Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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: Preventing Changes to Styles in Documents.

Preventing Changes to Styles in Documents

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated May 14, 2022)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


You may, at some time, want to prevent changes in template styles in documents. The issue isn't how to protect the template itself (which can obviously be done by making the template file read-only within the operating system), but how to make sure that template styles could not be changed once the template is attached to a document.

For instance, if you attach a template to a document, the styles in that template are now available to use within the document. The template styles can also be changed within the document without affecting the styles stored in the original template. (Word only tries to store style changes in the original template if the New Documents Based On this Template radio button is selected in the Modify Style dialog box.)

Unfortunately, even though you can protect the template itself (by making it read-only or storing it in a protected network folder), there is no way to protect the template styles once the template has been attached to a document. To do so would mean that users could not modify any styles at all, even those the user defined strictly for use within a specific document.

A case in point is Word's ability to restrict editing to allow only certain styles to be used when formatting the document. (Display the Review tab of the ribbon, click the Restrict Editing tool (in the Protect group), and then click the Limit Formatting to a Collection of Styles check box.) The restriction can come in handy in some instances, but it can stop users from making changes that may really be necessary.

The best long-term solution is to educate your users as to how styles work, how they are changed within Word (in other words, what actions can change them), and instruct them not to make any changes to the styles, either directly or indirectly. It is also a good idea to instruct users to never paste formatted text into a document. The reason, of course, is that such an action pastes style changes into the document as well. Instead, users can click the down-arrow under the Paste tool on the Home tab of the ribbon and select Paste Special. They can then use the Paste Special dialog box to paste the text as unformatted text and format the pasted text using the styles available from your template.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8097) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Preventing Changes to Styles in Documents.

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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