MS Word Character and Paragraph Styles

"Styles" in Word are valuable functions that you can use to make your work efficient consistent. Imagine having to apply Verdana, bold, blue, 16pt size, 3pts above and 12 pts below to every heading in a long document! A "heading 1" style can accomplish that in one click.

Using Word Character and Paragraph Styles

If you've never heard of or used Word styles, take a moment to experiment with the ones that Word supplies:

  1. Open Word and start a new document.
  2. Type in half a dozen lines of text in whatever the default font is.
  3. In Word 2007 and later, to display available styles, click the arrow in the bottom righthand corner of the Styles area. See this illustration of the style panel (opens in a separate window).
  4. To apply a paragraph style, put the cursor anywhere on a line of text, click the down arrow in the Style box, scroll to and select Heading 1. Your text should turn to whatever Microsoft has chosen for that style, for example, Arial 16 bold. (Paragraph styles are indicated by a paragraph symbol.)
  5. Character styles are a bit different; you must select a bit of text and then apply. (Character styles are indicated by a lowercase a.)

Creating Simple Character Styles

In technical documents, writers often use Courier New for text that appears on screen or text that users are to type in verbatim. The problem with Courier New is that it looks much larger than Times New Roman, for example, even when both are the same type size.

To create a character style to address this problem:

  1. Open Word and start a new document.
  2. Type some text and select a word or phrase within it.
  3. Turn the selected text to Courier New and make it 1 pt size smaller than the surrounding text. For example, if the default font is TNR 10, make the selected text 9pt Courier New.
  4. In Word 2007 and later, click the New Style button at the bottom of the Styles panel. (See the illustration of the Styles panel (opens in a separate window.)
  5. In the New Style dialog, call this character style something identifiable like verbatim, and select Character in the Style type field. See the Word dialog (opens in separate window).
  6. Click OK in this dialog. Notice that this new character style is now listed in the Style box on the Standard toolbar.
  7. To test this character style, select some other word or phrase, and click verbatim (or whatever you named the character style) in the Style box on the Standard toolbar (or in the Styles panel).
  8. Save this file and send it along with the others you create in this exercise to your instructor.

Creating Simple Paragraph Styles

Imagine you want to use blue bold 18pt Verdana first-level headings with 12pts space above and 6pts below. Here's how to set up a style for that:

  1. Open Word, start a new document, and type some text.
  2. Select the text and make it bold, blue, and Verdana 18pt.
  3. Make your way to the Paragraph dialog and specify 12pts space above and 6pts below for this paragraph style:

    • In Word 2007, click the Page Layout tab and click the arrow in the bottom righthand corner to display the Paragraph dialog (opens in a separate window).
    • In versions of Word before Word 2007, click Format > Paragraph and make the changes in the fields under Spacing.
  4. Next, open the new-style dialog:

    • In Word 2007, click the New Style button at the bottom of the Styles panel. (See the illustration of the Styles panel, which opens in a separate window.)
    • In Word 2003 and later, click Format> Styles and Formatting. In the Styles and Formatting panel, click New Style.
    • In Word 2000 and earlier, click Format > Style. In the dialog, click New.
  5. Give this style an identifiable name like Blue Heading 1, and select Paragraph under Style type.
  6. Note:

  7. Click OK in this dialog. Notice that this new paragraph style is now listed in the Style box on the Standard toolbar (or the Styles panel in Word 2007).
  8. Note: You needn't click Apply in the other dialog, because you have already "applied" this new paragraph style.

  9. To test this paragraph style, just move your cursor anywhere on a line of text, and click Blue Heading 1 in the Style box on the Standard toolbar.

    Note: In Word 2003 and Word 2007, notice the handy drop-down menu when you select a style in the Styles and Formatting panel. It enables you to modify, delete, or update the style:

  10. Word 2007

Information and programs provided by davidm@austincc.edu.