Video introduction

Direct formatting vs. styles

You’re probably already familiar with direct formatting. It’s when you change the formatting of some text by selecting the part you want to change, and then using buttons and dialog boxes or keyboard shortcuts. With direct formatting, you have to manually change every word in your document. And if you have recurring elements like headings, you have to remember the formatting you’re using.

As you probably already know, this can be tedious. It’s also easy to make mistakes, or use formatting that doesn’t make the structure of the document clear. And if you decide you want to change how a recurring design element looks, you have to go back and change each one.

Styles are another way to control the formatting of a document. Each style has all of your formatting settings already built in to it, so by applying a style to a paragraph or span of text, you can change all of your formatting settings at once. And because you can have different styles for all the different design elements in your document, you don’t have to remember any formatting settings – all you have to do is put the cursor in the paragraph you want to style, then click the style name.

And if you decide later that you want to change the appearance of anything you’ve already applied styles to, you can update the formatting of all those paragraphs at once.

So it’s easier to define the structure of your document in a way that’s clear to anyone. And as an added benefit, styles are also a form of under-the-hood semantic markup that tags what each element is in a way that computers can understand, so you can export those styles to other programs, like InDesign.

Paragraph styles vs. character styles

We’ll be using two kinds of styles in manuscripts: character styles and paragraph styles.

Character styles control the formatting of text: things like typeface, font size, bold, italic, and shading. Basically anything you can change about just a group of characters.

Paragraph styles, on the other hand, control everything that character styles control plus anything you can format at the paragraph level, like line spacing, alignment, bullets and numbering, and borders. This changes the formatting of the whole paragraph.

Everything in a document always has both a character style and a paragraph style. You can see the current style of whatever text you selected in the Style Inspector.

The default Word style for paragraphs is called Normal, and the default style for characters is called Default Paragraph Font. Some formatting, like font size, is controlled by both paragraph and character styles. In these cases, the character style always overrides the paragraph style. If you want the paragraph style formatting to show, the character style needs to be set to Default Paragraph Font. This just tells Word to default to the formatting in the current paragraph style.

On this page

  • No labels