Sunday, December 22, 2013

4 Reasons to use Styles in Microsoft Word and a quick "how to"

Microsoft Word has many bells and whistles - sometimes I think too many.  Styles is one feature that I have found worthy to learn and use regularly.  Styles are simply pre-configured formats (such as font, size, color) for common elements (such as titles, bold / emphasis, headings, etc.) that are found in documents.  While you can customize styles, I tend to use the out of the box Styles within Word as this makes it very simple in environments where editing documents is often done by numerous individuals.  It is easy to use Styles in Word and you will find that it is a quick way to create very professional looking documents.  Here are my 4 reasons to use Styles:

  1. Help the author organize thoughts

  2. Readers are able to quickly find desired content

  3. Accessibility (Section 508) - using styles help to tag (mark) content for screen readers

  4. Enables you to create a quick Table of Content in Word.
For this quip, I will be using Word 2010 to create screen shots.  In Word, 2010, Styles are located on the ribbon, in the Home tab, Styles group as shown below:

When starting any document, I start by sketching out some global thoughts.  In the "old" days, many were taught to organize a document using an outline where you would experience an opportunity to try to look sophisticated by using Roman numerals.  I don't find it necessary to go to that extent, simply jotting down some high level thoughts such as below is a good start.

From here, you can either start to fill in your thoughts / text below each subject area OR you can apply your Styles from the start.  To apply a Style, simply select the line of text, then go the Styles grouping and select the appropriate Style.  The Heading levels are my most frequently used Style and using headings will allow you to make use of Word's automation to create a table of contents for your document.  I have applied my Styles below:

If you have used your Styles consistently in your document, you can easily create a table of contents by placing the cursor at the location in the document where you want your table of contents, then click on the "References" tab and then the "Table of Contents" button and select the table style that you prefer.  

Viola, you have a professional looking table of contents as shown below.  Note:  As you edit your document, the page numbering may change; you can refresh the table of contents by right clicking on the table, then click "Update Field" and then "Update Entire Table".