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Trying to get my head around Styles & Headings in MS Word

Posted on 2011-09-03
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Hello,

A couple of questions but first, a confession:  

I have been confused by Styles & Headings in MS Word for as long as I can remember.  It seems like every time I have tried to utilize them, I have ended up with the wrong formatting in the wrong place, not being able to get fonts & indents & tabs when I want them (and having them show up when I don't), and basically lots of other frustrations.  The problem has persisted to the point where even opening the first Styles box, with all its terms, etc., is daunting -- not to mention some of the options boxes which are downright toxiferous!  (Sorry, but had to hit the thesaurus for a good word there.  Toxifrous:  conveying or producing a poison.)  :)

Now, having said all that, there is nothing I would like more than to change that whole sense and gain enough understanding to use them at least to a degree.  I see them mentioned all the time in different forums so I know they must be a valuable tool.

Now the questions:

• If you use Styles & Headings frequently and feel very comfortable with your understanding of them, can you (very briefly) tell me the top one or two best uses or advantages?

• Is it correct to say that by using Styles & Headings, various noncontinuous parts of a document can be modified in terms of font and paragraph formatting (including tab settings), without affecting the intermediate parts?

• Can someone recommend a resource or two that really does a good job of explaining the basics of Styles & Headings?

Thanks a bunch!
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Question by:Steve_Brady
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John Hurst earned 63 total points
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I am not a big Style user. I set my Default Style to Word 2003 style because it single spaces. I use Word 2010. I also put my default font into that style.

So when I start a document, I have a plain style, single spaced, and then I use paragraph alignment buttons (ruler), bullets, numbering and indents to format my document. I leave the style alone.

This is a nice simple way to use Word that works for the vast majority of my simple documents.

You will get a number of different answers from different types of experts.  ... Thinkpads_User
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by:teylyn
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Hello Steve,

Yes, styles can be daunting. Shauna Kelly has a very good collection of hints and tips for every conceivable situation. Start here: http://www.shaunakelly.com/word/styles/modifyastyle.html and look at the other chapters in the Styles section.

@Thinkpads_user: what you are describing are the Style Sets, another layer of complexity. A style set is a collection of styles that has been grouped into a set and can be applied with the button "Change Styles > Style set". This changes a whole bunch of settings all in one go and saves the user from manually changing several style settings.

Steve, best uses and advantages? Here is what works for me: I type the text without thinking too much about styles. When I'm done with creating my words and message, I use styles to quickly format things. So, most of the text will be Normal. I apply the Heading styles to the headings.
The advantage of using styles is that I can quickly change the appearance of all text that has been formatted with a style.

You do not often have to work with the inner dialog boxes of the style settings. You can format a paragraph, then right-click the style icon in the ribbon and select "Update <style name> to match selection".
 
For example: all text is formatted with Normal. You want the first line of each paragraph indented. Click any paragraph, use the ruler to make the adjustments. Right click the Normal style in the ribbon and click "Update Normal to match selection". Bang. All paragraphs are now indented.

You can also quickly create a new style. Format a paragraph so it looks like you want it. Then right-click the paragraph and in the context menu select "Styles > Save Selection as new Quick Style".

If you need functionality like automatically creating and updating a table of content in the document, then you will find the heading styles most helpful, because they have all the required settings built-in. You can change the appearance of the heading styles, apply numbering schemes, etc. All that by just changing one original text bit and then updating the style to match the current paragraph.

Hope that helps. And check out Shauna Kelly's site. It's a great resource.

cheers, teylyn
 
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by:Brian Gee
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Here is an excerpt from one of the training documents in my organization. Because the documents has been created and customized for use within my organization, I can't upload the document here.

The Advantages to Using Styles
The primary advantages of using styles are:
¿      Speed of formatting legal documents.  There are a variety of ways to quickly apply styles to text or paragraphs. Documents can be formatted while being typed or after the fact. At any time in the process, a style can be modified and the new formatting automatically applied throughout the document.
¿      Consistency of document formatting. Firms can create user templates that store firm-standard styles so documents share a consistent image and users are able to adhere to court-specified formatting rules.
¿      Simplicity of paragraph numbering, table of contents generation and document navigation. When heading styles are consistently applied throughout a document, a user can create a table of contents with the click of a button, and quickly navigate through lengthy documents using the Document Map feature.
¿      Prevention of document corruption. When direct formatting is used over and over again in a document, the chances of document corruption significantly increased. Using styles in place of direct formatting reduces document clean-up.
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by:Patrick Matthews
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Steve_Brady,

When you get right down to it, Word really is just all about templates and styles :)

I would recommend, if you can find it, "Dreamboat on Word" by Anne Troy.  A little out of date now, but it still contains excellent advice.  (And yes, that is the same Dreamboat that you see on the EE all-time Expert rankings for Word.)

