Learning how to use styles in your Word documents gives you the power to design the look of your document — and avoid unpleasant surprises.


Styling your document using the style functions in Word will save you time and produce a consistent, professional result with every document.

Getting to grips with styles will also improve your ability to manage the range of inherited styles you work with when editing other people’s documents.

There is nothing worse than getting to the end of a large document and suddenly seeing the text crumple into strange numbering, march across the page to a different indent, or lose all its headings.

If this has also happened to you, you will know the power of styles to wreck your day!

Bev McShea, a senior Administrator at a municipality/local government level, claims: “Learning how to use styles is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Bev showed me how to set up my styles, update them, and apply them consistently. Here are some of the tips I picked up which may also be of value to you, if the formatting in your documents sometimes has a mind of its own.

Where to go to gain greater control over the use of styles

Rather than tapping away at the styles in the menu bar above your page, you gain far greater control by clicking on the little downward pointing arrow in the bottom right corner of the styles bar.

Once you are in the dropdown menu, hover over on the image to the right of the style description as shown below.

A downward facing arrow will appear. When you click on the arrow you will have access to the following menu.

How to modify styles

Now you can click ‘Modify’ and gain access to the following ‘Modify Style’ menu. This is where I have changed the formatting to Verdana (10pt) in the screenshot below.

As you can see in the image above, there are also options to:

  • rename the style
  • make it bold, italic or underlined, to change the colour (where it says ‘Automatic’)
  • change text alignment, change spacing between lines, and create or remove an indent.

Read more: 

Give your modified style a new name

By renaming the style to something unique (in the highlighted box at the top of the image above), you will be able to select this style in future, in the menu bar above your document.

My main goal in learning about styles is to avoid any nasty surprises when seeking to update a heading, or fix alignment or numbering. However, I also appreciate the power of styles to:

  • enhance the consistency of a document
  • provide flexibility to make a late change to a style that will then apply throughout a document
  • generate an automated table of contents.

Most of all, I like being able to get rid of Calibri at the touch of a button.


Debra Bradley is the founder of Writing for Councils. She has been providing writing and editing services for council staff since 2014, including editing activity management plans and writing executive summaries on their behalf. To find out more please visit her website at https://www.writingforcouncils.co.nz/