Basic Formatting
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Introduction Web Resources Word Books Confidentiality Word FAQ Downloads Word 2002




Basic Formatting Techniques in Microsoft Word

What You Will Learn

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:
bulletCreate a New Document
bulletSelect text to manipulate it.
bulletMove text to a different location
bulletUse Copy, Paste and Paste Special when working with text
bulletUse the Format Painter toolbar button
bulletSet and modify indents
bulletUnderstand the differences between margins and indents; know how to use a hanging indent
bulletSet your text justification to left, center, right, or fully justified.
bulletWork with tabs
bulletUse section breaks
bulletChange the margins and layout of a document
bulletApply and modify a basic style
bulletApply automatic paragraph numbering and link it to styles
bullet Change the case of text with formatting and with keyboard shortcuts
bulletUse Word's "Reveal Formatting" to discover what formatting has been applied to text and how.
bulletClean up or remove unwanted formatting
bulletApply and use themes (Word 2007 and later)
bulletChange the default font in Word 2013 or Later

Other Chapters Related to Topics Covered in this Lesson
bulletUnderstanding Styles - essential information for using Word
bulletSections, Section Breaks and Headers & Footers - page numbers, letterhead - page and section-level formatting
bulletNumbering - if you want to keep your hair!
bulletTemplate Basics in Microsoft Word - systematic use of templates is a key skill in using Word effectively. You do not want to be copying from documents when you can use templates instead.
bulletComplex Documents - Table of Contents - Table of Authorities - Tables of Figures - Cross-References
bulletTables - using tables to arrange your text
bulletText Alignment Microsoft Word horizontal and vertical alignment of text


Additional Written (or Web) Resources 
bullet Word for Law Firms and Lawyers
bullet Word 97 for Law Firms (also at UK)
bullet Word 2000 for Law Firms (also at UK)
bullet Word X (2002) for Law Firms (also at UK)
bullet Word 2003 for Law Firms (also at UK)
bullet Word 2013 for Law Firms by Payne Consulting Group

The Lawyer's Guide to Microsoft Word 2007 by Ben M. Schorr


The Lawyer's Guide to Microsoft Word 2010 by Ben M. Schorr


Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010 for Law Professionals Unveiling the Rules and Secrets of Legal Word Processing by Patricia Gordon and KAS Training

bullet other books about using Word
bullet Clipboard Group on the Home Tab - Word 2007+
bulletFonts Group on the Home Tab - Word 2007+
bullet Page Setup - Page Layout Dialog - Word 97 - Word 2010
bulletHow can I get a different header - footer on the second page in Microsoft Word? Charles Kenyon. Includes tips and links on creating letterhead and letter templates.
bullet Using Headers and Footers by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP
bullet What do the underlines mean? Microsoft Support
bullet Show Me the Function Keys! - a macro to get the Function Keys toolbar to display. (part of . . .)
bulletKeyboard Shortcuts in Word (Word 97) (Word 2000) (Word 2010 search help for "keyboard shortcuts)
bulletHeaders? Headings? What is the difference?
bulletHow to Move / Re-organize Pages in a Word Document by Charles Kenyon
bullet Beginner's Guide to Professional Word Documents by Terry Farrell, MVP
bullet Word for Word Perfect Users
bullet Number Alignment by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP
bulletTop and Bottom Margins are Missing by Charles Kenyon
bulletElusive White Space by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP
bullet Changing the default font by Charles Kenyon et al.
bullet Keep your headings and text together with "keep with next" by legal office guru Deborah Savadra
bullet Nuke Word formatting and start over - Three shortcuts by legal office guru Deborah Savadra
bullet Control the Formatting When You Paste Text - Microsoft
bullet Basic concepts of Microsoft Word: An introduction by Shauna Kelly, MVP
bullet 1. Start typing your new document
bullet 2. Rules for typing in Word
bullet 2.1 Why you should not press Enter at the end of every line
bullet 2.2 Why you should press Enter only once to end a paragraph
bullet 3. Use styles to format text
bullet 4. In Microsoft Word, use tables and tabs to arrange text
bullet 5. Use a bulleted paragraph style for bullets and dotpoints
bullet 6. Make changes, fix mistakes, edit your document
bullet 7. Use page numbering and let the text flow from page to page
bullet 8. Print your document
bullet How the Paste Options Button Works in Word 2002 & 2003 by Shauna Kelly, MVP.
bullet How to Control Page Numbering in Microsoft Word by Bill Coan, MVP. Using Fields for Page Numbering - Much more Control than using Insert => Page Number
bulletQuick Parts vs AutoText: When is one a better choice?Deborah Savadra • 4.1K views17:39
4 Excel resources for legal professionals (and other Excel beginners)Deborah Savadra • 535 views1:41
The Fake Vinegar In British Fish and Chip ShopsTom Scott • 3.8M views2:15
Use Microsoft Word's Format Painter to copy formattingDeborah Savadra • 298 views5:55
4 ways to save templates in Microsoft OutlookDeborah Savadra • 3.7K views11:31
Table of Points & Authorities Follow Up: Marking Cases in FootnotesDeborah Savadra • 446 views5:41
Cat won't leave baby alone. When parents discover the reason, they call the police!TopStory • 1.4M views12:01
How to REALLY use Microsoft Office: Word Styles 101Scott Hanselman • 125K views13:38
How to create hyperlinks in your Microsoft Word documentDeborah Savadra • 180 views6:17
Print document excerpts in Microsoft WordDeborah Savadra • 159 views3:34
How to create a Binder Index in Word (2 ways)Deborah Savadra • 1.9K views4:52
Microsoft Word Compare vs Combine: What's the difference?Deborah Savadra • 239 views7:28
1:25 / 1:25
Use GoTo (CTR- G) to move anywhere in your Word document by legal guru Deborah Savadra (video)
bulletFolio by Chapter or "I want to include the chapter number with the page number in the Header – how can I do this?" by John McGhie, Word MVP
bullet Setting Tabs - by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP and Dave Rado, MVP
bullet Ruler of All You Survey - Using the Rulers - Word MVP FAQ
bullet How to Display the Ruler In Word 2010
bulletWord Formatting - How-to-Geek School - Word 2013
bullet The Interface, Fonts and Templates
bullet Paragraph Formatting and Creating Lists
bullet Tables and other Formatting Controls
bullet Working with Pictures, Shapes and Graphics
bullet Styles, Style Sets and Document Themes
bullet Creating Accessible Documents in Office 2010
bullet Word Tips about Formatting from Allen Wyatt - Note, most tips have versions for Ribbon versions of Word (2007+) and pre-ribbon versions.
bullet The Straight and Narrow: Using Columns - by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP and Dave Rado, MVP.
bullet Deleting a Blank Page - by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP
bullet Delete a Blank Page in Word 2007 or later - Microsoft (nice video)
bullet Delete a Blank Page in Word 2019 for the Mac - Microsoft
bullet Default Paragraph Font Explained - by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP
bullet Dates in Microsoft Word by Charles Kenyon
bullet Why Does the Appearance (or layout) of My Document Change When I Open It On a Different Machine? Suzanne S. Barnhill, MVP
bullet What do all those funny marks, like the dots between the words in my document, and the square bullets in the left margin, mean? , MVP and Dave Rado, MVP
bullet Cleaning up pasted text from emails or Web sites by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP
bulletAccent characters in Office by Office for mere mortals
bulletChanging the spell-check dictionary - editing the custom dictionary, adding (correctly-spelled) words to show up in Spell check as errors and Exempting Specific Text from Spell Checking by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP
bullet How Can I Insert Special Characters (Symbols)? - multiple ways including keyboard shortcuts - Suzanne S. Barnhill, MVP
bulletFind and Replace Using Wildcards - links page to other articles on this powerful technique
bullet How Can I Create a Fraction in Word that isn't in Any of the Fonts that I Have? For a macro solution see Create a Fraction by Graham Mayor. 
bullet Styled Fractions in Word by Jeeped - vba solution written for Word 2013 but may work for any version with AutoCorrect
bullet Finding and replacing non-printing characters (such as paragraph marks) and text formatting by Dave Rado, MVP.
bullet Finding and replacing characters using wildcards by Graham Mayor, and Klaus Linke
bullet Typography Tips from Microsoft Publisher - Suzanne S. Barnhill, MVP, and David Rado, MVP
bullet What Files Do I Need to Backup? (or where does Word store all my customizations?) by Dave Rado, MVP and Brenda Hutton
bulletHow to move/copy/share customizations including AutoText, AutoCorrect, Macros, Toolbars and Key Assignments by Charles Kenyon
bulletAutomatic backup? How can I make Word save or back up my document automatically? by Suzanne S. Barnhill, MVP.
bullet Paste Options in Word 2007-2013 - Microsoft
bullet Advanced Microsoft Word - Formatting Your Document - Technology for Teachers (video)
bullet How to Save Time Formatting Your Documents in Microsoft Word - Dawn Bjork, The Software Pro (video)
bullet Automatically Back Up Word Documents - including to two locations! by Graham Mayor, MVP.
bullet Tips and tricks for copy fitting or the best ways to get your document to fit to a page by Suzanne S. Barnhill, MVP.
bullet Delete blank paragraphs / paragraph marks from a document by Dave Rado, MVP.
bullet Word is always making changes I don't expect. How can I get more control over my formatting? by Suzanne S. Barnhill, MVP, and Dave Rado, MVP.
bullet Formatting applied to one paragraph affects entire document by Suzanne S. Barnhill, MVP
bullet How to put Word 2002 (and 2003) back the way they were in Word 97-2000 by Suzanne S. Barnhill, MVP
bullet Why is my Blank Document not blank? by Suzanne S. Barnhill, MVP
bullet What happens when I send my document to someone else, will Word mess up my formatting? by Shauna Kelly, MVP
bullet Why does text change format when I copy it into another document? by Shauna Kelly, MVP
bullet Text Selection Tricks and Rapid Formatting video by BCTI
bullet Ruler of All You Survey: How to Make the Best Use of Word's Rulers by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP and Dave Rado, MVP
bulletClip Art and Media Help by Mary Sauer, MVP
bulletSo You Want to Write a Book Using Microsoft Word - extensive tutorial by MVP Daiya Mitchell with overview of Styles, Templates and Sections and the interactions among these tool/features. Excellent! Not just for those who want to write books!
bullet How to Format a Book Using Microsoft Word by Natalia Leigh
bullet How to Format Your Novel: start to finish using Microsoft Word - (1 hour 50 min video) by Bethany Atazadeh
bullet Changing the formatting rules with compatibility options - these can change how Word acts in basic formatting.
bullet Preparing a Manuscript (Thesis) in Microsoft Word 2007 - pdf - Ohio University
bulletInteractive Forums - Woody's Office Watch - Microsoft - can be searched
bullet Why is My Blank Document Not Blank? by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP
bullet Control the Formatting When You Paste Text - Microsoft
bullet Microsoft Word 2010 Bible by Herb Tyson, MVP
bullet Create Flashcards Using Microsoft Word (web search)
bullet APA 7th Formatting in Word - How to add it to word
bullet How to format your paper in APA style in 2023 (without Word) - video by Smart Student

