Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Cleaning Up a Document that Mixes Styles with Direct Formatting.

Cleaning Up a Document that Mixes Styles with Direct Formatting

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 12, 2019)

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When a document is formatted with styles, it is much easier to create and maintain a consistent format. When someone adds direct formatting, it can create some formatting problems. Word provides a relatively easy way to locate the direct formatting. Perform these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 or a later version display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the dialog box click Advanced. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Advanced options of the Word Options dialog box.

  4. In the Editing section of the options, make sure the Keep Track of Formatting check box is selected.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Open the document you want to work on.
  7. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  8. Click the small icon at the bottom-right of the Styles group. Word displays the Styles and Formatting task pane at the right side of your screen. The task pane is called Styles if you are using Word 2019 or Word in Office 365.
  9. At the bottom of the task pane click the Options link. Word displays the Style Pane Options dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  10. Figure 2. The Style Pane Options dialog box.

  11. Using the Select Styles to Show drop-down list, choose In Use.
  12. Click OK to close the Style Pane Options dialog box.
  13. In the task pane, scroll down your list of styles to locate any entry that does not have either the paragraph mark symbol or raised letter a. These entries will generally display a style name plus some other formatting. These entries indicate direct formatting. For example, Body Text + Right indicates a Body Text paragraph that has been directly formatted as right aligned.
  14. Point to the item in the list, and a drop-down arrow appears at the right side of the item. Click the arrow.
  15. From the menu that appears, choose Select All Instances. Word highlights all occurrences of the formatting.

Once you have all this text selected you have several options. You can reapply the original style, in which case the Modify Style dialog box may appear, and you'll have the option of updating the style to reflect the recent changes or reapplying the formatting of the style to the selection. (You want the latter option.)

You can also use Ctrl+Q to set the paragraphs back to their original format, or you can use Ctrl+Spacebar to remove any direct character formatting from the selections.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (6273) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Cleaning Up a Document that Mixes Styles with Direct Formatting.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is 1 + 3?

2021-09-14 14:22:20

Michelle Dedman

Hi Anne Marie, After you select "in Use" you need to check in the "Select formatting to show as styles" area: "Paragraph level formatting" and "font formatting." Then it will show the ones with direct formatting. They will still have an a or paragraph symbol to the right but you will see the main base style with + next to it indicating the direct formatting applied.


2020-06-01 20:01:59

Anne-Marie Concepcion

Hello, I can't get this to work. I'm on Windows using Microsoft Word 365.

I don't think there is a way to find Direct Formatting anymore. What doesn't work is this part: "In the task pane, scroll down your list of styles to locate any entry that does not have either the paragraph mark symbol or raised letter a." ... in my copy of Word 365 for Windows, every single entry has either a lowercase a icon (character style) or paragraph symbol (paragraph style) or both (such as Body Text). If I double-click a word inside a paragraph and click the I to make it italic, Word says it's a character style Italic.

It's aggravating! I want it to act like the same Word 365 does on my Mac. There, at the bottom of my Styles panel I have a checkbox, "Show Direct Formatting" and then anything this is a "Style + [whatever] is highlighted in the document in a special color. I can click inside one of those instances and choose Select All from the Styles panel and all instances of that specific kind of direct formatting is selected. Then I can either clear the additional formatting, or create a new style based on the selection, and apply to the selection.

That converts the selection to "not direct formatting" and there is less highlighted text on the page. I can continue on this way until all highlighting is gone.

This feature used to be in Windows Word too, but in each successive version it is scrunched out of existence.

So, what is going on here? Is Word for Windows declaring everything a style?


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