Styles in Word 2013-making your writing look loads better and saving you hours of editing time; Direct Formatting is for barbarians

Look, some of you aren’t using styles in Word. If you’re writing a book in Word, you should IMMEDIATELY start using them. I’ll give you a detailed guide, below, on how to do them if you do not know how. Even if you do know how, perhaps there might be something here you don’t know.

And for some of you, it might be helpful because you’ve received a Word document that used styles and you were swearing at it because you had no idea why it was manipulating the text like it was and you really didn’t want that font (who uses ComicSanSerif?!) or that large space before the paragraph and the weird tab settings and line spacing and the entire thing was like that. Argh! This will help you. I will reveal all the mysteries and make you a better Word user.

It’s not difficult. If you look at the Home Ribbon of Word, you’ll see styles displayed there. In order to use them, you must turn on the paragraph marks and other hidden formatting, if you haven’t already.  That’s also on the Home Ribbon, and it’s a little paragraph symbol located in the (what else?) paragraph box on the ribbon. When you turn it on, don’t be alarmed. You can now see stuff like paragraphs, spaces, and tabs. This is good.

The styles work like this: You click on the body of the paragraph. And you click the style you want to apply there on the ribbon. Boom, the paragraph is now formatted to that style. The formatting is from the previous paragraph marker (“pilcrow”) to the end of the next paragraph marker.

So it might look like this:

Blah blah blah blah.¶

This is the new paragraph to which the important formatting will be applied.¶

Now, in my particular book, I like reading in Garamond. It’s free and it comes with Word and it’s easy on the eyes. I like a nice 14 point, and I like to indent .2 for paragraphs that are not begun with quotations, and .1 for paragraphs that are. I also like my chapter headings to start on a new page. You can do all this stuff with the magic of Styles.

If you played with the default Styles that Word gives you, you may have decided you don’t like what they’ve got and maybe you want to customize your gig so it makes you happy. If you make changes to the style, it affects ALL the paragraphs that have that style applied. Therefore, even though the default style is “Normal”, never ever touch that. Leave it alone. We’re going to make a new style.

I made a style I called Bookquote.  You get to the styles change box by hitting Alt-Ctrl-Shift-S, or you can hit the little box with an arrow in the bottom right hand corner of the Style box on the Home Ribbon.  Either way, a box showing all the styles will pop up. At the bottom left is a little box with two As in it, and if you mouseover, it should say “Create a new style.” Hit it!

Give your style a snazzy name, like “WalkinthePark” or “I Gave at the Office” or something descriptive that you’ll understand later when you look at it, such as “Book Quote.”

Style type will be paragraph. Don’t alter that unless you’ve got guidance.

Style based on: (No style)

Style for Following paragraph: (leave it with whatever they come up with. Later, when you’ve got a style you want to have follow the one you’re using, such as subheading for a chapter break, you can tell it what to give you when you hit enter, and the next paragraph will be formatted with whatever style you told it here.)

Next, select the font and font size. This will be uniformly applied to each of the paragraphs with this style.  Go with something readable, or go Comic San Serif if you’re crazy. It’s your book. I put in a Garamond 14 point.

Next is justification – left, right, center, justified. If you use left justification, remember Kindle can do the work of justification later, and you’re fine with left. You can select the spacing (single, 1.5, 2). Ignore the arrow boxes next to that, we’re going to do that manually in a moment.

Click the box “Add to Styles Gallery” and the “Only in this Document.

Format Paragraph

Almost there!  Now select Format>>Paragraph. You’ll see some stuff you just did above, but we’re going to adjust some stuff to make it better. On the indents and spacing tab, under indentation, you can select whether you want all these paragraphs to do something special, or not. If you want an indent on the first line, select the Special box and select “First Line.” Then in the box to the right,  make that the indent, say .12 if you’re in the US and a few millimeters if you’re not. For all the paragraphs beginning with a quotation mark, I set it for .12. For paragraphs that do NOT have a quotation mark, it’s set for .2. I use two different styles to obtain this; you cannot have a style set for two different indents. Since this is BookQuote, I’ve got it set for .12, and that leaves the quotation mark hanging out a bit, while all the text lines up on the first line of each paragraph. It looks pretty elegant, and the readers may not notice it but it’s a nice-to-have.

If you want to use the nifty table of contents (TOC) feature, you can change >>Outline Level.  If you leave your text as body text, it won’t be selected for the TOC. But if you were to make your chapter heading style level 1, then when you compose the TOC later, any text in that particular style will be sucked into the TOC.  In my manuscript, I use a style called “Chapter Heading” which is level 1 outline level, and the text is Palotino Linotype 48 point centered with a 48 point space before, 24 point space after, and a page break before. When I do up the TOC, it’ll list

Chapter 1……………………… 1
Chapter 2………………………14

and so on.

