About formatting text by using styles

A style is a set of formatting characteristics that you can apply to text, tables (table: One or more rows of cells commonly used to display numbers and other items for quick reference and analysis. Items in a table are organized into rows and columns.), and lists in your document to quickly change their appearance. When you apply a style, you apply a whole group of formats in one simple task.

For example, instead of taking three separate steps to format your title as 16 pt, Arial, and center-aligned, you can achieve the same result in one step by applying the Title style.

The following are the types of styles you can create and apply:

  • A paragraph style controls all aspects of a paragraph's appearance, such as text alignment, tab stops, line spacing, and borders, and it can include character formatting.
  • A character style affects selected text within a paragraph, such as the font and size of text, and bold and italic formats.
  • A table style provides a consistent look to borders, shading, alignment and fonts in tables.
  • A list style applies similar alignment, numbering or bullet (bullet: A dot or other symbol that is placed before text, such as items in a list, to add emphasis.) characters, and fonts to lists.

You can create, view, and apply styles from the Styles and Formatting task pane (task pane: A window within an Office program that provides commonly used commands. Its location and small size allow you to use these commands while still working on your files.). Formatting that you apply directly is also stored in this pane.

ShowApply a different style to text

When you want to change the style of text, you can apply an existing style, also known as a built-in style. If you don’t see a style with the characteristics you want, you can create a new style and then apply it.

ShowModify a style

To quickly change all the text that is formatted with a particular style, you can redefine the style. For example, if your main headings are 14 pt, Arial, flush left, and bold, and you later decide you want your headings to be 16 pt, Arial Narrow, and centered, you don't have to reformat every main heading in your document. Instead, just change the properties of that style.

Note that when you change a formatting element of the base style (base style: The underlying or original style on which other styles in a document are dependent. When you change a formatting element of the base style in a document, all other styles that originate from the base style will also reflect the change.) in a document, all styles that originate from the base style in that document will also reflect the change.

You can also have Microsoft Word modify a style automatically, meaning that Word detects when you alter the formatting of text containing a style and then automatically updates the style. When Word automatically updates the style, all text formatted with that style is updated to match the formatting of the text you just changed. Automatically updating styles is recommended for users who are experienced with using styles.

ShowPreview and apply different styles by using the Style Gallery

You can use the Style Gallery to see how your entire document would look if you applied styles from a different template (template: A file or files that contain the structure and tools for shaping such elements as the style and page layout of finished files. For example, Word templates can shape a single document, and FrontPage templates can shape an entire Web site.). If you want, you can then apply the styles directly from the Style Gallery. You can also view sample documents showing styles from the selected template or see a list of the styles used in the template.

Applies to:
Word 2003