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Formatting in Microsoft® Word - Quick Guide

This guide introduces you to a few simple and useful formatting skills which will save you time and help you create a consistent and professional looking document.

For less frequently used formatting features, which may be particularly useful if you are creating your dissertation, there is also a Formatting in Microsoft Word - Further Features help sheet. 

Note: this guide has been produced using Microsoft Word 2010. Other versions of Word may differ.

It is advisable to format your document as you create it. However, if you have a completed or near completed document that you are adding formatting to, always start at the beginning of the document and work logically towards the end as each change you make has an effect on the later portion of the document.

Note: If the formatting is behaving in an unexpected way, Copy and then Paste (Keep Text Only) everything into a new document. This will remove any problem formatting and you can begin to format your document again.

Using Styles

Apply Styles

Styles are important. They give your document structure and help to save you time, as they enable you to automatically create a table of contents, and export text to a PowerPoint presentation.

Use Styles to format your title, headings and sub headings. Use them logically (eg use the Heading 1 style for the most important heading, Heading 2 for sub headings etc). This will make your Table of Contents easier to read.

To apply a style: 

  1. Select the text.
  2. Click on the Home tab. In the Styles group, click on the dialog box launcher in the bottom right hand corner.
  3. The Styles pane will open, listing all the available Styles for your document. Click on a style to apply it.

Modify Styles

You can modify a Style (eg, font family, size, colour, spacing etc.). To do this:

  1. Hover over the Style you want to modify in the Styles pane (see steps 2 and 3 above to open the Styles pane) and then click on the arrow next to the Style.
  2. Click on Modify.
  3. Click on Format at the bottom left of the Modify Style window and select the relevant option, eg Font.

Create your own Quick Styles

You can design your own Quick Style with the features that you require, like font size, spacing before and after paragraphs and double-line spacing. Your new Quick Style is held within the document, and will be available each time you open it.

  1. Format the section of text to suit your needs and then select it.
  2. Right click on the selected text, click on Styles and then Save Selection as New Quick Style.
  3. Give the Style a meaningful name and click on OK.

Your newly created style now appears in the Style Gallery ready for you to use.

Using numbered headings

  1. Click on Home tab - Paragraph group - Multilevel List. Select a style (containing Headings) in the List Library.
  2. Type the first heading text and then press Enter.
  3. When you want the next numbered heading, click the relevant style, eg for a sub-heading, click on Heading 2.

Inserting a Table of Contents

A table of contents can be automatically generated from the heading styles in your document. To create a table of contents:

  1. Position the cursor where the table of contents is to go. Click on the References tab - Table of Contents group - Table of Contents.
  2. Click on Insert Table of Contents.
  3. If you have used captions on figures within your document and want to display them within your table of contents, click on Options..., put a TOC level number in the Captions box and click on OK.
  4. Click on OK. Your table of contents will be created.

To update a table of contents:

  1. Click on the References tab - Table of Contents group - Update Table.
  2. Select Update the page numbers only, or Update the entire table and click on OK.

Note: If you have used captions in your document, you can insert a Table of Figures or include them in your Table of Contents.

Inserting a Table of Figures

A table of figures can be automatically generated from the captions added to figures in your document.

Adding a caption

  1. Select the figure. Click on the References tab – Captions group – Insert Caption.
  2. From the label drop down list, select a type, eg Figure.
  3. From the Positions drop down list, select where you want the caption to appear.
  4. Click on OK.

Note: to create a custom label type, in the Captions dialogue box, click on New Label.

Creating a Table of Figures

  1. Click where you want the table of figures to appear. 
  2. Click on ReferencesInsert Table of Figures.
  3. From the Caption label drop down list, select the label type to be displayed.
  4. Click on OK.

Note: If you have used multiple label types in your document you will need to create a table for each.

Integrating the Table of Figures into a Table of Contents

If you don't want to have multiple tables for different label types, you can display them all within your table of contents. To do this:

  1. When creating your table of contents, click on Options...
  2. In the box next to Captions, type a TOC level number, eg 3.
  3. Click on OK and OK again.

Updating tables

Tables of figures and tables of contents are updated in the same way.

  1. Right click on the table and select Update Field.
  2. Select either Update page numbers only or Update entire table.
  3. Click on OK.

Adjusting margins and line spacing

Adjusting margins

If you are required to have specific margins in your document, you may need to adjust the existing one:

  1. Click on Page Layout tab - Page Setup group - Margins.
  2. Select one from the list or click on Custom Margins to enter your own settings.

Adjusting line spacing

To adjust the line spacing for a specific portion of your document:

  1. Select the text.
  2. Click on Home tab - Paragraph group - Line spacing. Select an option from the list, eg 2.0 for double-spacing.

Note: To set the margins or line spacing for the whole document, change the settings in the styles used or create a Quick Style. See the section on Using Styles.

Inserting page and section breaks

Page breaks

To continue your document on a new page, do not press the Enter key repeatedly. This will cause gaps to appear in the wrong places in your document as you make further changes. To insert a page break correctly:

  1. Position the cursor where you want the next page to start. Click on Insert tab - Pages group - Page Break.

Section breaks

Creating a new section will allow you to format the separate sections differently, eg change the page orientation or insert a new style of page numbering. To insert a section break:

  1. Position the cursor where the new section is to begin. Click on Page Layout tab - Page Setup group - Breaks.
  2. From list, under Section Breaks, click on Next Page.

Note: If you are changing the formatting of a single page or a few pages within your document (eg page orientation), insert another section break after that section; otherwise the rest of the document will also have its orientation changed.

Inserting page numbers

To insert page numbers:

  1. Click on the Insert tab - Header & Footer group - Page Number.
  2. Choose an option, eg Bottom of Page, and select a design from the gallery.
  3. Click on Close Header and Footer to return to the body of the document.

Once you've inserted page numbers, they will update automatically as you continue to create and edit your document.

Note: You can have page numbers in a different format for part of your document (eg roman numerals for the preface), or in a different place (eg on landscape pages). To do this, you will need to have inserted section breaks (see above).

Using Headers and Footers

Headers and footers are portions of text which are repeated on each page, eg page numbers, document title, author's name etc. Once entered, text will appear greyed out when you are editing the body of the document. To insert a Header or Footer:

  1. Click on Insert tab - Header & Footer group and select either Header or Footer.
  2. Select a design from the gallery. The Header / Footer area will open with appropriate text holders.
  3. Click in a holder and type your text. To delete a text holder click inside it and press Delete.
  4. To return to the body of the document, click on Close Header and Footer.

To edit a Header or Footer double click on the Header or Footer area in the document.

Using bullets and numbering

Bullets and numbered bullets help to add clarity to a document, especially when creating lists or instructions. To add bullets or numbered bullets: 

  1. Select the paragraphs. Click on the Home tab - Paragraph group and select Bullets or Numbering.
  2. Press Enter to create a new bullet.

To remove a bullet or stop them automatically appearing in subsequent paragraphs, click in the paragraph and then click on Bullets or Numbering again.

Further help

  • Word has an extensive inbuilt help system which includes instructions on performing tasks. To access Help press F1 or click on the question mark icon in the top right corner.