13 Things You Didn't Know About Word: Paragraph Styles

Some people really make a lot of work for themselves when it comes to headings. It seems straightforward enough: just select the text you want to use for the heading, and make it bold, underlined, bigger or whatever takes your fancy. The trouble really starts when you decide you’d like to change the way the headings look. And even if you are happy with their appearance, you’re still missing out on a load of other good stuff.

The thing about formatting each individual heading is that you’re, erm, only formatting each individual heading. How much better it would be to work on all the headings of a particular type at once.

Well you can, simply by assigning codes known as “paragraph styles” to the heading. The top heading, eg for the chapter or document title, will be Heading 1. The next level of heading will be Heading 2, and so on.

There are three main ways of assigning paragraph styles to a piece of text:

  1. Click anywhere in the text and press Ctrl-Alt-1 for Heading 1, Ctrl-Alt-2 for Heading 2 or Ctrl-Alt-3 for Heading 3.This method won’t work for any other headings styles.
  2. Click anywhere in the text, and then select one of the paragraph styles shown at the top of the screen, if you have Office 2007 (if you  have an earlier version, you should see a drop-down menu of heading styles at the top of the screen).
  3. Alternatively, format the text the way you’d like it to look, then click on the downward-pointing arrow to the right of the strip of styles (shown here highlighted in yellow), and then click on the Save as quick style option, give it a meaningful name, and click on OK.

If you opt for the third of these methods, you’ll discover that your new style will appear at the left-hand end of the styles strip, making it easy to use at any time.

There are two great things about using paragraph styles as far as formatting is concerned.

Firstly, you can save a lot of time formatting the text in the first place. Suppose you’re writing a story for children, and there are two main characters: the hero, and the villain. The hero’s speech is in blue, and the font is Arial.

The villain’s speech is in red, and the font is Old English MT.

Think of how much time it would take to go through the document formatting the text appropriately. Using paragraph styles, it’s simply a matter of clicking in the paragraph you want to change, and then clicking on the paragraph style.

Secondly, should you wish to change everything, such as the hero has green speech and the villain has purple speech, just click on that arrow again (see above), choose the Modify option, and make the changes you need. Once you’ve clicked on OK, every piece of text formatted in that style will change at once.

Generate some random text and try it for yourself!

But that’s not all you can use paragraph styles for. They also make it easy for you to create an outline view of your document, and to generate a table of contents with just a few clicks of the mouse. The next two articles in this series will cover those.