I will say this, though: while I love, love, love Excel 2010, and I coming to like Access 2010, Word 2010 leaves me cold.  The problem, as I see it, is that in Word 2007 Microsoft managed to completely bollix up how users work with styles, and Word 2010 did nothing to rectify the problem.  I used to (somewhat) enjoy working in Word; now I dread it.

Anyway, some great benefits of styles:

1) Heading styles automatically integrate into a Table of Contents (although you can also manually map other styles to TOC levels)

2) With styles, if you update the style definition, you can automatically update the formatting of any text using that style

Patrick
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by:Steve_Brady
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Thanks for the terrific responses!  Each one of them is well thought out, clearly written and tremendously helpful.  I will never understand why more people don't use this EE resource!  Think of it.  For $10 per month, I can ask a question like I did and in just over an hour, get comments back from four separate individuals, each of whom approaches it from a slightly different but extremely knowledgeable perspective, but is responding directly to me and the specifics of my question!  That's sick! (As my kids would say to describe something as awesome.)  Is there anywhere else that's possible?  If so, I have never heard about it!  

OK, that was my week’s end soapbox commercial for EE.  I will get back to the topic now (but I honestly do think that frequently)!

Oops, company just arrived -- may have to wait til tomorrow.  But you have already answered several of my questions -- and assuaged much of my trepidation!  

Thanks!  :)
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by:Steve_Brady
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>>WhackAMod:
Tell your friends and co-workers :)


I do, believe me! -- and I am always surprised by those who don't get as excited as I do.  

As for the remainder, I don't work and I don't have many friends.......sad but true.  :p
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by:Steve_Brady
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Except for my friends on EE, of course, who teach me how to do cool stuff!
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by:Steve_Brady
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>>teylyn:
…check out Shauna Kelly's site. It's a great resource.


Thanks for the link.  It's just what I was after!

>>For example: all text is formatted with Normal. You want the first line of each paragraph indented. Click any paragraph, use the ruler to make the adjustments. Right click the Normal style in the ribbon and click "Update Normal to match selection". Bang. All paragraphs are now indented.

So is this implying that all the designating of my styles can be done right from the text in my document rather than having to go into options/settings-type boxes to do it?  I feel pretty comfortable with using the Font & Paragraph boxes to get things looking the way I want.  So if I can just format a portion of my text that way and then set the style for that whole category (heading, etc.) from there, that will be great! I think that's what you're saying here, right? If that's accurate, then, for me at least, it simplifies everything tremendously!

>> Bang. All paragraphs are now indented.

(This was an “impactful” statement so I had to quote it twice!)  OK, so if the above is referring to a document in which, "all text is formatted with normal,” what happens or how does it work when different parts of the document are not all normal or if you don't want them all to change?  In other words, if you have a document in which some parts are normal paragraphs but other parts are main headings, secondary headings, tertiary headings, footnotes, and whatever else, how is everything designated and kept straight?
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by:Steve_Brady
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I've been experimenting with styles and I think I'm starting to see how this works.  For example, suppose you want something that looks like this:
 1
In this screenshot, there are:

• four different heading formats above the dotted line,
• the format of the dotted line itself,
• a sub-heading format (“ Description”) which could be be repeated at times throughout the text,
• and the basic text itself.  

Questions:

1)  Is each one of these, what I am calling “formats,” an individual Style?
2)  Are you saying that not only is it OK to type an entire article like this (from the beginning of the title down to the last reference) in a single & simple bread and butter format before defining any styles, but it is actually preferable to do it that way?

Assuming that to be correct, I copied some of the beginning from this website and pasted into Notepad to lose all the formatting and then pasted that into Word.  I then formatted different sections in different ways as shown here:
 2
and then followed your step of selecting "Update <style name> to match selection" to define styles:

          Heading 1:  Start >> Publications (green)
          Title:  American Journal of Ophthalmology...
          Heading 2:  "•   Publisher... (blue)
          Heading 3:  "Impact factor... (red)
          Heading 4:  "dotted line ................."
          Subtitle:  "Description"
          Normal:  "The American Journal of Ophthalmology..."

That went fine until the last step.  After creating a first-line indent, I assigned the regular text to "Normal."  as soon as I did that, everything above there shifted its margin to the right even though that is not what I intended nor did I think that I changed it.
 3
Can you explain why that happened or what I did wrong?