Last edited by Charles Kenyon Thursday 07 March 2024 as to links only. Valid for Word 97-Word 2003. Principles applicable to later versions. Some notes as to Word 2010.

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Click to return to table of contents page of Legal Users' Guide to Microsoft Word.Click to go to Microsoft Word new users frequently asked questions site in a new browser window.
(this guide table of contents) ----- (MS Word New Users FAQ)

Search Usersguide to Microsoft Word using Google


CK Introduction to Word

Welcome to Word. It is a very good computer program for putting words and images on paper. That is what it is designed to do. Everything else is added on and may not work as well as other programs.

Word is a combination Mack Truck and Back Hoe disguised as a Volkswagen. Think "Transformers." It has a lot of power to do major work, but that power comes with a number of confusing controls.

In Word 97-2003 those controls are in the menus and toolbars. In Word 2007-2013 you reach them through the Ribbon tabs.

Always remember: Ctrl+Z (UnDo) is your friend. When working on a major project and trying something new, consider working with a copy of your document.

Let's start with some basic tools to let you peek under the hood and see what Word is doing with your formatting: Reveal Formatting and display of non-printing formatting characters.

Checking Formatting - Word's Reveal Codes

It can really help to peek behind the curtain and see what is really happening.

[Tool 1] Help: What's this? (Word 2003 and earlier) A good way to spot formatting problems is to use Word's "Reveal Codes" substitute: The "What's This?" command on the Help menu. I always figured that it was for explaining Word features and controls, but it also explains formatting.

If you use the command, your mouse pointer changes to a question mark / pointer combination. If you point at text and click on it, it will show what formatting has been applied to that text and where the formatting comes from (styles/direct formatting, paragraph / character(font) formatting. In this case, the message was helpful, even if cryptic (Character Formatting: direct : pattern - white).

To change the pointer back, use the Esc key.

[Tool 2] Reveal Formatting Pane - Shift+F1 (Word 2002 and later) (Mac button on View Tab)

A good way to spot formatting problems is to use Word's "Reveal Codes" substitute: the Reveal Formatting pane. A screenshot is shown to the left. It responds to your mouse. If you click on text, it will show formatting information about that text. You can Toggle this pane with Shift+F1.

At the top it shows what has been selected and lets you check to compare to another selection.

It breaks it down into Paragraph-level and Font-level formatting and, if you check the option to do so, shows whether that particular formatting is a part of a Style or was directly applied. (Checking the box to distinguish style source is a very good idea.)

The headings in the Reveal Formatting pane that look like hyperlinks are shortcuts that open the formatting dialogs that can change the setting concerned. If you are looking at formatting from the Style and want to modify the style, click on the link for the style as in "Character Style" or "Paragraph Style" in the screenshot and then click to modify the Style.

Font-level formatting:  (more accurately called character-level formatting)

The Paragraph Style applied is "Quote." That style gives us the Italic character formatting and the Theme Color Text 1.

The Character Style applied is "Citation." That style toggles the Italics and tells Word to not check spelling or grammar for that text.

The text was also directly formatted to be Garamond typeface.

Paragraph-level formatting:

From the Quote Style it gets 0 indentation left and right, is left-aligned, has spacing after the paragraph of 10 pts, and line spacing of 1.15 lines.

The paragraph is also directly formatted to be fully Justified and have left and right indentation of .25" and with an Outline Level of three (3). (Ordinarily this would be at the Body Text level; this was set as an example.)

These Formatting levels could be collapsed. The Section level formatting is collapsed by default, but clicking on the + before Section will show that as well. Section-level formatting is not applied through styles and handles margins and orientation as well as other options. Sections / Headers and Footers / Page Numbers / Margins / Orientation

Again, at the bottom of the pane are options to Distinguish style source and to show all formatting marks.

Here is a video that explores use of the Reveal Formatting pane.

The Reveal Formatting Pane in the Windows versions of Word can be floating or docked on either the left or right side of the Word window.

Note that the Reveal Formatting on the Mac is different than in Windows, but still extremely useful. You reach it under the View menu. It is a floating box rather than a Pane. (That means you can't resize it or dock it.)

(Mac image courtesy of Bob Jones aka Cybertaz)

[Tool 3] Show All Formatting Marks (All versions of Word) The latter option can also be activated using the Pillcrow on the Paragraph Group (Word 2007+) or with a keyboard shortcut. The pillcrow is Show / hide non-printing characters button from Standard toolbar. Possibly the most important button on that toolbar!the Hide-Show non-printing characters button. In menu versions of Word it is on the formatting toolbar. Showing these marks is the only quick method that lets you see paragraph marks, manual page breaks, manual line breaks, tab marks, spaces and section breaks. The symbol on it is the pillcrow which is used by Word to designate an end of paragraph mark. You can also toggle this with Ctrl+* (Ctrl+Shift+8). See Non-Printing Formatting Marks Display in Microsoft Word


Flying Pillcrow - Trademark of AddBalance Word websites.The flying pillcrow is a trademark of my Word sites.


Important Note: The reveal formatting pane firstt shown above demonstrates a big difference between Word and many other programs. That is the use of paragraph indents to change the distance from the left and right edge of the paper rather than changing margins. More on this below.


CK Section on Creating a New Document

There are a number of ways to create a new document. The simplest is to click on the new document icon on the standard toolbar. This creates a new document based on the template. While this is the simplest method, I only use it to create scratch paper. For serious work, I use custom templates or one of the ones that comes with Word. That is because these can have the styles and formatting I want already built into the new document. So, I start with a letter, memo, report or fax rather than setting one up on a blank screen. (Note, you should not put this kind of special formatting in the[m] template or it will ruin not only your scratch paper but also other Word functions like envelopes and labels.

