How to Use Microsoft Word Styles

woman working at computerMicrosoft Word styles are powerful tools included in all versions of Word.

If you are a new user, you may not know what styles are or how to apply them to format your documents.

Whether you own Word 2007 or any later version, this article will help you understand the basics of Microsoft Word styles.

It shows you how to find the predefined styles, and includes a tutorial that shows you how to change the style set and easily format your document by applying styles. It also briefly covers the topic of custom styles.

What are Microsoft Word styles and why should I use them?

A style is a definition that determines the document formatting options that are applied to characters or paragraphs.

Note: Sometimes styles are referred to as tags. However, in Microsoft Word, styles is the correct term.

How many times have you gone through a lengthy document and manually reformatted the same text over and over again to get it right? It can waste hours of your time and all of that clicking can give you a nasty case of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Using styles helps you use consistent formatting throughout your document. Applying a style only takes a click or two so it is much faster than manually formatting block after block of text.

Styles can contain definitions for fonts, paragraph spacing, line height, hyphenation, tabs, page breaks, indentation, and more!

As you can see from the list, styles can become quite complex. But don’t worry, Microsoft Word contains many predefined styles. That means you can use them even if you don’t know how to create your own styles from scratch.

Finding the predefined styles on the Ribbon

There are different ways to access the predefined Microsoft Word styles, but the easiest way in Word 2007 or 2010 is to select one from the Quick Style gallery.

Quick Style Gallery
The Quick Style gallery on the Ribbon: Select a style to apply character or paragraph formatting.

Quick Styles were introduced in Word 2007 and are located on the Home tab. There are 11 style sets to choose from, 14 style sets in Word 2010. Each set can be altered by selecting different theme colors or fonts, resulting in thousands of unique styles available for document formatting.


How to apply Word styles

For the following tutorial, open Word 2007 and start a new document. (These instructions also work for Microsoft Word 2010.)

Step 1: Create a sample Word document

Let’s begin by entering some dummy text so you can see how changing the style set affects the document formatting.

Here is how to enter random text into a document:

  1. Type the following code: =rand()
  2. Press Enter.

Entering this code inserts three paragraphs of text into your document.

Step 2: Change the style set

Now let’s see how easy it is to change the look and feel of the document just by changing the style set.

Follow these steps to change the style set in your sample document:

  1. On the Home tab, click Change Styles.
  2. Point to Style Set, then hover the pointer over each style set to preview it.
  3. Click the Word 2007 (or Word 2010) style set to apply it to the document.
Changing the style set
Changing Styles: Select a new style set from the list.

Optional: Change theme fonts and colors

To change the theme fonts or colors, click Change Styles again, then select either Colors or Fonts from the menu. In Word 2010, there is an additional option on the menu for changing paragraph spacing.

Step 3: Create a title by applying a style

Now that you have selected a style set, let’s apply some styles to the text in your document.

Follow these steps to easily create a title by applying a style:

  1. Place your cursor at the beginning of the first line of text.
  2. Type the words Word 2007 Galleries, then press Enter.
  3. Place your cursor inside (or highlight) the text you just typed.
  4. On the Home tab, in the Quick Style gallery, click the Title style. (If you don’t remember what the gallery looks like, jump back up the page to the screenshot of the Quick Style gallery, then come back.)

The new style is applied and your document now has a professional-looking title.

Step 4: Apply paragraph formatting

If you are following the steps in this tutorial, your paragraph formatting is probably set to the default (Normal) style. But just in case it isn’t, let’s apply the default paragraph and font style to make sure that the formatting is consistent throughout the document.

Follow these steps to apply the Normal style:

  1. Highlight all three paragraphs of text. (Don’t highlight the title.)
  2. In the Quick Style gallery, click the Normal style.

All of the text changes to the default font with the default paragraph spacing.

Step 5: Apply text formatting

The text looks a bit boring, so let’s add emphasis to certain words by applying a character style.

Follow these steps to apply bold formatting to selected text:

  1. Highlight the first instance of the term Quick Styles.
  2. Apply the Strong style from the Quick Style gallery.
  3. Repeat with each instance of the terms Theme and Quick Style(s).

You have just formatted your first document using Microsoft Word styles! Not only does it look professional, but you have created a handy reference guide to Microsoft Word 2007 galleries.

Before you close the document, why not print it?

Beyond the basics – custom Microsoft Word styles

The predefined styles give you lots of document formatting options to choose from, but you can also create your own custom Microsoft Word styles.

You can create new styles for each document, or you can save your custom styles and reuse them later. Saving styles you use often is a good way to speed up the process of creating Word documents.

So how do you save the custom styles you create?

You save them to a template. You can save styles you always want available to the default (Normal.dotm) template, or you can save styles to custom templates.

You may have already used some of the custom Microsoft Word templates that are available in the Template gallery.


Open the Microsoft Office Template Gallery

To open the Template gallery, click the Office Button, then click New. To download the free online templates, you must have Genuine Microsoft Office software installed.

The next time you use a Microsoft Word template, look at the Quick Style gallery within the document to see the custom styles the author created.

Go to Part 2: Custom Word Styles tutorial >>