Now with YouTube tutorial – just click the link at the bottom of the blog post to see me go through this on video
Using the right tools when writing is essential, and in this post, I’m going to be explaining how to use Style Sheets in Microsoft Word which can really help with your writing goals.
Now, I’m not a fan of Microsoft Word, especially for formatting. It just doesn’t give you enough control to place text where you want it to go, BUT for planning out your book, and writing out the first draft, it does the job. Plus, there is a great tool within Word, and if it’s used properly, can really help you with your writing content as you can see your whole book mapped out, which is really helpful when you’re in your draft phase.
This little-known feature in Word really can make your writing process clearer and easier to manage. It’s a super easy tool to use and it can really help you organize your book as you can drag and drop entire sections of your book (in the navigation pane) which then moves those sections for you in your Word document. It takes about 5-10 minutes to set up, but once you have, you will then have a very powerful aid that can be used in lots of writing tasks, like blog posts, or articles.
Word does come with styles already set, but I’m going to show you how to customise it and give you a clear understanding of how it works… then you can set your own headings and subheadings to fit the tone of your work.
Getting to grips with headings
Before I get into the step by step instructions of style sheets, I think it’s really important to explain what I mean by heading allocation. So, what is a heading 1? This is the first major heading of your work. If you’re writing a book or something with many chapters or sections, then I would use the title style for the name of your piece. If you’re writing an article, then use the heading 1 style for your article heading.
Chapter numbers and chapter name (Or your article title) = Heading 1
First important heading within that chapter (or article) = Heading 2
A subheading of heading 2, is heading 3. And you might need a heading 4, to show a title of a checklist.
Take a look at the diagram on the right, so you can see what I mean. The text under each heading is ‘normal’ text (which I explain in step 2).
Having proper heading allocation to your piece will really help the reader understand the flow of your writing. These clearly define the right sections for your work, and if the piece is long and complex, having the text broken up with headings will help the reader. I don’t usually use more than 4 headings – so keep this in mind when you’re setting up your styles.
So now you understand heading allocation, let’s get cracking with using your style sheets.
How to use Style Sheets
When you open up a new Word document, you will have a list of menu options at the top of your document, like this.
You’re looking for the little arrow on the right-hand corner of the styles section. I’ve circled it in red for you.
Step 1. Select the styles panel
So, to get started, select the little arrow icon at the bottom of the styles menu on your blank word document. (Shown above in the style sheets location.) When you click this, you’ll get a menu of options to the right of your word document which looks like this;
You will notice that the list comprises of Headings (up to 2) – and other types of styles.
Normal? What’s normal?
Normal -> this is what your main text is, and I suggest an easy to read font like Cambria, or Times New Roman, set at 12pt. I explain below how to change the style in a bit, but its default setting is Calibri 11pt, which I think is quite hard and small to read.
You then have other ‘styles’ options, including heading 1, heading 2, Title, Subtitle etc. For this blog post, I’m just going to talk about title, heading 1 & 2, and normal styles. (If you wish to explore the other options, Google has loads of information on all the different styles available, but unless you’re going to be designing loads of stuff for print, then I suggest just getting to grips with the ones I outline in this post will be more than enough.)
Once you’ve set up these ‘styles’, you can then simply highlight the text you want to have as that style, and apply the correct style by clicking on the corresponding choice from the menu. Voila, the highlighted text changes to the style you’ve set up.
What is really fantastic about this feature is, if you’ve written a chapter, and you realise that you’ve set up heading 1 (for example) with too big a font, or you don’t like the font you’ve chosen, you can simply change the heading 1 in the styles menu, and hey presto… all of the heading 1’s have now been updated with your new selection!
Step 2. Setting up your styles
First, let’s look at your normal style. As I mentioned before, I usually change this style to either Cambria or Times new Roman as it’s nice and easy to read. The default setting is Calibri (Microsoft Office 2016) at 11 point, which I find really small. So, to change the Normal style font, you simply hover your cursor over the Normal option on the style menu, and you’ll notice a down arrow at the end of the box. Like this…
(This applies to ALL the styles, so when we come to change any of the headings, we are going to do the same thing.) Hover your mouse over the normal style down arrow and click it; you should get a menu selection as shown in Diagram 3, and you’re looking for the ‘Modify…’ option.