If you see a template in Windows, you can create a new document based on the template by double-clicking on the template.

To get to these templates from within Word you need to select New under the File menu. In Word 97-2000 this will bring up the new file dialog box:


In Word 2002 and later, it will bring up the New File Task Pane. (If you don't like this and would prefer to just get the new document dialog box, see the NewFileDialog Add-In.)

New Document Task Pane

Clicking on "General Templates" (Word 2002) or "Templates ... On My Computer" (Word 2003) in the Task Pane will bring you to the New File Dialog.

If the template you want is in your User Templates Folder or in the Workgroup Templates folder it will show up in the dialog box. If it is in a subfolder of these, it will show up when you click on the tab representing that subfolder. (These folders are explained in Templates in Microsoft Word.) The "More" Tab in the dialog will show you folders that might not show up in the tab space.

More tab in the New File Dialog


The "Blank Document" template shown in the New File Dialog is really your template. The General Tab displays the contents (other than folders) of the User Templates Folder and the Workgroup Templates Folder.

Word 2007-2013 put different steps in the way of getting to the templates on your computer but do give easier access to templates provided by Microsoft online. To get to the FileNew dialog shown above in Word 2007-2013 add the command to your QAT.


The Icons in the QAT for "New" and "New Document or Template..." are the same. The commands are different. See File New Variations in the Versions of Microsoft Word.

Selecting Text  (CK Section)

Many formatting operations begin by selecting text. This is a basic computer skill used in virtually every program. Once text is selected, you can change its formatting, delete it, copy or move it to a new location.

Much selection is done using the mouse.

bulletYou can also use the Shift key in conjunction with other keys like the Arrow keys, the Home, End, and PgUpd and PgDown keys.

It is important to distinguish between selecting text (picking it out for some manipulation) and highlighting text.

Highlighting is marking the text as in using a highlighting marker to change the background color in the document, it shows up when you print.

Selecting is pointing out text so you can manipulate it. It is a method of using your computer to manipulate text. It does not show up when you print.

Highlighting is accomplished using the Highlighting formatting button. (Shading is also possible using a different control.)

Character Formatting (CK Section)

A page on formatting should have some things about how to apply formatting to your text. First, you should apply most of your formatting by using Styles in Word. This allows you to keep the formatting in your document consistent and makes it easier to make changes. But even if only to set up the styles, you need to know how to change the formatting directly.

Some people only need the Bold, Italic, and Underline formatting commands that appear on the formatting toolbar. These can be applied individually or in combination. However, there are many other character formatting options available on the Font Formatting dialog box. Some that I use often are strikethrough, double-strikethrough, and hidden. (I have my computer set up to display hidden text but not print it. I put instructions in hidden text on forms. Note that this is metadata that you might not want to be sharing.) You can also change the font in the .

You can get to the character formatting dialog by using the Format > Font command, or if you select a word or series of words, you can right-click and select the "format font" command to open the dialog box. Note that Word calls it Format Font and I call it character formatting because I think that designation is more precise. You are not really changing the font at all, you are changing how the characters of different fonts appear on your page. In Word 2007-2013 you can reach the font formatting dialog box through the drop down in the Font Group on the Home Tab or with Ctrl+D.

See also: the Font Group in the Ribbon (Word 2007+).

An additional type of character formatting that is valuable in a legal environment is language formatting. Specifically, you can apply "no proofing" formatting to case citations and party names so that you won't have to OK them in spell check. I find this best applied, though, through a character style rather than by direct formatting. Instructions on setting up such a style can be found in the chapter on styles.

Repeat Formatting Key: If you are going through a document and applying the same formatting to various words, you can use the Ctrl+Y combination or the F4 key to repeat formatting. This only applies, though, to the last formatting applied. So, if you are making something bold and then Italic, only the Italic is applied by the repeat key. If you want to apply more than one formatting change repeatedly either use a character style or use the font formatting dialog (Ctrl+D) for the first change. The repeat key will then let you repeat the full change. (This is actually the Repeat Typing key or "Do Again" key - the opposite of the UnDo key.) (this section unfinished as of 12/15/13)


Moving and Copying Text

To move text, you are actually "cutting" or removing the text from where it is and "pasting" it where you want it. To accomplish this, select the text and then click the Cut button on the Standard toolbar (you may also use CTRL+X). The text disappears and moves to the clipboard. Click the mouse pointer where you want to move the text and then click the Paste button or press CTRL+V. The text moves to the new location.

A similar process is used for copying. The text is first selected and you click the Copy button (CTRL+C). The text stays where it is and a copy of it goes to the clipboard. Move the cursor to where the text will be pasted, and click the Paste button on the Standard toolbar. The text appears in both places.

In Word 97, cut or copied text remains on the clipboard until it is replaced with something else. In Word 2000, there is an Office Clipboard toolbar that holds up to 12 items that have been cut or copied. They may be pasted individually or as a group into the document. For more on the Office Clipboard, see "Collect and Paste" later in this chapter.

See also: the Clipboard Group on the Home Tab (Word 2007+).

Note Note  When moving or copying text, if the paragraph marker is selected along with the text, the formatting of the paragraph stays with the selection. If the paragraph marker is not selected, the paragraph takes on the formatting of the surrounding text where it was pasted.

CK Note: When copying from one document to another, you need to take Styles into account.


Practice: Use Cut, Copy And Paste
  1. Type the following:

    Two (press ENTER)
    Three (press ENTER)
    One (press ENTER)

  1. Move the text into the proper order — one, two, three. To do so, select the item you wish to cut or copy, then press CTRL+X for Cut or CTRL+C for Copy.
  2. Copy One to the bottom of the list. You can press CTRL+V for Paste.

The Copy, Cut and Paste commands are also available under the Edit menu.

Practice: More with Cut, Copy and Paste
  1. Create a numbered list in a document.
  2. Select the entire numbered list EXCEPT for the paragraph mark at the end of the last item in the numbered list.
  3. Copy the selection. Keyboard users can press CTRL+C on the keyboard.
  4. Create a new, blank document by pressing CTRL+N on the keyboard.
  5. Paste the numbered list. Keyboard users can press CTRL+V on the keyboard. What happened?

Note Note  As has been pointed out elsewhere, the paragraph mark at the end of a paragraph contains the formatting instructions for that paragraph. If you fail to select the paragraph mark, you won't successfully copy that paragraph's paragraph-level formatting settings (for instance, numbering).

Collect and Paste (New for Word 2000)

In versions of Microsoft Office prior to Office 2000, Office used the Windows clipboard, which had a couple of major limitations, among them being the fact that you couldn't cut or copy anything without "destroying" the last item the clipboard held that you had cut or copied. This made it very difficult to work with collections of useful items. In Word 2000, you can use the Office Clipboard to Collect and Paste up to 12 items separately or simultaneously. The Office Clipboard will work with text or graphics.

Practice: Work with the Office Clipboard
  1. Display the Office Clipboard by choosing Toolbars from the View menu, and then clicking Clipboard.
  2. Select any item you want to copy, and click Copy on the Clipboard toolbar.
  3. Repeat as necessary.
  4. Paste an item from the Office Clipboard by clicking the appropriate icon on the Clipboard toolbar. If you want to paste all items, click Paste All.

    Copy and paste multiple items on the Clipboard toolbar

Note Note  To [see] the first 50 characters of a text item on the Clipboard toolbar, hover your mouse without clicking over one of the icons in the toolbar.

See also the Clipboard Group on the Home Tab (Word 2007+).

See also Control the Formatting When You Paste Text - Microsoft

Paste Special

Occasionally you may want to paste a WordPerfect document or web page (or a portion of the document) into Word. To get rid of all the formatting in the WP document or web page, select all text except for the last paragraph mark. Copy it and then, in a new document, from the Edit menu choose Paste Special. The following dialog box appears:

Paste Special dialog








If you select Unformatted Text and click OK, you will have a clean, "native" document without any legacy codes, greatly decreasing your chance of corruption.

Later version of Word have a paste options display when you paste. See Paste Options.

Format Painter

You may have noticed the "paintbrush" button on the toolbar. This button is called Format Painter, and it's one of the most useful buttons in Word. Format Painter copies character or paragraph formatting from one place to another within a document. To copy paragraph formatting; select the text including the paragraph marker. Click the paintbrush button and then paint (drag across) the text that you want to look like the originally selected text.

