Styles are the speed demons of the word
processing and desktop publishing worlds. A style is just a
group of text formatting characteristics that you give
a name. For example, suppose you want all the headings of a document to be big and bold, so they
stand out. You might decide to format your headings in
14-point Arial Bold. Rather than applying 14-point
Arial Bold on every line you want to be a heading,
you click your style named Heading and the text
automatically changes to 14-point Arial Bold. When
you use styles, you save time and ensure consistency.
Every heading looks like every other heading. The
time-savings multiply exponentially in complex
documents with many elements formatted in a particular
way, such as heading levels, bullets, hanging indents,
figures, and captions.
In most programs, styles exist in every
document, whether you know it or not. For example,
in Microsoft Word, when you open a Blank Document, the paragraph mark you see is formatted with
the Normal style. Every style is stored in a
document template (including the Normal style).
Use built-in styles
Many programs come with built-in styles such as
the Normal or Body Text style and styles for common
elements such as Headings. Applying a style is
easy. You place your cursor in a paragraph, and choose
a style from a list of styles. Your text magically
changes to whatever formatting was defined in the style.
Create your own styles
Applying styles is okay, but not very creative.
Often the built in styles are boring or just plain ugly.
At some point, you’ll want to move on and format
your text your own way. You can either modify one of
the built-in styles or create new styles. For example,
to modify one of the built-in styles in Microsoft Word:
- Place your cursor in a paragraph that uses
the style you want to change.
- Choose Format|Style.
- Make sure the style you want to change is
highlighted in the style list and click
- If you want the style to be saved in the
template, click the Add to Template box.
- Make the formatting changes.
- Click Apply. Word automatically updates all
text formatted with the style.
When you save a document, unless you go through the Style dialog and check the
Add to Template check box, your new style is only available in
that document. It is not saved into the template
unless you tell it to in the Style dialog box.
Creating a new style works almost the same way. To create a new style:
- Make sure your cursor is in the paragraph
that you want formatted with the new style.
- Choose Format|Style. Click
New and type a name in the Style box. If you want the style to
be saved in the template, be sure to click the Add
to Template box.
Two Cool Style Controls
Two style controls in Word’s Style dialog box
can save you a lot of time:
- Based On: Any style can be based on
another style. For example, if your Normal style is set
to Times 11 point, another style based on Normal also is set to Times 11 point unless you change
it. If you redefine the Normal style, other styles
that are based on Normal change too.
- Style for Following Paragraph: Style for
Following Paragraph is another powerful feature in
the Style dialog box. You can set the style that
follows the style you are creating or modifying. By
default, the following style is generally going to be set
to the style you are creating, but you can change it
to any other style in your list of styles.
One confusing aspect of styles is that any
formatting you apply using the formatting commands (i.e.
without using styles) can change how your text
appears. When you work with styles, it can be difficult to
tell whether you applied formatting with a style or
using the formatting commands (called "local"
formatting). Any local formatting commands you apply
override the formatting set up in the style. So sometimes
you can end up with text that doesn’t look as you
expected (such as one piece of text with a Heading
1 style, that doesn’t look like every other Heading 1).
To make a document appear visually consistent throughout, it’s almost as important to learn how
to remove formatting as it is to learn how to apply
it. That way, you can take out all the extraneous
local formatting and reapply the styles correctly.
In Microsoft Word, for example, to remove all
local font formatting, highlight the paragraph and
type Ctrl+spacebar. If the spacing has been
adjusted manually, it too overrides the spacing set up in
the style. To remove this local paragraph spacing
formatting, highlight the paragraph and type
If you do a lot of word processing or desktop
publishing, spending a little time figuring out how to
set up styles can save you a lot of time in the long run.