Select this and another window will open in your document – this is where all of your choices are for font selection. I’m going to show you the basic set up, but once you get more confident, or if you do any further learning, then you’ll realise that you have lots of choices to choose from in this panel.
So, for now, we are just going to change the Formatting section (font choice and size) and the Format section (you can see this at the bottom of this box, to the left of the OK and Cancel options) for text alignment and spacing.
So, go ahead and change the font allocation to what you want (under the formatting subheading) by clicking the down arrow to the right of the font name, (It’s highlighted in this picture, and the down arrow is circled) and a list will appear of all the different fonts you can have (see Font choice menu diagram below).
You can now choose which font you want your normal text to be, (use the sliding bar to the right of the font list, to get more choices), and if you want to change the point size, just click the little down arrow where it says 11 and choose the font size accordingly. I like 12 myself, but you might prefer a higher or lower number. Press OK when you’re happy with your selection. This will take you back to the style menu. If you want a font size that’s not listed don’t use the down arrow, actually highlight the number itself, and change it to what you want. You can even have .5 of a point if you want.
We haven’t quite finished yet, as we are now going to alter the text alignment and paragraph spacing. Click on the Normal down arrow tab again (Diagram 1 and 2), and hit modify, and select the ‘Format’ box at the bottom of that panel, (step 1.) This will bring up a list of options, and you’ll want to choose ‘paragraph’, (step 2.) This is where we are going to set up text alignment, and spacing after paragraphs.
After selecting Paragraph… you’ll get a box looking like this…
It’s from this panel that you select text alignment (how the text aligns itself on the page) and spacing after paragraphs. (I use 10pt.)
I like to use justified text, which means that the text goes all the way to the end of the margin, and creates a nice clean right-hand edge. Left alignment gives you a raggedy right edge. Centred centres the text, and right align gives you a raggedy left-hand side of the text. Simply click on the right arrow drop down option where it says ‘alignment’, (top circle) and select the alignment you want. If you’re happy with left aligned (the default setting) then don’t change anything.
The spacing after a paragraph is the space between new paragraphs – when you hit enter on your keyboard. Don’t get this confused with line spacing (this is the lines within the paragraph). If you want to adjust the line spacing, then use the up and down arrows on the ‘At’ section, which is just right of the Line spacing option. (I like to keep it at the default, but some like a bigger gap between their lines. If you want to change the spacing between the paragraphs, then click the up and down arrows in the ‘After’ section, (bottom circle) and you’ll notice the sample text will change in the preview box.
Remember to hit OK once you’ve made your selections. You’ve now set up your Normal style sheet. (Feel free to have a play around, but remember, once you choose your options, this will then become your normal template… and all future documents will have this same formatting!)
Now that you’ve got to grips with changing ‘normal’ style, the same process works for your heading options.
Simply click on the down arrow* on the Heading 1 style, (select ‘modify’ – see diagram 4) and change the font, and size of your Heading 1. I always suggest using a contrasting font, like Myriad Pro, and I usually give it a size above 18 pt. There are several other little tricks I use as well, to make my headings even better…
If you want to have your Heading 1 centred (not ‘justified’, like we chose for normal body text) there is a quick little shortcut you can use to choose this…
As you can see in Diagram 5, I have changed the Formatting to Myriad Pro, and I’ve used the centred icon which will centre your text. (You have left aligned, right aligned, centre and justified choice.) Have a play with what works for you. You can even change the colour of your text, (the default is a blue as shown in diagram 4) but you can change this by clicking the down arrow by the bar of blue in the formatting area of the menu. I’ve chosen black… but you can, of course, have whatever colour you like.
I usually choose the bold option too (The little box with the B in it) for all my headings. You can select that, by clicking the B button in the formatting section. Remember to hit OK once you’ve made your choices.
Heading 2, 3 and 4 can all now be changed in exactly the same way make sure you choose the text size to fit your hierarchy. So, heading 2 might go down to 16 Bold, heading 3 might go to 14 Bold and heading 4 might got 12 Bold and italicised. Have a play and see how it looks. Just remember to hit OK after each selection, otherwise your changes won’t be saved.
Once you have all your styles set up, you can now either start a new document, using the style sheet pane to define what text has what style, or you can open an already written piece, and then go through and select the specific text which needs styling in the new styles. Remember, if you’ve changed the normal text, you’ll need to select all the body copy and change it to the normal style.