If you double-click the Format Painter button, it becomes a toggle and you can paint the new formatting to several paragraphs. The character formatting works the same way: click within the paragraph that you want to copy the formatting of the text, click the Format Painter button, and then either select or click within the paragraph that should be reformatted to look like the first paragraph. If you've activated the Format Painter in this way, press ESC when you're finished and your mouse will return to normal.

Tip Tip  Keyboard users can press CTRL+SHIFT+C to copy formats and CTRL+SHIFT+V to paste formats. Your mouse pointer won't change, but the formats can still be copied and pasted.

CK Note: If you use this method, you can intersperse other copying and pasting. This copies and pastes to/from a memory area different from that used by the clipboard. Even better than pasting formatting, though, is using styles.

Clear Formatting - CK Section

Sometimes you just want to start over. If you select text and press Ctrl+Spacebar you will remove all character formatting from the selection, including formatting based on a character style. It returns it to the paragraph style. If you press Ctr+Q it will remove and paragraph-level formatting from the selected text or any paragraph containing such text.

If you want to strip out paragraph style based formatting from a selection you need to Cut it and use Paste Special to paste it back as unformatted text or use the Clear Formatting command in the Styles Pane (Word 2003 and later). (In Word 2007 and later you can use the Clear Formatting button on the font group of the home tab to do the same thing.) Pasting back in as unformatted text will paste it in the current paragraph style. The Clear Formatting button or command in the Styles Pane returns the text to the normal format.

If you want, you can select all text in an area and apply the normal style to it.

For Word 2010, you can use the Clear all formatting button in the Font group on the Home tab.

Word formatting - remove formatting button Word 2010

Paragraph Formatting Dialog

Much formatting is handled at a paragraph level. It is best handled using Styles. However, you can do direct formatting for a particular paragraph using the Ruler or the Paragraph dialog box. In Word 97-2003 this is reached using Format > Paragraph. In later versions it is reached using the dialog launcher at the bottom right of the Paragraph Group on the Home Tab.

Paragraph Dialog Launcher Word Help


Word provides four types of indents: first line indent, hanging indent, right indent and left indent.

The following figure shows different types of indents.

Diagram of the kinds of indents in a Microsoft Word document










One quick and easy way to set these indents is to use the mouse and drag the indent markers on the horizontal ruler. Indents are controlled by the small gray triangles and box on the horizontal ruler.

"Like a hammer, the time-proven spacebar has been used countless times to perform chores for which it was never intended. Yes, a hammer can compel a screw to join two pieces of wood together, and a spacebar can be used to move text around so it looks like a table. However, just as a hammered screw makes for a shaky wooden table, a word processing table fashioned together with spaces is equally fragile. Add something to the table and it doesn't hold together. Which table? Take your pick."
   Microsoft Word 2010 Bible by Herb Tyson

Note CK NOTE: WORD 2000 (and later) The difference between Margins and Indents

In Word 2000 and later, you can set a First Line Indent and a Hanging Indent from the Tab Alignment box which is located to the left of the ruler. (View > Ruler)

The screenshot immediately above shows a "hanging" indent in the ruler. The circled marker is for the left indent for the first line. The paragraph will start at the left margin where the blue area ends but continuation lines will be indented to the next marker. These markers can be moved independently in the ruler or set in the paragraph formatting dialog box.

"Indents" is the term that Word uses for paragraph margins. They are a part of paragraph formatting and are often used in paragraph styles to set different margins for a part of a document. You do not want to change "margins" within a page in Word; instead, change indents.

A hanging indent lets you have the first line of the paragraph start to the left of the left Indent. It can be set in either the Ruler or in the paragraph dialog box. Both are shown in the screenshot below.

The first line will start at the hanging indent (the one dropping down from the top of the ruler) and the remainder of the paragraph will wrap at the left indent (the one at the bottom of the ruler). This can be set in either the ruler or the paragraph formatting dialog box. Again - best done in a Style. The left indent (continuation indent) is traditionally set at the first left-tab stop. That way, a letter, bullet or other character is typed at the beginning of the paragraph, you press the Tab key and the remainder of the paragraph will wrap where the left indent is set.

This is the formatting usually used for lists. If you are doing this for bullets or a list, you are likely better off using automatic numbering or bullets. All formatting like this is best handled using Styles instead of direct formatting, even with the format painter.

The screenshot above shows the first-line (hanging) indent at the left margin. This is the usual position but is not required. The screenshot following shows the first-line indent 1/2" to the left of the left margin. Again, margins and indents are independent of each other although set in the same place by default.

Again, Indents are paragraph formatting, Margins are Section properties. Use Indent changes rather than margin changes for most purposes. Here are two more examples showing different indents and margins. In both examples, the margins are indicated by the blue arrows and the indents by the red arrows. In the first one there is a left-and-right-indent as would be used for quoted material.

In the example below the left and right Indents are set outside the Margins. I use this in my header and footer styles to further set off the headers and footers from the body of the document.

In this example, the indents are set a half-inch from the edge of the page, outside the margins of the page.

Keyboard shortcuts are available for Left Indents (Ctrl+M) and Hanging Indents (Ctrl+T). Those set an indent at 1/2 inch. They can be undone with Ctrl+Shift+M and Ctrl+Shift+T.

Practice: Set Indents Using the Ruler

  1. Type a paragraph of text and click the mouse pointer anywhere within the paragraph.
  2. Drag the First Line Indent marker (downward-pointing triangle) to one-half inch on the ruler. This indents the first line of text.
  3. Type a new paragraph and click the mouse pointer anywhere within the paragraph.
  4. Drag the Hanging Indent marker (upward-pointing arrow on the left of ruler) to one inch. You can also use CTRL+T to accomplish this task and CTRL+SHIFT+T to undo a hanging indent. This indents all lines under the first line.
  5. Type a new paragraph and click the mouse pointer anywhere within the paragraph.
  6. Drag the Left Indent marker (the small rectangle under the ruler line and the upward-pointing arrow on the left of ruler) to one-half inch. You can also use CTRL+M to accomplish this task and CTRL+SHIFT+M to undo a hanging indent. This indents the entire paragraph.

The indent markers on the ruler

If you are using Word 2000, try using the Tab Alignment box to set the indents. Instead of dragging a marker, select the appropriate indent mark (First Line or Hanging Indent) and click the ruler. The indent you're setting only applies to the paragraph you have your cursor positioned. If you want to have an indent apply to many paragraphs, select all the paragraphs to which you want it applied.

See Ruler of All You Survey: How to Make the Best Use of Word's Rulers by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP and Dave Rado, MVP

Practice: Set Indents Using the Paragraph Dialog Box
  1. Type several lines of text to represent a quote and click anywhere within the paragraph.
  2. (Word 2007-later) Click on the dialog launcher in the Paragraph Group on the Home Tab.
    (Word 97-2003)From the Format menu, choose Paragraph. The Paragraph dialog box is shown in the next figure.
  3. Select the Indents and Spacing tab.
  4. Set the left and right spin box buttons at one inch. Click OK.
    1. Setting indents in the Paragraph Properties dialog









The Special drop-down list allows you to set hanging and first line indents in the Paragraph dialog box.

Working with Tabs

Remember, tab settings in Word are paragraph-level, not document-level, formatting.

There is no "Flush Right" command in Word like there is in Word Perfect. It is necessary to use a right-aligned tab to achieve the same result.

There are five types of tabs in Word: left, right, center, decimal and bar. In Word 2000, they are all available on the ruler. In Word 97, the bar tab is only accessible by choosing Tabs from the Format menu. The bar tab draws a vertical line at the position you set.

In headers and footers beginning with Word 2007 there are special alignment tabs (left, center and right). These are independent of the paragraph or style tab settings. For more on Alignment Tabs, see Headers and Footers, Sections.


While alignment tabs will work in the body of a document, the control for them is only on the header/footer tools ribbon. It can be added to the QAT. Using them in the body of a document seldom would make sense.

If you want to change where text starts or ends in a part of the body of a document, rather than change the margins (as in Word Perfect) you would change the Indents.

Indents are paragraph-level formatting, not section-level like margins. The alignment tabs are responsive to changes in the margins and the corresponding indent settings. They do not respond to the paragraph-level tab settings, though.


