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Re-formatting Documents with Microsoft® Word Styles

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

Other pages on application of atyles to Word documents:

Last updated on 2020-05-26 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, sub headings and body text as he has gone along, without resorting to styles:

Word documnet heading styles

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

Word document Display Styles pane

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 an unformatted document, set throughout in the Normal style, to which we can apply our choice of additionial styles:

Unstyled 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.

Nip over to Re-formatting Documents with Word Styles for details of how to apply styles.

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 or Ctrl+Spacebar 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 About Working on Documents

These are other topics on document creation and upkeep:

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

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