*A word of warning, when clicking on the styles… if you have your cursor at the beginning of a written paragraph, and you hit the heading 1 selection (and not the arrow) the whole paragraph will change to Heading 1 style. Don’t panic… just click back on normal, and the text will go back to how it was!
Step 3. Adjust your ‘before’ and ‘after’ spacing
So, you now have your style sheet set up, and your headings all nicely formatted. The next little trick will make sure that your navigation window works at its best… so bear with me while I explain the last few steps with you.
Get the spacing right!
So, you now have selected a bit of text, and applied a heading 1 style to it. Your natural response is probably to manually put in a space (by hitting the enter key) before you start typing in normal body text. STOP! That is technically wrong… so let me show you how to set up each heading which automatically puts in the spacing for you (and in doing so, will set up your navigation window correctly).
So, go back to your style sheets menu, select your style you’re going to change (Heading 1 for example) click on the down arrow, next to the heading 1 option and choose modify. Then go to the format option at the bottom left-hand corner, and select paragraphs, like we did for choosing our font. Then take a look at the spacing section; you’ll notice a ‘space before’ and a ‘space after’ option. Now, if heading 1 is only going to be used at the beginning of your document, you don’t need a space before, because your heading 1 will be at the beginning of a page, but your space after is how much space you want before you start normal text starts. I usually have this at 24pt. This gives a nice clean space between your heading 1 and text.
Now, your heading 2, 3 and 4 all need to have a space before, because this is usually is inserted within normal text, like this:
So, for heading 2, I usually allocate 10pt before and after, heading 3, 10pt before and 6pt after and heading 4 the same. But you can have a go, and see what works for you. When you hit enter after you’ve written or styled your heading text, your style should automatically go back to ‘normal’ and your spacing should be set. If you use manual spacing (by entering a hard return, or by pressing enter) you will have gaps showing on your navigation pane, so it’s much better (and correct) to set up your headings with their own spaces before and after.
Step 4. Using the Navigation Pane
So, what has all of this been set up for? Well, now we’ve done the hard work, you’ll be rewarded with being able to see your project, in full, with all the relevant headings listed in its hierarchy order. Plus, if you feel a section of text is in the wrong place, you can simply drag and drop that particular section, and it moves it for you in your document as well.
Let me show you what I mean. So, for this document, when I view the navigation pane, I see this…
All my headings are catalogued, in the order they are given, so you’ll notice that ‘Normal’ Style’ is slightly indented… that’s because it’s a heading 2.
To view the navigation pane, click the View tab at the top of your Word document menu (1.), and select Navigation Pane (2.) in the show section. When you check the navigation pane, the navigation menu will appear to the left of your document (3.).
Now you can see your whole project, in one go… magic! Also, if the list is quite long, and you want to get to a particular section quickly, simply place your curser over the relevant heading title in the navigation panel, click once and you’re taken straight to it, in your document. No need to scroll with your mouse.
Step 5. Moving sections with ease
If you feel that a section is in the wrong place, you can simply drag and drop the heading which precedes the section, to where it needs to go, and the whole section will be moved in your document. No need to cut and paste – and you can see exactly where it needs to go, as you do it all in the navigation pane.
So, for example, if I wanted to move the section ‘Heading Styles’ above ‘Normal Styles’, instead of cutting and that whole section in my document, scrolling to the correct place and then pasting it, I can simply place my mouse over the ‘Heading Style’ section in the navigation pane, click and hold the left button, drag the bar and place it over the ‘Normal Style’ section. You’ll notice a thick line will appear and a shaded rectangle (my print screen doesn’t show this, so I can’t take a screen grab) let go of your left button, and voila, the section is now above the Normal Style, and you’ll notice that in your document, your text has been moved as well! Absolutely magic.
Bird’s eye view
This is a super convenient tool to use – especially if the piece is quite long, as you can clearly see the whole thing in one go. You can check that your sections are all in the correct place, and set at the right level.
Have a go at this tool and see how you get on. It’ll make your writing projects much easier to see and edit, and will help you with clarifying your book’s content.
If you want to see this as a video tutorial, just head over to this link Style Sheets explained to see it on YouTube.
I’d love to know how you get on, so please do leave a comment in the comments box below.