Master Instructor, certified Microsoft Applications Specialist (MCAS) Instructor, and a certified Microsoft Office expert. Dawn shares smart and easy ways to effectively use software through her work as a software speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of 6 books. Discover more software tips, tricks, tactics, and techniques at http://www.SoftwarePro.com.