All versions of Word: Setting a tab using the mouse is a two-step process: While your cursor is positioned in the paragraph you want to add the tab to, first click the Tab Alignment box at the left edge of the ruler until you access the tab that you want to use. Second, click the ruler where the tab should appear. Many users report that they have better luck setting tabs in the horizontal ruler when they click in the bottom half of the ruler.

Note Note  If you make a mistake, click and drag the tab to the correct location on the ruler. If it's the wrong tab (center instead of left) drag the tab marker off into the document window, release the mouse, and the marker will disappear.

After you have made tab settings for one paragraph, they are copied down to the next paragraph when you press the ENTER key. If you need to clear all tabs, drag them off the ruler or from the Format menu, choose Tabs, and then select Clear All. The next figure is an example of various tabs applied in a document:

Setting tabs on the ruler



CK NOTE: In all versions of Word through Word 2010 both Tabs and Indents can be set outside left and right page margins. Tabs can be set outside the left and right Indents. I've never known a reason to set a tab outside the left Indent, though. There are some examples of this shown in Text Justification in Microsoft Word. (See below for Word 2013 and later)

When you set paragraph level formatting like tabs in one paragraph and press Enter at the end of that paragraph, your settings will usually continue into the next (new) paragraph. That is not always true. Every paragraph has style formatting assigned (even if you didn't know anything about it). That style formatting may assign use of a different style for the following paragraph. In that case, the tab settings in the new style will apply.

Practice: Set Tabs On the Ruler
  1. To set tabs for a signature block, first, position your cursor in the paragraph in which you want to insert the tab then click the Tab Alignment box until you have a Left Tab selected.
  2. Click the ruler bar at 3.5 inches.
  3. Press the TAB key and type your preferred closing (Very Truly Yours, Sincerely, Best regards).
  4. Press ENTER several times leaving enough room for your signature.
  5. Press TAB and type your name.

Once you understand how tabs work in Word, you'll be able to set a single tab for the precise location you need rather than press TAB repeatedly to position text.

Ruler of All You Survey: How to Make the Best Use of Word's Rulers by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP and Dave Rado, MVP

Practice: Set Tabs Using the Tabs Dialog Box
  1. Position your cursor in the paragraph in which you want to insert a tab.
  2. From the Format menu, choose Tabs. (CK- or double-click on a tab already in your Ruler or use the keyboard shortcut Alt+O,T)
  3. Type 6 in the Tab stop position box.
  4. Under Alignment, select Right.
  5. Under Leader, select the dotted line (2).
  6. Click Set, and then click OK.
  7. Type Name, press TAB, type Telephone and press ENTER.
  8. Type your name; press ENTER; type your telephone number and press ENTER.

Setting tabs in the Tabs dialog










You can set dot leaders, dash leaders, or solid leaders in this way. To get to this dialog, either use the shortcut Alt+O,T, or double-click on a tab that is already on your Ruler.

Note CK NOTE: For more on tabs, see the MVP FAQ page on Setting Tabs - by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP and Dave Rado, MVP. To see how they are used to simulate the Flush-Right setting in Word Perfect see Flush Right. For more on using tabs for columns and other ways to set up columns, see The Straight and Narrow: Using Columns (also on the MVP FAQ site).

Also, note that dot leaders can be automatically used in Tables of Contents, Tables of Authorities, etc. You won't need to set tabs or dot leaders by hand for those if you generate your Tables automatically. See Complex Documents for more on these.

Examples of tab settings and leaders can be found in the page on Justification.


Finally, setting up a table using tabs is not a good idea (although far better than using spaces). Use a Table instead. If you've already set your table up using tabs, you can convert it to a Word table easily. The key thing that keeps beginners from using tables is that they don't know how to turn off the lines when they don't want them. It is easy! See that chapter.

Tabs can be used in tables, but use of a decimal tab in a table requires extra an extra tab setting. See Tabs in Tables.

Tabs of the various types can be very useful for headers and footers.

Word 2013 (and later) will give problems with a right-tab set outside the right margin. See this thread. This formatting is commonly used with a dot leader in a Table of Contents. To do this, you will need to set the margin narrower and move the right indent in from the margin to allow the tab to be outside the indent but within the margin.

Word 2013 tab outside margin

Another workaround is to save the Word 2013 document in legacy .doc format which will allow use of a right-tab outside the margin.

Page Setup

Before using section breaks in a document, it is important to understand page setup.

In Ribbon versions you start with the Page Layout or Layout Tab (depends on version of Word). Here is that tab in Word 2019.


Here is the path to reach the vertical alignment control using the Page Setup dialog.

In menu versions, to access the Page Setup dialog box, from the File menu, choose Page Setup. In the dialog box, there are four tabs: Margins, Paper Size, Paper Source and Layout. Each controls a different part of how the document is set up.

The Page Setup dialog








The first tab, Margins, allows you to set the margins for the document, including the placement of the headers and footers.

Paper Size offers the opportunity to move from portrait to landscape, choose the paper size, and select the portion of the document to apply this particular formatting.

Paper Source relates to printer trays. One tray may hold letterhead, another bond, and another copy paper. There may also be a manual feed for envelopes, labels, and card stock.

The Layout tab presents the options to choose any of the section breaks described in the preceding section; choose a different first page header/footer; have different headers and footers on odd and even numbered pages; select whether the page will be centered vertically on the page, aligned at the top, aligned at the bottom; and whether this formatting is to be applied to the section, the whole document or from this point forward.

Practice: Insert Section Breaks to Change Headers and Footers

CK Note: Before doing this to change Headers and Footers realize that each section has up to three headers and three footers and that by using a  StyleRef Field, you can change their content to reflect the content of the text in the page. You may not need a section break.

  1. Create a new document.
  2. At the top of the document, type COVER PAGE.
  3. Press ENTER and then insert a Next page section break. From the Insert menu, select Break, and then select Next Page).
  4. From the File menu, choose Page Setup, and then select the Layout tab.
  5. In the Headers and Footers section, select Different first page and click OK.
  6. From the View menu, choose Header and Footer. (The toolbar shown in the next figure will appear.) Click the Switch Between Header and Footer button to move to the footer section.

Note Note  There is a header and footer on every page although they may be empty.

CK Note Each section has three headers and three footers which may have text even though they may not be displayed. (Each section has a first-page header/footer and an even-page header/footer which will not be displayed if the option for them is not set. See Word 97-2003 Sections or Word 2007-2013 Sections for more on this.)

  1. Observe that on the first page of the document, the footer information tells you that you are looking at First Page Footer, Section 1.
  2. Click the Show next icon on the Header/Footer toolbar. This footer reads differently. How is it different? (Footer Section 2, Same as Previous). By default, the Headers and Footers in each section of a document are the same unless you turn the setting "Same as Previous" off.
  3. Make sure that the second section of our document has a different footer. Clicking on the toggle for Same as Previous on the Header/Footer toolbar will break the link between sections allowing you to make a new footer.
Note Note  Unlike WordPerfect, there is not a Header A, Header B, Footer A, and Footer B. In Word you must first have section breaks and then turn off Same as Previous to vary headers and/or footers.

CK Note  You do not need different headers or footers to change the text in a header or footer! If the text you want to have in the header or footer is in the body of the document, you can use a StyleRef field to display that in the associated header or footer.

    See StyleRef field.

If you wish to have both portrait and landscape text on the same page, a section break is not the answer. You must use a text box to insert the landscape text on the page.

Practice: Section Breaks and Columns

In this exercise, you will set up a document with a headline centered at the top of the page followed by text formatted in three columns, followed by a single column (page width) of text — it will look like a newsletter.

  1. Create a new blank document.
  2. Type and center the word HEADLINE at the top of the document.
  3. From the Insert menu, choose Break and insert a Continuous section break.
  4. Click the Columns button on the Standard toolbar or choose Columns from the Format menu.
  5. Select three columns.
  6. Type text or type =rand(5,5) and press ENTER to have word generate random text.
  7. The text you type or insert should fill up the first column before moving to the second. To manually insert a column break, move approximately one third the way through your text and either 1) press CTRL+ SHIFT+ENTER or 2) choose Insert, Break, Column break. Do the same thing two thirds of the way through your text so you see three columns of text.
Note CK Note  You must be in Page Layout View (in Word 97) or Print Layout View (in Word 2000-2003 or Print View (Word 2007-2013)) to see all three columns. In Normal/Draft View it will appear as if there is one long, narrow column of text.
  1. At the end of the text, insert another Continuous Section break.
  2. Change the column number from three to one.
  3. Type several more paragraphs of text.
Note Note  View this document in both Normal and Page/Print Layout views. To switch to Normal view, choose Normal from the View menu (or press CTRL+ALT+N). For Page/Print Layout view, choose Page/Print Layout from the View menu (or press CTRL+ALT+P).

