Few people have the time to learn all the ins and outs of different kinds of software. But what they don’t realize is how much potential time could be saved by doing so. Sure, making those hand-written edits may be quicker than figuring out how to use Microsoft Word in the moment, but how does that kind of time accumulate over the week/months/years?
If we look at the big picture, there comes a point where it is more practical to take the time to educate yourself than to rely on others to do it for you. In this case, the value of knowing how to use styles in Microsoft Word (2010), in my opinion, can potentially save you hours.
What Are Styles?
Styles are a function of Microsoft Word that enable you to format specific elements of a document. For example, as I’ve explained before in The 5 Most Underutilized Features of Microsoft Word 2010, styles allow you to format different portions of a Word doc. Take this blog post for example, if this was a Word doc, there would be three kinds of styles: one style for the body of the article (i.e. the paragraphs), one style for the title of the document, and one style for the subheadings. By attributing a style for each element of this article, I could change the font size of the subheadings by simply changing the style settings, which in turn, funnels those modifications to all content under that style, saving you the time of changing each subheading individually.
To put it into perspective, it would take 30 seconds to change the font size of a subheading in a 50 page agreement using styles, but probably 10-15 minutes doing so manually, and that also leaves room for human error.
How to Modify Styles
There are two ways to go about this. The first way is to click the Home tab and under the Styles section, right click the style you want to modify and click Modify.
From there you’ll be able to edit several elements such as Font, Paragraph, etc. Note the Format button in the bottom left corner, this will lead to other styling options.
But what if the style you need to modify isn’t in the Quick Style Gallery? Simply click the little button in the corner of the Styles section.
From there, you’ll see this window:
But even then, not ALL the styles show. To show all the styles, click the Options link on the bottom right corner of that window and you’ll see this window:
Under Select styles to show: choose All Styles and under Select how list is sorted: choose Alphabetical. You can pick whatever method you want, but I find this one is the most logical. Now the Styles window should show ALL the styles available. To modify a style you see in the Styles window, simply right click and select Modify in the same way demonstrated previously.
If you want to add a style to the Quick Styles Gallery, right click a style in the Styles window and select Add to Quick Style Gallery. Now it will show up in the Styles section under the Home tab, it just may not be on the top row.
The Single Most Important Style
When editing styles, there is a sort of hierarchy. That is, all style are based off of the Normal style. So if you justify text in Normal, it will effect all other styles based on Normal unless you specifically change that in an individual style or change what style a another style is based on. You can see what I mean in the screenshot of the Modify Style window above. But in that instance it shows the Normal style, which is based on nothing.
To give you a solid example of a document that uses styles well, follow the link to download a Word doc I created as Word Document Sample.
There is much more to styles that what is covered in the post, but this at least gets your feet wet. I’m a big advocate of self-education, and I believe this is worth educating yourself on further if you are a heavy Microsoft Word user. Faithe Wempen’s book Microsoft Word 2010 in Depth [<=affiliate link] comes highly recommended, though I have not read it myself.
Questions, comments, or criticisms? You know what to do!