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Re-formatting Documents with Word Styles

Removing manual formats from Word documents in preparation for formatting them using Word styles.

Last updated on 2019-04-08 by David Wallis.


In Working with Word Styles, I enthuse over the use of styles as the most efficient way of setting the format and layout of letters, proposals, reports and so on.

There are occasions when a document that’s been manually formatted would benefit from formatting using Word styles. In this article I describe how you can take a manually formatted document and prepare it for setting it in styles.

Preparing a Document for Styling

In this document, the author has set the typeface, point size and colour of the heading and sub headings, and of the body text as he has gone along, without resorting to styles:

Applied Word Styles

If we attempt to apply styles to the document as it stands, his manually-applied formatting and the styles we are attempting to apply will almost certainly clash, with unexpected results. So, what I recommend is we remove all the existing formatting as our first step. To achieve this, we’ll use the Styles pane:

Display Styles pane

Firstly, select the whole document. The shortcut Ctrl + A will achive this.

Then select Clear All from the Pane.

This action will remove all the formatting and will leave the text set in the Normal style.

Now we have a plain document to which we can apply styles:

Word Document

Admittedly the assignment of styles to the now unformatted document will be a chore, but the pay-off will come if you subsequently need to reformat your document. If you’re using the document as the basis for a template, then the effort will certainly prove worthwhile.

Keyboard Shortcuts

These are shortcuts that you might find useful:

Ctrl+Alt+1 sets to Heading 1 style the paragraph in which you’ placed the editing cursor.

Ctrl+Alt+2 sets to Heading 2 style the paragraph in which you’ placed the editing cursor.

Shift+Ctrl+N sets to the Normal style the paragraph in which you’ placed the editing cursor.

Alt+H E removes any manually-set formatting from the selected text, returning everything to the Normal style.

F4 repeats your previous action, including that of Shift+Ctrl+N and Alt+H E.

More on Styles

Follow this link to DMW’s page of techniques for removing unwanted characters and spaces from a document.

This one for techiniques in managing white space after headings and between paragraphs.

Managing Styles illustrates how to keep a track of the styles you’ve applied to your document.

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“The downside of word processing — it's quite possible to never end a work-in-progress.”

James P Starlin.