Practice: Attach an Envelope and Insert an Automatic Section Break
  1. Create a new document using a letter template (File, New, Letters & Faxes).
  2. Fill in the address completely with a person's name and address.
  3. Select the name and address.
  4. From the Tools menu, choose Envelopes and Labels.
  5. Select the Envelopes tab. Note that the address is automatically added to the envelope.
  6. Click Add to document.
  7. Click the Print Preview button on the Standard toolbar and note that the envelope is attached to the beginning of the document.
  8. Press the Escape key to cancel out of Print Preview.
  9. From the View menu, choose Normal. Note that Word has added the necessary section break to separate the Landscape envelope from the Portrait letter.

Page Numbers

CK Note: Remember that automatic page numbers are fields. If page numbers are put in your document using Insert | Page Numbers... they are fields inside of frames. In my opinion, this is not a good thing.

 "There are two places you can put page numbers: in the footer  or in the document .  If you put them in the document, you can never get proper control of them.  This is the greatest trap there is for young page-numberers.  The page number MUST be inserted into the footer!  If your document already has page numbers, click on one.  If it shows the square bounding box of a floating text box, it’s in the document: delete it!" 

"Remember that people flipping pages need to have that page number in the most visible spot, and it needs to be in the same place on each page.  Useability research proves that the best place to put it is in the outside bottom corner."

John McGhie, MVP, How to Create A Template, Part II.

I have gone so far as to remove the Page Numbers... command from my Insert Menu!
--Charles Kenyon

Practice: Section Breaks to Format Page Numbers in Complex Documents

In this exercise we will create a document that will contain multiple pages as they might occur in any long legal document such as an agreement. You will use page setup, section breaks, footers and format page numbering.

  1. Create a new blank document.
  2. From the File menu, choose Page Setup and select the Margins tab.
  3. Set all margins for 1" for the entire document, and then click OK.

The document will contain the following elements. If you want to try to setup the document without step by step instruction, create the document as described below. If you need some assistance with setting up the complex document as described below, refer to step 4.

The first page will be the TITLE PAGE.
bulletCenter the text vertically.
bulletNo footer.

The second and third pages will be TABLE OF CONTENTS and TABLE OF AUTHORITIES.
bulletFooter to include:
bulletLeft aligned file name
bulletCentered page number (i, ii, and iii format)
bulletRight aligned date

The fourth page will be TEXT.
bulletFooter to include:
bulletLeft aligned file name
bulletCentered page number (Arabic number format)
bulletRight aligned date

The fifth page will be the TABLE.
bulletLandscape orientation
bulletFooter to include:
bulletLeft aligned file name
bulletCentered page number
bulletRight-aligned date

The sixth (and final) page will be the APPENDIX.
bulletBack to portrait orientation
bulletFooter to include:
bulletLeft aligned file name
bulletCentered page number (Appendix A format)
bulletRight-aligned date

To accomplish the above exercise you must do the following:

  1. From the File menu, choose Page Setup, and set margins, headers and vertical alignment.
  2. Insert Next page section breaks after first, third, fourth and fifth pages. (Place your mouse pointer in each location and then from the Insert menu, choose Next page section break.
  3. Click in a section in the document and from the View menu, choose Headers and Footers.
  4. Turn OFF "Same as Previous" in the footer for the section to disconnect that section from the previous one.
  5. Browse to the next section's footer by clicking on the Show Next button.
  6. Repeat step 7 above.
  7. Click the Insert Page Number button on the Header and Footer toolbar and insert a page number for sections 2,3,4 and 5.
  8. Select each section page number individually and then click the Format Page Number button on the Header and Footer toolbar. Format different page numbering schemes for Sections 2, 3, 4, and 5.
  9. Change page orientation in Sections 4 and 5 by moving the cursor to each section and then clicking the Page Setup button on the Header and Footer toolbar.
  10. Select the Paper Size tab.
  11. Select Landscape and click OK. Click the Close button on the toolbar to leave Header and Footer view and return to the document view.
Dividing a Document Into Sections

In WordPerfect, you can't format by section; you format by page. If you're converting from WordPerfect, you might find this topic difficult at first. Practice with the exercises in this section and on your own to get the hang of section formatting.

A section break is a mark inserted that shows the end of a specific section, and the end of the formatting that is applied to that section. This mark stores the section formatting (page orientation, margins, headers and footers, sequencing of page numbers). The mark appears as a double dotted line and identifies the kind of section break in the center. A section break is inserted by choosing Break from the Insert menu and then selecting the appropriate section break.

There are four types of section breaks in Word:
bulletContinuous. Inserts a break and starts the next section on the same page.
bulletNext Page. Inserts a section as well as a page break and starts the next section on the next page.
bulletOdd. Inserts a section break and starts the new section on an odd page.
bulletEven. Inserts a section break and starts the new section on an even page.

Some reasons for inserting sections breaks include:
bulletColumnar divisions as used in newsletters. (Headline, page width column, two or three columns, page width column).
bulletSeparating the document so that different pages have different margin settings. (First page has list of attorney names in the left margin; and the second page needs wider margins).
bulletFormat page numbers differently within a document. (Title page, Table of Contents, Body text, Appendices).
bulletAllow different headers and footers within the same document. (Different odd and even pages, header and footer text variation, etc.).
bulletPermit different paper sizes and both landscape and portrait orientation in the same document. (Attaching an envelope to a document, presenting a table or chart in landscape view in an exhibit).
bulletControl the layout of a document so that new chapters or subjects always begin on an odd numbered page.
Note Note  The exercises for inserting section breaks are after the section on Page Setup since we will use these two topics together. To understand how to use section breaks to affect the layout of a document, you must also understand how Page Setup works. After reading the section on Section Breaks, you may want to go back to the section on Page Set-up and try the exercises again.

CK Note See Sections - Headers and Footers (Word 97-2003) and Sections - Headers and Footers (Word 2007-2013) for more information. In Word Perfect you might change margins several times on a page to indent text left and right for quotations and such. In Word this is done, not by changing the margins, but by changing the paragraph indents. These indents can be outside the page margins if needed! Margins are section-level formatting while indents are paragraph-level formatting. Unneeded section-level formatting carries with it a lot of surplus information and can make editing more difficult.


Text Alignment / Justification

Text in a Word paragraph can be aligned along the left indent, the right indent, centered, or fully justified. Note the term "indent" rather than margin. These are often the same but can be different.

See Text Alignment in Microsoft Word for more.

(Word 97-2003)

(Word 2007-2013)

Note that these are paragraph settings and are best controlled in paragraph styles rather than direct formatting. (Direct formatting is what you get when you click on a button or use a keyboard shortcut.

Also, if you want to have part of a line be on the left, another part in the center, and yet another part on the far right, this is best done using tab settings or tables.



Styles Basics

Styles can be defined as shortcuts to formatting paragraphs and text. In a document, the heading at the top of every important section might be centered, bold, and have a slightly larger font size. Instead of making those changes every time you come to a new heading, you can use or assign a style to keep that formatting intact. You can also change a style once, and all paragraphs that have that style applied will instantly be updated to reflect the changes. Understanding Styles is essential to working in Word effectively.

Styles in Word differ greatly from the styles in WordPerfect. You may use the styles that come with Word by default as they are, modify them or design your own to best suit your needs. Styles are not turned on and off like a toggle, rather they are assigned to the text or paragraph in question. Using styles will make Word easier to use by reducing editing time and producing more consistent formatting. See Why Use Styles - part of Video tutorials on Word.

To see the available styles in the current document (Word 97-2003), click the arrow at the right side of the Style box, which is the control at the far left side of the Formatting toolbar. You will see both paragraph styles (showing the Paragraph mark ) and Character styles (showing a). To see all the available styles, hold the SHIFT key while clicking on the down-pointing arrow. These are the styles that are built into Word. As a user, you can add your own styles or modify the ones that are already there.

CK Note: To see the available styles in the current document (Word 2007-2013), click the dialog launcher (arrow) in the bottom right corner of the Styles Gallery. You will see both paragraph styles (showing the Paragraph mark ) and Character styles (showing a). To see all the available styles, change the options. These are the styles that are built into Word. As a user, you can add your own styles or modify the ones that are already there.

