Guide to Text Formatting in Microsoft Word

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Style Commands

Microsoft Word gives you great control over the appearance of your documents using a few key formatting commands. These commands are available right up front, under the Home tab of the Word ribbon menu.

If you're new to Word, or you just need a refresher on what each of the formatting buttons does, this article will give you the essentials you need to produce professional documents easily.

Formatting Groups in Under the Home Tab

The Home tab in the ribbon menu is broken into five groups. The groups most important to formatting text are the middle three:

  • Font
  • Paragraph
  • Styles

​Within each of these groups is a set of commands that controls the appearance of your document.

The commands presented in each of these groups are the most used, and their settings are defaulted to the most common formatting. Each is customizable, however.

For advanced formatting, click the pop-out arrow located in the lower right corner of each group to open a dialog box offering much more detailed options for customizing your formatting.

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The Font Group

Word 2016 Font Commands Group

The font group is one you will likely use often. It defines the font face for your text, the size of your text, text colors and more. 

  1. Font Face and Size
    Font selection is a dropdown list that will include all of the fonts you have installed on your computer. Word comes with many fonts, and you can add more fonts from other places.

    The font size is a dropdown list of the selected font's available sizes. These often range from 8 point size up through 72 point. Common document font sizes are between 10 and 12. You can define the font size you're looking for by typing the number in the field rather than selecting from the list.

    Next two the two font dropdown lists are two buttons for increasing or decreasing the font size in increments.
  2. Text Case
    Click the case button for a menu of predefined cases. These include sentence case, lowercase, uppercase, capitalize each word and toggle case. Most of these are self explanatory, except for toggle case: This case simply toggles the current case of all letters selected (e.g., lowercase becomes uppercase, and vice versa).
  3. Clear All Formatting
    Select text and click this button to remove all formatting, leaving unformatted text.
  4. Text Styling
    This set of buttons is straightforward, consisting of bold, italic, underline (with the dropdown list to choose the style of underline), strikethrough, subscript and superscript.
  5. Text Effects and Typography
    This button includes a dropdown menu that allows you to apply a variety of text effects, such as shadows, outlines, and other stylistic choices.
  6. Highlight and Font Colors
    The last two buttons allow you to select a color for highlighting or font color using the dropdown lists for each. Once selected, you won't have to reselect the color to apply it in the future, unless you want to change it.

    To apply highlights or a font color to text, select the text and press the appropriate button. 
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The Paragraph Group

Microsoft Word 2016 Paragraph Group Commands

The paragraph group formats text alignment, but also other formatting and sorting commands.

  1. Lists
    This set of buttons will format text as a bullet list, a numbered list, and a multilevel list. The styling of each can be changed by clicking the dropdown arrow on each button.
  2. Text Indent
    These two buttons control the level of indention of text, either right or left. Each click will shift text one increment in the direction selected.
  3. Sort
    The sort button lets you arrange selected text into either alphabetical or numerical order. This is especially useful when working with tables.
  4. Show/Hide Formatting Marks
    This button is toggle, either showing or hiding formatting marks in the document, such as paragraph symbols, page break marks and others.
  5. Text Alignment
    This set of four buttons adjusts text to be either aligned with the left margin, centered between margins, aligned with the right margin, or justified.
  6. Line and Paragraph Spacing
    This button lets you customize the amount of space that appears between your lines of text and your paragraphs. Clicking the button opens a menu of choices.
  7. Shading and Borders
    The last two buttons in the paragraph group let you apply background colors and borders around text. Each has a dropdown arrow that will open a menu for selecting either the color for background, or the style of borders.

    The border dropdown also includes options for inserting horizontal lines, drawing tables and gridlines, and a more advanced dialog box for customizing borders and shading both.
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The Styles Group

Microsoft Word 2016 Styles Group

What Are Styles?

Styles are predefined formatting instructions that can be selected to quickly apply a collection of formatting choices, such as case, line spacing, font, color and more. These are often used to format headings and titles, quotations, subtitles and others.

Using styles helps ensure consistent formatting in your document, and a polished, professional appearance.

Word comes with several style settings to choose from. Clicking one of the styles will apply several formatting choices.

For example, clicking the "Title" style will set font to Calibri Light at 16pt size, bolded, centered, with a specific space inserted before and after the styled text. Setting all of these manually for each section title in a document would be a very tedious task. Styles makes it easy.

Creating Your Own Style

You can define your own style by following these steps:

  1. Format a specific type of text you want to use consistently throughout your document.
  2. Select the formatted text.
  3. Click the More pulldown arrow at the far right of the styles gallery.
  4. Click Create a Style from the pulldown menu. This will open the Create New Style from Formatting dialog box.
  5. Enter a name for your new style in the field. You will see a preview of the formatting in the pane below the name field. If you need to make adjustments to the formatting, click the Modify... button. This will a dialog box where you can make changes.
  6. Click OK when you're done.

Your newly defined style will appear in the Styles group gallery where you can easily click it and apply your formatting choices.

You can create as many styles as you may need.

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Your Citation
Marshall, James. "Guide to Text Formatting in Microsoft Word." ThoughtCo, Dec. 7, 2015, Marshall, James. (2015, December 7). Guide to Text Formatting in Microsoft Word. Retrieved from Marshall, James. "Guide to Text Formatting in Microsoft Word." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 20, 2017).