Microsoft Word 2016: applying styles like a pro

Avoiding styles is a hobby for some Word users. They go through 35 mouse clicks in 12 formatting dialog boxes, just to avoid using a style”.

(From the introduction to Getting started with styles by Dian Chapman)

As part of their daily routine, Information Developers deal with all sorts of visuals, manage product knowledge, and even investigate project details. But first come the basics—writing, editing, and proofreading texts—that require excellent knowledge of word-processing tools like Microsoft Word. In this article, you can find some handy tips on styles to make editing quicker and less painful. I tested all of the following suggestions on Microsoft Word 2016 for Windows, but, I believe, their logic is pretty the same for previous versions of Microsoft Word, as well as Mac OS.

Get rid of manual formatting

Have you ever received a request to edit a 50-page document? It sounds quite easy until you find out about unformatted text, tight deadlines, and frequent updates that make editing the document even longer. Moreover, the more pages, the more effort it takes to make inevitable adjustments and fixes. This situation clearly shows the importance of using styles from the very beginning. Styles are easy to use, fast to modify, as well as save your time and nerves greatly.

Imagine that you need to apply styles to a document with chunks of manually formatted text. Your first thought might be to select all the text, select Clear All Formatting, and start formatting all over again. However, this way you waste too much time doing the unnecessary changes to the parts of text that could have been properly formatted in the first place.

Here’s the trick. If you want to quickly get rid of italics, text in red color, expanded spacing, and so on, just select the part of text you want to edit and use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Spacebar. This quick combination influences all kinds of formatting found in the Font group. Once you are done with that, you are ready to apply the appropriate styles.

Inna_Danyliuk_Get_rid_of_wrong_formattingNote. Mind that besides manual formatting Ctrl+Spacebar removes character styles as well. However, all paragraph styles remain unchanged. See more about the difference between character and paragraph styles.

Find and replace styles

If the initial document does have some styles applied that need changing, using the Find and Replace commands is probably the least time-consuming option. Let’s say you need to make some bulleted lists in the document indented. Instead of applying the indentation separately for each piece of text, follow this procedure to do some bulk changes:

  1. In the Editing group on the Home tab, select Replace.
  2. In the Find and Replace window, make sure the cursor is in the Find what box.
  3. In the Replace group, select Format, and then select Style from the list.
  4. In the Find Style window, choose the style from the list.
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 for the Replace with box.


The advantage of this approach is that you can go through all the instances one by one and skip the parts that don’t need modifying.

Check yourself

The final touch is to check whether all the formatting is applied correctly. You can do it by selecting separate parts of your document to see which style has been applied or use the style area pane. By default, its width is set to zero, but you can easily change it in three easy steps:

  1. Go to the File tab, and then select Options.
  2. In the Word Options window, select Advanced.
  3. In the Display group, in the Style area pane width in Draft and Outline views box, enter the value between 0″ and 6.06″ (I prefer 1″).

Now, when you change the view to Outline or Draft, on the leftmost side you will see the pane that indicates all the paragraph styles used in the document. It really saves time, doesn’t it?


To sum up, Microsoft Word is a very powerful tool that helps a skilled user do next to everything. All it takes is just a bit of time and practice.

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