See Understanding Styles in Microsoft Word to really get a grasp of Styles.

Note An important aspect of styles is the ability to create Tables of Contents without the necessity of adding codes. If you use the heading styles provided by Word, you can build a Table of Contents quickly and easily by choosing Insert, Index and Tables, Table of Contents. Word looks for the entire heading styles you have used (Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc.) and builds the table. If you later modify these headings, there are no codes to change; just a simple keystroke to update! For more information, see the chapter on Fields.

It is possible to display the style of each paragraph that has been assigned. To activate the Style Area, you must be in Normal View. From the Tools menu, choose Options, and then select the View tab. For Style area width, select at least .5" to 1" and click OK. The Style Area will display on the left side of the screen.

Displaying the style of each paragraph in Normal view






To assign a style to a paragraph, place the insertion point in the paragraph and click the down pointing arrow by the Style box. Select the style and the paragraph will take on the formatting assigned to that named style.

If you want to view the definition of a style, from the Format menu, choose Style and the following dialog box appears:

The Style dialog










Note Note  At this point you may choose to Modify the style or design a New one. Note that this Normal style contains both paragraph and character formatting.


Warning Warning  Any style you modify or change will only affect the current document unless you choose to add it to the template. Then it will be available to all documents built on that particular template.

Practice: Design a new Style (My Style) to be Single-Spaced and 1- Inch Indented on Both Right and Left Sides
  1. From the Format menu, choose Style.
  2. Click New. The New Style dialog box appears.
  3. Name the style. (My Style) It may be more than one word, contain spaces, numbers and special characters EXCEPT for: semicolon (;), curly brackets ({…}) and forward slash (/).
  4. From the Style Type list, select Paragraph.
  5. In the Based On list, you may choose to find a style that closely matches the one you want to construct. Remember, if the style you base your style on is changed, it will also change your style! You may also choose No Style.
  6. If you want the text following your new style to be assigned to a specific style (perhaps Normal) select that option in the Style for following paragraph.
  7. Click the Format button and select Paragraph.
  8. On the Indents and Spacing tab, make sure that both the left and right indents are set at 1" and that line spacing is set at Single.
  9. If this is a style you will use frequently and you want it available in all documents based on the existing template, select the Add to Template option. If this is not selected, the style will be available only in the current document and any copies made from it.
  10. If you want to use a shortcut key to apply the style, click the shortcut key button. The following dialog box appears:

    The Customize Keyboard dialog

  11. Click in the Press New Shortcut Key section text box and enter different key combinations (such as ALT+M) until you find a combination that is unassigned. Generally ALT+ a key will be available. Once you find an unassigned shortcut key, click Assign and then click Close.
  12. Try using your new style! Click in the middle of any paragraph on the document that doesn't already have your style applied, and press the keyboard shortcut you selected in the previous step.
Practice: Modify a Style

In this exercise, you will practice modifying a style. You can modify both your styles (user defined) and Word Styles (built-in).

  1. Select Heading 1 and then type in the words Heading One. Notice how it looks. It is bold, 14 pt and left aligned.
  2. Select the text you have just entered and make it italic and centered.
  3. Click in the Style box or press CTRL+SHIFT+S. Do not change the name but instead press ENTER. The following dialog box appears.


    The Modify Style dialog

  4. Select Update the style to reflect recent changes. All paragraphs formatted with this style will change to look like your recently modified selection. The second choice will change the formatting of your selection back to the original style.
  5. Click OK.
  6. CTRL+ALT+1 will access the new heading one style.

Does it work as expected? For much more information, see the section on Styles.


Automatic Paragraph Numbering

Automatic paragraph or outline numbering has nine levels available in each of its' seven default numbering styles. To access these choices, from the Format menu, choose Bullets and Numbering, and select the Outline Numbered tab.

The Bullets and Numbering dialog, with the Outline Numbered tab selected

The three choices in the top of the dialog box format paragraphs with outline numbering schemes. The four remaining choices on the bottom format the paragraphs with outline numbers and apply heading styles to the paragraphs.

If you do not want the formatting of the paragraph changed, make sure you select one of the three styles in the top row. For more information, see the section on Numbering.

Practice: Apply Outline Numbering
  1. From the Format menu, choose Bullets and Numbering, and select the Outline Numbered tab.
  2. Select the second option (1., 1.1, 1.1.1) and click OK.
  3. Type some text and press ENTER. The next paragraph is automatically numbered at the same level.
  4. Press the TAB key or click the Increase Indent icon on the Formatting toolbar. This changes the level of the number. SHIFT+TAB or the Decrease Indent button will reverse the effect.
  5. Continue typing until you have at least three numbered paragraphs. Press ENTER twice to finish the list.
Practice: Edit the Numbering Scheme
  1. To edit your numbering scheme, from the Format menu, choose Bullets and Numbering, and selected the Outline Numbered tab.
  2. Select the numbering option already bordered and click Customize.
  3. To expand the dialog box, click More. If the dialog box is already expanded, the button will read Less.

    The Customize Outline Numbered List dialog

    Note that you can format the font, choose different number styles, and move the alignment of each level of text. This currently shows a period after the number. This may be changed to a parenthetical mark, a colon or something else of your choosing. You can even enter text such as 'Article' or 'Paragraph'. It is, however, important to remember to never manually enter a Number style in the Number format box.

  4. To allow the text to wrap to the left margin, in the Text Position section, set Indent at: to zero (0). Do this for levels one and two. Click OK. Notice that the formatting has changed.
Practice: Use Outline Numbering Linked to Heading Styles
  1. Either open a document that contains Word's heading styles or create one by typing several paragraphs of text and proceed as indicated in steps 2 & 3.
  2. Click anywhere in the first paragraph and press ALT+CTRL+1. This will apply the Heading 1 Style. You can also use ALT+SHIFT+LEFT ARROW or ALT+SHIFT+RIGHT ARROW to apply, promote, and demote heading styles.
  3. Continue this throughout the document using ALT+CTRL+1, 2, or 3 to apply headings.
  4. From the Format menu, choose Bullets and Numbering, and select the Outline Numbered tab.
  5. Choose one of the four options in the bottom row that are linked to Heading styles.
  6. Click OK.
Note Note  This is a very powerful tool. Every paragraph in the document that is formatted with a heading style is now numbered. When a table of contents is generated from headings, the ENTIRE paragraph is placed in the table. If you want only the first few words of the selection to appear in the table of contents, there is a work around called a "hidden paragraph mark."
  1. To use the hidden paragraph mark: In the paragraph formatted with the heading style, place your insertion point after the last word that you want included in the Table of Contents, and add two more spaces. Press ENTER.
  2. Select just the paragraph mark and format it as "hidden" using CTRL+SHIFT+H.
  3. Continue typing text. It will appear as a second paragraph. Click the Show/Hide button to turn off non-printing character display.
  4. Click the Print Preview button on the Standard toolbar. Since the paragraph mark that separates the two items is marked as hidden, text will appear on the same line as the table of contents entry when the document is printed.

CK Note  Beginning with Word 2002 there is a feature called a Style Separator available that is less trouble than the "hidden paragraph mark." See Styles for more on that.

For more on numbering, see that section.



CK Note Word's numbering structure can be very unstable, especially if not linked to styles. You may want to have your numbering rooted in styles and avoid using the Bullets and Numbering gallery shown. Otherwise your numbering may renumber itself seemingly at random. This is (in part) because the numbering gallery shown is not fixed but rather changes from computer to computer and on computers over time. See Numbering for more information. Numbering using the buttons works fine for quick document generation, it becomes unstable when you get to a larger document or have something that needs extensive editing.
Clean Up or Remove Unwanted FormattingFlying Pillcrow - Trademark of AddBalance Word websites.
Note CK Note: The remainder of this chapter is not in the Basic Formatting Chapter in Microsoft Word's Legal Users' Guide. It has not been subjected to the same kind of peer review as the rest of the chapter.

Sometimes your fingers slip and you somehow apply formatting to a word, paragraph, or document that you don't want. Sometimes Word does this for you with Autoformat as you type.

See: Autoformat as you Type / AutoCorrect (link is to incomplete draft chapter) See also: Word is always making changes I don't expect. How can I get more control over my formatting? by Suzanne S. Barnhill, MVP, and Dave Rado, MVP.

