Modify a style

There are several ways to modify styles in a Word document. Whichever method you choose results in a change to the formatting of the style, and every part of your document defined by that style will change. That's one of the best aspects of using styles--you can change the look of your document by changing a style, once, and all the text using that style changes.

One way to modify a style is to format some text to reflect the look you are going after, then update the style to match the new look.

  1. Apply appropriate formatting to a selection in your document.
  2. Select the new formatting.
  3. In the Styles and Formatting task pane, locate the style that you want to modify, and click the drop-down arrow on that style.

    style drop-down menu

  4. Choose Update to Match Selection.

Alternatively, you can directly modify the definition of a style.

  1. In the Styles and Formatting task pane, locate the style that you want to modify, and click the drop-down arrow on that style.

    style drop-down menu

  2. Choose Modify

    The Modify Style dialog box appears.

    Modify Style dialog box

  3. Make changes to the formatting of the style using the shortcut buttons in the Formatting section. Alternatively, click the Format button, which gives you access to all of the Format menu commands.

    Modify Style dialog box

  4. Click OK.

A third option for modifying a style is to configure the style to automatically update.

  1. In the Styles and Formatting task pane, locate the style that you want to modify, and click the drop-down arrow on that style.
  2. Choose Modify.
  3. Select the Automatically update check box.
  4. Click OK.

When you configure a style to automatically update, any change to any text to which the style applies results in a change to the style itself, and thereby changes all other text to which the style applies. An example will make it clearer. Imagine you have a style called "My List" and it has round bullets. You have applied that style to several parts of your document. And you have configured the list to automatically update. You can now select any text defined as "My List" and make a change. Let's say you change the font color to maroon. The style sees your change and automatically updates itself as including the maroon font color. All other text in the document that is defined as "My List" then has maroon text as well.

The Automatically Update feature is useful when you are trying to experiment with formatting for a style, because you can make changes directly to the document, rather than in the Modify Style dialog box. It's easier to see the results of your experimentation and each change you make changes the style and all of the text using that style. It is equivalent to choosing Update to match selection after every change.

Eventually, though, you will want to turn the feature off. Once the style is stable, you won't want it changing if you happen to change the formatting of one piece of text that uses the style. Chances are, in fact, that you will have occasion to apply direct formatting to text when the text is an "exception to the rule" of the style.

We recommend that you use Update to match selection, instead of Automatically update. If you do choose to use Automatically update, do it only while experimenting to find the best look for a style, then disable it. Leaving Automatically update enabled for a style will eventually lead to confusion and to mistaken changes to the style.
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