But back to styles. We were still in formatting. If you want a space before or after your paragraph, you can add it here.  I use points because that’s what I was taught, but I believe you can change this to millimeters or inches or something else.  For instance, I may wish to have a 12 point space before (that’s a normal line size) and a 12 point space after the paragraph.  If you have two paragraphs butting against each other with the 12 point spaces before/after, you’ll end up with a two-line 24 point space. You can fix that by clicking the box, “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style.” [This is something WordPerfect cannot do. WordPerfect is the reason we cannot have nice things. But this isn’t about WordPerfect… though if you happen to be using it, and I don’t know why you would, it also has styles and you should employ them in your documents.] So, usually with most paragraphs, I’ll either use just a 12 point space after or no space at all.

Next to the before/after is Spacing. I set mine at 1.5 for most paragraphs, as that gives a nice amount of line separation for readability in my 14 point Garamond. Figure out what works for you and use that. You could single space if you really wanted, but that will give you cluttered, awful-looking text. Trust me.


Line and Page Breaks

Next, leave tabs alone (I’m not going to go into that here), and click the “Line and Page Breaks” tab at the top. That Pagination section? This is where you control what happens to the paragraph if it’s at the bottom of a page.  The Widow/Orphan Control box will control whether a single line may remain at the bottom or top of a page. If you click it, Word will make it so the single line is joined by another line of the paragraph and it won’t be lonely.

Keep with Next is something you can use for subheadings, for instance. I don’t recommend it for regular body text, as it will glue the paragraph to the one following it.  So, say you have a subheading of one line, like:

Peter Does the Wrong Thing

[Of course, you created a subheading style and built in the bold and underlining, right?] And it’s followed by a paragraph like this:

   Peter leapt to his feet and proclaimed, “you must recognize when I identify as something else! Today, I am a rock or something!”

Unfortunately, your subheading is at the very end of the page. So it’s all by itself. You want the subheading to always appear with the paragraph following. So you fix your subheading style by clicking the Keep with Next box.  BOOM! Instant gratification. It’s now dropped onto the next page with the text it wants to be next to.

Keep Lines Together. This gives me Captain and Tenille flashbacks, for sure. Love, love will keep us together… I digress. This just means your entire paragraph will appear on one page. If you have a long paragraph that starts at the middle of a page and doesn’t finish before the bottom of the page, Word will toss the paragraph onto the next page and leave a huge gap on the page.  Use this one carefully if you’re inclined toward long paragraphs. I don’t usually click this for the above reasons, especially when dealing with 80,000 word manuscripts.

Page Break Before. As mentioned above, I’ll use this for Chapter breaks.  Click this box if you want the style to begin a new page.  This is ideal for chapter breaks or headings where you know you want them on a new page. Instead of inserting a page break manually (Ctrl-Enter), which is so last century, you use a style to do it, instead.

There are two Formatting Exceptions. Of those two, Suppress Line Numbers isn’t something you’ll be dealing with unless you decide to include line numbers, and since that’s outside the scope of this guide, I’m going to send you to Microsoft help, which link is good at the time this was published on September 14, 2016.  Good luck. If you have line numbers but want to suppress line numbers in your style, click the box. Look! No line numbers. For most of you, you do NOT have line numbers and this will mean nothing to you. Clicking the box won’t hurt, but it’s not necessary, either.

Don’t Hyphenate. What it says. Hyphenation, if it’s turned on, will be turned off for this paragraph. I like hyphenation. It makes the manuscript look nicer when you have your long collegiate words, like “hyphenation,” clogging the end of a line.  If you’re using full justification, it’ll leave gaps in your beautiful manuscript. Anyway, if you want a paragraph to NOT be hyphenated, click this.

I won’t go into text boxes here, as this is an advanced function fraught with danger for the novice. So leave that alone.

Click OK, then click OK again.

Make ‘Em Easy to Use

Now that you’ve got your new styles, you’ll want to make them easily accessible. To apply a style, click on the paragraph you want to change (anywhere in the paragraph) and click the button for that style. It’s that easy. Note your style was applied to the paragraph.

But the pesky style ribbon above has a lot of styles you’re not using. This once, you go up to styles you’re not using and right click it, then select “Remove from Style Gallery.” That just removes it from the ribbon, it doesn’t delete it permanently.

Take a look at the available styles. Word ships with dozens of styles, some of which might be what you’re already looking for. You can go in and modify the style to make it your own, if you’d like.

If you have questions, ask ’em, I probably have an answer.  If you found this guide useful, drop me a line so I know I’m not just talking to myself.  😉 Happy writing!



2 thoughts on “Styles in Word 2013-making your writing look loads better and saving you hours of editing time; Direct Formatting is for barbarians

  1. I found that if you do the styles right, it transfers to the Kindle with no issues at all. The text looks clean and right.

    Now, if I could figure out how to format stuff on the Kindle, I’d be set.


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