AutoFormat as You Type changes you don't want

Immediately after AutoFormat makes the change

Immediately after Word changes your text (capitalizes what you don't want capitalized, changes an underscore into a line (border) across your page, or otherwise fiddles with your text in ways you don't like, use Undo (Ctrl+Z) to set it back. (Backspace will also work at this point.)

Fixing AutoFormat changes later (can't undo)

If you have gone past the point where you can use UnDo...

Unwanted Lines

If it is an unwanted line inserted by Autoformat, go to the paragraph mark immediately before the line and 

Format => Borders and Shading ... 

Make sure that it is set for "paragraph" in the bottom right and click on "None." Close the dialog box. Your line should be gone.

Changing Case of Text Using Formatting and Keyboard Shortcuts
Font Formatting

The Format > Font dialog allows changing to ALL CAPS and SMALL CAPS as a part of the font format. This can be applied directly or through a Style. As with other formatting, this can stick with the text when it is copied. If you place the insertion point inside text formatted this way and type, what you type will adopt that formatting.


Resetting formatting

Sometimes what you (or your boss) have done just isn't working and you feel like starting over. Ctrl+Q will reset the paragraph formatting to its base style. That is, it will undo any changes that have been made to things that can be changed through the Format => Paragraph or Format => Tabs dialogs.

Ctrl+Spacebar will reset the character formatting (bold, underline, etc.) to the underlying character font (of the underlying paragraph style). This is also useful to turn off a character style as you are typing.

The actions of these two reset commands differ somewhat, especially if no text is selected. With text selected, if you press Ctrl+Spacebar, all character formatting for the selected text is reset. Surrounding text is not changed. If no text is selected when you press Ctrl+Spacebar, the reset action still changes the selection - in this point - the insertion bar (cursor). If you start typing, you will be typing in the reset formatting. With Ctrl+Q, you will reset the formatting of the entire paragraph. If you have text in multiple paragraphs selected (whether or not the entire paragraph is selected) those paragraphs will be reset.

See Understanding Styles in Microsoft Word

See also: Nuke Word formatting and start over - Three shortcuts by legal office guru Deborah Savadra

Text Boundaries - display of margins

In versions of Word from Word 97-2010 it was possible to turn on the option to display text boundaries and show the page margins as a dotted line around the text. This changed with Word 2013 / Office 365. For images and a discussion see Display of Text Boundaries in Microsoft Word.

Multiple (Selective) Undo

Word 97 (and later versions) has tremendous Undo capabilities. You can repeatedly click the undo button or press Ctrl+Z. You can also use the down-pointing triangle next to the Undo button to go back as many steps as necessary. While some things you do can't be undone, with Word most can, including things done by macros. 

Note that this Undo information may be stored in your document. See Confidentiality.

Paragraph Marks, Manual Line Breaks and Manual Page Breaks

Show / hide non-printing characters button from Standard toolbar. Possibly the most important button on that toolbar!Paragraph Marks

I always work with paragraph marks showing on my screen. When I don't want to see them, I use print preview. Each paragraph mark is a container for all of the formatting for the paragraph (50-100 different commands to the computer screen and printer). Seeing them reminds me that they are there.

To you and me, a paragraph is a bundled group of sentences with a common idea or theme. To Word, a paragraph is whatever precedes a paragraph mark or whatever is between two paragraph marks.

Generally paragraph marks should not be appearing by themselves because that adds all those extra commands to a file unnecessarily. Instead, if space is needed there, the space-above format of the following paragraph should be changed (or the space-below of the preceding paragraph). Note that using styles for your paragraph formatting rather than changing the formatting directly reduces the number of commands saved in the file with each paragraph mark.

See What do all those funny marks, like the dots between the words in my document, and the square bullets in the left margin, mean? by Suzanne Barnhill, MVP and Dave Rado, MVP.

Manual Line Breaks

You can end a line of text without starting a new paragraph using Shift+Enter. This inserts a manual line break. I use these most often in numbered lists where I want a new line but not a new number. I also use them in the reference and cc: lines which are set (in their styles) as "hanging" paragraphs. Using a line break gives me a properly indented line without space-before or space-after for these parts of a letter. Unlike a paragraph mark, a line break doesn't carry any formatting commands.

Page Breaks (more like line breaks than paragraph marks)

You can end a page (force the start of a new page) using a manual page break inserted with Ctrl+Enter. Page breaks are very much like line breaks, they don't start a new paragraph and carry no formatting information. For purposes of Word, they are contained within the following paragraph. I can't think of a time when I would want to end a paragraph of text with a page break rather than a paragraph mark. When you use a page break to do this, you end up with what looks to you and me like two separate paragraphs on two separate pages. That's how it looks on screen and how it prints. What Word sees, though, is a single paragraph divided by a page break character. Word will treat both "visual paragraphs" as a single one for purposes of formatting that paragraph.

Generally when you need to start a new page with certain text, it is better to format the paragraph for that text with "page break before" instead of inserting a manual page break. It is even better if the style for that paragraph has that characteristic built into the style's definition.

Section Breaks

See Sections - Headers and Footers for more on these, but briefly, section breaks are super paragraph marks. They contain the formatting for the preceding paragraph and the preceding section. The last paragraph mark in a document is also a section break mark. Section break marks contain the header and footer information for the preceding section.

Deleting a Page in Word   

Why is this a problem?

In all versions of Word (at least through Word 2019), Word does not really see "pages" as a construct. It sees sentences, it sees paragraphs, and it sees Sections. It does not see pages. Pages are created, on-the-fly in combination with the current printer driver.

For example, if you insert a manual page break (Ctrl+Enter) at the end of a paragraph you start on a new page, but Word sees the beginning text on the new page and the text on the previous page immediately before the page break as being in the same paragraph. So, if you apply the Heading 1 style to the text at the beginning of your new page, the last paragraph on the previous page will also be in Heading 1 style because, to Word, they are part of the same paragraph.

This is not true if you insert a New-Page Section Break or if you apply "page break before" paragraph formatting.

See Moving/Reorganizing Pages In Microsoft Word

How to Delete a Page

Use the Mouse or Arrow keys to select text on the pages to be deleted. Press Delete.

Note that a "blank page" may not really be blank and that you can have problems deleting a blank page following a table. Both of these problems are addressed in Deleting "Blank" Pages by Suzanne Barnhill.

Using Themes in Microsoft Word

Themes were introduced in Word 2007 to allow dramatic changes  in the appearance of documents that work together. 

Every Office theme defines two fonts — one for headings and one for body text. They can be the same font (used everywhere) or two different fonts. . . In addition, Quick Styles galleries for text and WordArt use these same theme fonts.

Your author knows little about themes. So, rather than expose ignorance, here are some references:

bullet Exactly what settings are changed when the Word 2003 theme is applied?
bullet What is a theme?
bullet Changing your style in the new Word (2013)

Changing the Default Font in Word 2013

On the Microsoft Answers Forum Jay Freedman recently noted that simply changing the font in the normal style in the Normal template used to be the way to change the default font but that in Word 2013 (and later probably) it can have unexpected side-effects. He suggested the following steps:

bulletOpen a new blank document.
bulletClick the Design tab.
bulletClick the Fonts button (near the righ end of the Document Formatting group) and click Customize Fonts at the bottom of the gallery.
bulletChange the Body Font box to Times New Roman, and optionally change the Heading Font and the Name entries. Click OK
bulletClick the Set as Default button (to the right of the Fonts button) and OK the prompt.
bulletTo change the size, first display the Styles pane (Ctrl+Alt+Shift+S) and click the Manage Styles button (third from left at the bottom).
bulletGo to the Set Defaults tab of the dialog. With the "+Body" entry selected in the Font box, select 12 in the Size box. Click the "New documents based on this template" option and click OK.
bulletGo to the Set Defaults tab of the dialog. With the "+Body" entry selected in the Font box, select 12 in the Size box. Click the "New documents based on this template" option and click OK.
bulletClose Word. If you're prompted to save the Normal template, say yes.

See Space-Before and Space-After paragraph formatting in Styles for information on that topic.


This chapter from original Legal Users Guide to Microsoft Word 2002 - document in zip format

Microsoft Word Manual Users GuideCopyright 2000, Microsoft Corporation.
Copyright 2000-2002, 2004-2006, 2010-2024 Charles Kyle Kenyon
See information about copy permission.

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