Getting Rid of Variant Styles

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 16, 2019)


Megan is working with styles in Word and she has set up all of her own styles. If she applies a paragraph style (named MyBody) to a paragraph in the document, and then she bolds a word within that paragraph, Word automatically adds a duplicate style to my style list, one that is named "MyBody + Bold". Megan wonders how she can keep Word from doing this.

The truth is, you can't keep Word from doing it. But to understand that answer, you need to understand a bit more about how Word handles what styles you see in the Styles task pane.

The Styles task pane (displayed when you click the small icon at the bottom-right of the Styles group on the Home tab of the ribbon) generally lists all the styles available for use within the current document. You can modify the actual styles displayed by clicking the Options link at the bottom of the task pane.

In addition to the available styles, the Styles task pane also lists any variations from the styles. Thus, if you have a paragraph formatted as MyBody, you select the paragraph, and then you explicitly apply some formatting (such as bold or italic), then you'll see a new entry in the Styles task pane. This entry will be something such as "MyBody + Bold," indicating that the document now contains at least one instance of this deviation from the standard MyBody style.

You can't get rid of these new entries; Word needs to keep track of the formatting changes you make in the document. You can hide the entries, however, by following 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 unchecked.
  5. Click OK.

You can also, if you desire, turn off the display of the entries in this manner:

  1. Make sure the Styles task pane is displayed.
  2. Click Options at the bottom of the task pane. Word displays the Style Pane Options dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  3. Figure 2. The Style Pane Options dialog box.

  4. Uncheck the Font Formatting option.
  5. Click OK.

Regardless of which method you apply, the variants are still there—Word still has to keep track of them—but you won't see them in the Styles task pane.

If you truly want to get rid of the variants, the only way to do so is to create styles that reflect the ways that you format your document. In other words, instead of explicitly making some text bold or italic, you should create character styles that apply the bold and italic for you. You can then apply the styles where you need that particular formatting and Word won't display anything in the Styles task pane except the style you applied.

Now that you know how to turn off the display of these variants, let me make a plea that you don't turn it off; that you allow Word to display them. Why? Because then you can see where your formatting could be "tightened up" and improved. If you see a style where there are lots of variants, then you know that is someplace where you might want to create a new style and then apply that style in the document.

Another reason to not turn the display off is that seeing what is there can help you clean up a document that you receive from someone else. You can easily see places where the user applied manual, explicit formatting to get a certain result rather than using styles that were developed in, say, a company template. With the display of the variant formatting turned on you can easily reapply your standard styles in the following manner:

  1. In the Styles task pane, locate the variant formatting you want to replace with a defined style.
  2. Click the down-arrow at the right side of the variant formatting and choose the Select All X Instances option. Word selects all the text in the document that uses the variant formatting.
  3. In the Styles task pane click the name of the style you want used for that text.

When you do this, the variant formatting entry in the Styles task pane disappears and your formatting is now more consistent and standardized than it was before.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (7834) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

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. ...


Viewing Multiple Pages

If you have a large monitor, you can view more than one page at a time in Word. This is very handy when you want to ...

Discover More

Converting Footnotes to Endnotes

When you spend a lot of time creating footnotes, how can you convert all of them to endnotes without entering them all ...

Discover More

Understanding Single Line Spacing

Single line spacing, the default spacing used in a paragraph, allows Word to adjust the spacing of individual lines in a ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Can't Find or Delete a Style

Using the shortcuts available in the Styles pane to select text can be very helpful. It may, however, be quite ...

Discover More

Duplicating Styles without Dependency

Creating new styles in Word is a great way to ensure that your document has a uniform look. But what if you want to ...

Discover More

Noting the Current Style

One of the drawbacks of the ribbon interface used in Word is that it can be difficult to easily see what style is applied ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 3 + 0?

2020-06-30 08:52:49


Thanks, very interesting.

I have a similar problem. I have a style called Text. This style gets frequently replaced with a style called, Text;Grapic;Italic. It looks to me that this is the issue here described however the suggested remedies don't seem to hide the styles. Could this be a different issue?

Kind regards

2019-12-17 04:57:36

Eli Pielet

Thanks, that was a big help.

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.