Thanks
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Steve, there is a strong element of inheritance in styles. If you click the Modify command for a style, you will see a field called

Style based on

Most styles are based on the Normal style. The Heading styles for example. This means that they will inherit all the settings for the Normal style EXCEPT those that have explicitly been defined.

For example, using a new document with the Default style set:

Normal is set to the Body default font (which for this style set is Calibri, 11 point), 1.5 line spacing, 10pt space after the paragraph, and widow/orphan control

Heading1 is based on Normal, with a few modifications, e.g. the font is +Headings (Cambria), 14pt, Bold, Accent 1 color (a blue in the standard color scheme), the spacing has been set to 24pt space before, and 0pt after (and some more settings)

All the settings for Heading1 that are listed here will NOT change when you make a change to Normal. For example, if you changed the font color for Normal to red, Heading1 would still be the Accent 1 color. If you changed the font size of Normal to 13, Heading1 will still retain its 14pt size.

BUT -- if you change the first line indent for Normal, this is a change that will then also be applied to Heading1. Since a first line indent has NOT been explicitly specified for Heading1, this setting will be inherited from Normal.

So, basically, all styles define in what aspects or properties they differ from Normal. For each property that is different to the Normal style, the inheritance will be broken. Even if that property is changed in the Normal style, it will not change in the dependent style.

Most commonly used styles differ only in font face, font size, color and spacing above and below. Only a few styles have explicit settings for indentation (for example "Intense Quote").

Does that help?

cheers, teylyn













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by:teylyn
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Did not see your latest post. Cross-over with my musings. Getting on to this now.
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OK, I see what you mean.

Some of it is already answered in my post about inheritance above. I think you're on the right track, but you may benefit from a different order of doing things.

Paste the text into a new document, then start with the Normal text look and feel. Ignore the headings and other paragraphs for the time being. Once you have the paragraphs for Normal looking like you want them to, you can get on to changing the headers and other items.

Since a lot of settings from the Normal style are inherited by the other styles, it is not a good idea to change the Normal style last. If you set the Normal style up first, then you can edit the properties of the other styles and automatically break the inheritance for the properties that differ from Normal.

cheers, teylyn
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by:Steve_Brady
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>>yobri:
At any time in the process, a style can be modified and the new formatting automatically applied throughout the document.


>>matthewspatrick:
...you can automatically update the formatting of any text using that style


For some reason this was still just not quite clicking but after more tinkering with the above document, and re-reading your comments, the light bulb just went on!  The big advantage is not so much being able to format new content quickly but, as long as all sections in the document of a given type (or format) have been assigned or included in a particular style, then all of them can be changed later on by simply changing one of them and then doing teylyn's step (right-click and select "update [whatever heading or subtitle, etc.] to match selection") and it changes all of them en masse!  

That is the main thing I have been trying to figure out how to do with these styles so many thanks for the comments and patience!
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Steve,

I've just had an article published about a little helper trick for working with styles. Check out http:/A_7349-Display-the-style-of-the-current-selection-in-the-QAT-Word-2007-and-2010.html

Somehow I feel you might want to add that to your toolbox.
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by:Steve_Brady
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>>matthewspatrick:
Heading styles automatically integrate into a Table of Contents


>>yobri:
When heading styles are consistently applied throughout a document, a user can create a table of contents with the click of a button


I've got more questions about Table of Contents and some other things too.  However, this thread has been flogged plenty (like the dead parrot), so I will ask them as new questions.  However, I feel like I am off to the races now so again, many many thanks!!
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by:teylyn
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Steve,

when thinking about table of contents, then this will get you into trouble.


          Heading 1:  Start >> Publications (green)
          Title:  American Journal of Ophthalmology...
          Heading 2:  "•   Publisher... (blue)
          Heading 3:  "Impact factor... (red)
          Heading 4:  "dotted line ................."
          Subtitle:  "Description"
          Normal:  "The American Journal of Ophthalmology..."

By all means use styles to format "Start >> Publications", but create a new style for it. Heading1 through to Heading9 will show up in a Table of Contents by default, and you will be facing a lot of work to re-assign styles.  Likewise "Title" is meant for the title of the document. If you want that text to appear in a TOC, then use a Heading style instead.
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by:Steve_Brady
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>>teylyn:
I've just had an article published about a little helper trick for working with styles.  Somehow I feel you might want to add that to your toolbox.


Great article teylyn!  Very well-written and extremely beneficial!  Spot on re your feeling too!  :)
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by:Steve_Brady
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Many thanks to all responders!  Excellent comments!
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