Styles – A Consistent Way of Formatting Elements of Your Document

Are you formatting each heading in your document individually? Want to automatically begin new paragraphs with an indentation? How about photos automatically centered and offset from text? You get these benefits and more with document styles.

Styles are a way of creating format settings that you can apply to specific elements of your document, such as headings, body text, photos, captions and much more. Once you know how to set up a style, you can set up as many others as you need. For purposes of this article, we will use Microsoft Word to set up styles of document headings.

Heading Styles

Headings provide a way of grouping your text into an organized manner. Headings inform the reader that the topic is changing. Some topics have many subtopics that are grouped under lower-level headings. This manner of dividing a document can continue to several levels of detail, as appropriate to the subject matter. A common practice is to use a seraph font for text and a san seraph font for headings. In the event that these terms are new to you, I will explain.

A seraph font is designed with extensions (called seraphs) on the letters in the font. San Seraph means “without seraph,” so they have no extensions. Compare, for example, a Times New Roman font capital H with an Arial font capital H.

Seraphs make the letters easier to read and, therefore, are preferred for body text. There are many fonts that are seraph, Times New Roman being very common. San Seraph fonts have a cleaner look to them and are generally preferred for headings and areas of limited text (ads, brochures, etc.).

To format a level 1 heading, such as a chapter title, set your cursor where you want the title, click on the Format menu and select Style. Make sure that the List window shows Styles in use, then select Heading 1 in the Styles box. Click the Modify button and the Modify Style window appears. Change the Based on setting to (no Style), which is at the very top of the list of styles. Be sure that Normal appears in the Style for following paragraph.

Click on the Format button and select Font. This brings up the Font window. Since this heading will be your document title, make choices to suit your desire, such as Arial, Bold, 20 Point, all caps, then click Ok twice, then Apply. You now have Heading 1 set as a style in the Style window of the tool bar. You can apply this style to every chapter title in your document simply by selecting the title then selecting Heading 1 in the Style window of the Toolbar.

Body Text Headings

Body text headings should begin two to four point sizes larger than the text size. How you decide depends on what looks good and how many levels of heads you will have in your document. If you have made an outline to your document, you have a good idea of the number of levels you will need. What is important is to have your heads become progressively smaller until the smallest one or two are at the same size as body text.

Place your cursor on your largest body heading (heading 2 for example) and repeat the process explained above for Heading Level 1, applying font and paragraph settings as appropriate to this head.

When you are done, you should have all the headings you have formatted in the Style window of the toolbar, ready to apply as needed.

Don’t limit your styles to just headings. You can set a style for Body Text (usually Normal style) to indent first lines of paragraphs, create a style for photos to be centered and offset from text, and for captions, to name but a few.


In this article, we explained the benefits from creating styles for your document. We defined the terms seraph and san seraph, as they apply to fonts. We provided an exercise for setting up a title style and instructions for setting up body text heads and other elements such as photos and captions.

Source by C. P. Carney

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