Word: Styles, part 2 – more on customizing and clearing styles

This is a continuation of my short series on using styles in Word. Last time I went over applying styles and creating an automatic table of contents. This week I will go into a little more depth on modifying the built-in styles and how to clear styles from existing content.

Modifying built-in styles

Word has some very good built-in style sets which provide us with a good bit of flexibility, but I often feel the need to tweak things a little. To change style settings on a broad basis, the Style section of the Home ribbon gives us some simple solutions. The Change Styles menu allows us to change Style Set, Colors, and Fonts.


Experiment with these options before tweaking individual styles, as you may find exactly what you’re looking for. Once you have a style set, fonts, and colors selected, there are two primary ways to modify the built-in styles individually: 1. the easy way, and 2. the involved way.

The easy way:

  1. Format some text to suit your needs. In the example below, I’ve tailored a subheading with a particular font, weight (bold), color, size, border, alignment, and vertical spacing (paragraph settings).
  2. Once the text looks the way I want, select the text. For a heading or subheading style, I like to select the entire line:
  3. Choose a style category (e.g., Heading 3) from the Styles section of the Home ribbon and right-click on it.
  4. Select “Update [style name] to Match Selection”
  5. Now the style should match your selection and can be applied throughout the document.

The involved way:

  1. Choose a style from the Styles section of the Home ribbon. Alternatively, you can click on the lower-right corner of the Styles section to display the Styles pane.
  2. Right-click on the style and select “Modify.”
  3. This will display a dialog box which gives you a very large number of options for customizing a style.
  4. Many of the options are on the face of the dialog box, but the Format button at the bottom-left gives a comprehensive set of options:
  5. Explore the options and experiment, if you dare.

Clear existing styles

Sometimes we paste in text from other documents, and often by default Word keeps the source style. To start fresh and apply your own styles, the solution is easy yet hard to find.

  1. Open the Styles pane as shown earlier.
  2. Select the text from which you want to remove formatting.
  3. Click “Clear All” on the Styles pane.
    The text should now look normal:
  4. Alternatively, you can selectively clear formatting by opening the Style Inspector for the selected text.
  5. With the text selected, click the Style Inspector button at the bottom of the Styles pane.
  6. The Style Inspector window will open, detailing all of the bad choices made:
  7. Click any of the buttons along the right side to clear the applicable formatting. This window can also be used to modify the style or clear all formatting from the selected text.
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