Word 2007 for Writers: Part 2 – Using Styles
Styles are an incredibly useful feature in Word — which have unfortunately been rather hidden in previous versions. Word 2007 puts styles right on the main toolbar, so there’s no excuse not to use them.
Using styles allows you to maintain a uniform set of formatting decisions across your document. Instead of formatting individual text selections independently, you can designate something as a kind of text — a header, an indented quote, a book title — and tell Word how to handle all text of that kind.
By doing this, too, you develop a semantic framework to your text — each piece of text is labeled by the type of text it is, which means you can do some nifty tricks with it, like automatically generating an outline or table of contents.
Styles in Word 2007 are organized into “sets”, pre-formatted templates with styles already defined for most of the common text elements (headers, paragraphs, indented quotes, etc.).
You can also create your own — get everything the way you want it using the normal formatting tools, then select “Save as Quick Style Set” from the “Change Style” drop-down — or modify any style set — adjust, say, the look of the headings using standard formatting tools, then right-click and select “Styles – Update to Match Selection”. Each style set can be further modified by selecting one of the color sets from the “Change Style” drop-down.
The real beauty of styles, though, isn’t in how it looks but in how it works under the hood. By designating pieces of text as “body text”, “headings”, “quote text”, etc. as you go, you are creating an underlying structure to your work that you can manipulate later. Instead of adding formatting to your text directly, you apply the formatting to the structural element, and every matching element across the entire document is updated instantly.
Consider this scenario: After writing 120 pages of your technical manual, you decide that topic subheadings should stand out more — maybe by adding a blue border around them. Without styles, you’d have to scroll through the entire document and add a border around each topic subheading individually. Applying a border is painful enough without doing 30, 40, or more times! If you’ve been marking your topic sub-headings as “Heading 3” all along, though, you can simply right-click the “Heading 3” box in the ribbon bar at the top, select “Modify”, change your formatting options, and hit “OK”. If, 40 pages later, you decide you’d also like them to be italicized, you don’t have to go back and change them all, again, individually — just modify the “Heading 3” style again.
Or maybe you aren’t comfortable with the “Modify Style” dialogue. Maybe you’re more comfortable using the standard formatting tools. Fine — pick a heading, modify it as you wish, right-click, and select “Styles > Update Heading 3 to Match Selection”. You can create new elements the same way — format a piece of text to your liking, right-click, and select “Styles > Save Selection as a New Quick Style” — it will pop up into the style selector at the top for one-click access as you go on with your document.
For styles you know you’ll use a lot, you can assign custom keyboard shortcuts, so you don’t have to do all that mousework. Right-click the style element you want to assign a shortcut to, select “Modify”, and click the “Format” button at the bottom left. The last choice is “Shortcut Key”, which opens the shortcut dialogue. Choose something you’ll remember (better yet, create a cheat sheet with your codes and tape it to your monitor) — I’d suggest using the “Alt_ key plus a letter, like “Alt-P” to apply the Paragraph style. Most of the “Ctrl+key” combinations are spoken for in Word, but few of the Alt+key” combos are. (Here’s the thing — you don’t want to pick “Ctrl+H” to apply “Heading 1”, because “Ctrl+H” opens the Find/Replace dialogue.)