Following on from part one of this series on editing documents in Microsoft Word, we now go on to look at styling a document.

Pretty much all formatting that is done in Word is controlled by styles. Essentially a set of rules that are put together to tell Word how you want your paragraphs and words to look. If you learn to use these handy tools correctly, it can save you tonnes of time formatting documents.

Imagine you have a paper sent through from a client that has been typed in Word, literally as he has thought of it. He’s underlined a few bits here, added a few bullet points there and made a few sentences in bold. Wouldn’t it be great to create order out of  documents like this with just a few mouse clicks or handy keyboard shortcuts? Well it really is that easy!

All about document styles

There are a number of different styles in Microsoft Word that help you to turn a document  like the one just described into a neatly formatted, consistent document in just a few mouse clicks. As well as having in built styles, you can also create your own which can be set to be a default style for every new document or to be specific to just one file.

Styles generally relate to the function of a piece of text, for example heading, sub heading, bulleted list etc. They can also be linked to a whole paragraph or just certain characters depending on how you want to style your document.

The purpose of using styles in Microsoft word rather than simply formatting each section individually is two-fold.

  • Firstly it enforces consistency throughout a document. Style headings can have pre-set fonts, sizes, colours and line spaces so that every time you style a piece of text with a certain style, you can be sure they will be formatted the same every time.
  • Secondly it is far quicker than having to set this format manually. You can literally place your cursor where you want to apply the style and click a button to do this job for you manually. this not only gives your document a professional looking edge but also means you can get the job done much faster and more efficiently.

So what is the easiest way to apply styles in Microsoft word?

To begin with you need to think about the layout of your document. Make sure you are clear on which are headings and sub headings etc. Once you know this, you can go ahead and apply the styles. The method of applying styles varies slightly depending upon the version of Microsoft Word that you use:

  • Firstly, click into the paragraph you want to format. Placing your cursor somewhere within the paragraph will format the entire paragraph, highlighting a section will apply that style only that particular area.
  • Next, In Word 2007 or Word 2010, select the ‘home’ tab > styles group > click on the  thumbnail of the style.
  • In Word 2003 and earlier versions, click the Formatting Toolbar > Style box and then choose from the drop down list.


An alternative way of applying a style and working with styles is the use the in-built keyboard shortcuts. If formatting documents is something that you do a lot of, these simple shortcuts can save you a lot of time.

To do this:

  • press ctrl-Shift-s
  • You’ll then see a box of styles which you can scroll through (with with mouse or keyboard) to select the style you want

Another easy way is to use the standard shortcuts for a particular style. The most common are:

  • Heading 1 style: Alt-Ctrl-1
  • Heading 2 style: Alt-Ctrl-2
  • Heading 3 style: Alt-Ctrl-3
  • Normal style: Ctrl-Shift-n
  • Promote a heading paragraph to the next-highest level (for example, Heading 2 to Heading 1):
  • Shift-Alt-Left arrow
  • Demote a heading paragraph to the next-lowest level (for example, Heading 1 to Heading 2):
  • Shift-Alt-Right arrow

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous you can even go and create your own keyboard shortcuts too!