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: Retaining Explicit Formatting after Applying Styles.

Retaining Explicit Formatting after Applying Styles

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 19, 2022)

2

I often get documents that have a hodgepodge of styles and I need to format them in addition to editing them. When I click in a paragraph and apply a paragraph style, Word is not supposed to wipe out any explicit character formatting in the paragraph, such as italics. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't; this probably has something to do with the way the documents were put together and over which I have no control.

This led me to search for a way to preserve any italics within the paragraphs. One way is to create character styles that can be used for italic, bold, bold italic, etc. Using the character styles instead of explicit formatting removes the problem, as applying paragraph styles doesn't undo anything formatted using character styles.

For those instances when I didn't want to deal with character styles, but instead wanted to retain the explicit formatting, I came up with the following general steps:

  1. If you are using Word 2007, press Ctrl+F. Word displays the Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. If you are using a later version of Word, press Ctrl+H to display the Find and Replace dialog box, then click the Find tab.
  2. Click the More button, if it is available. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  4. Make sure the Find What box is empty.
  5. Click the Format button and choose Font. Word displays the Font tab of the Find Font dialog box.
  6. Make sure Italic is selected in the Font Style list and click OK. The words "Font: Italic" appear under the Find What box.
  7. Click the Find In drop-down list and choose Main Document. Word selects all instances of italics text in the document.
  8. Click Close. The Find and Replace dialog box is closed and everything that is italics should be selected in the document.
  9. Click the Highlight tool. This highlights all the selected text. All the italics text is now highlighted, in yellow.
  10. Apply paragraph styles as desired, throughout the document. Some of the italics may disappear, some may not, but the highlighting should remain unchanged.
  11. If you are using Word 2007, press Ctrl+F. Word again displays the Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. If you are using a later version of Word, press Ctrl+H to display the Find and Replace dialog box, then click the Find tab.
  12. Click the More button, if it is available.
  13. Make sure the Find What box is empty.
  14. Click the No Formatting button, if it is available.
  15. Click the Format button and choose Highlight. The word "Highlight" appears under the Find What box.
  16. Click the Find In drop-down list and choose Main Document. Word selects all instances of highlighted text in the document.
  17. Click Close. Everything that is highlighted should be selected in the document.

At this point you can click the Italics tool in the Font group of the Home tab of the ribbon until all the selected text is shown in italics. You can then click the Highlight tool, again, which removes all the highlighting.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9594) 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: Retaining Explicit Formatting after Applying Styles.

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 3 - 3?

2022-06-07 09:52:59

JB

addendum to my previous comment, to better clarify the problem: I opened a new doc and typed a paragraph in the built-in 'normal' (paragraph) style. I implemented the build-in 'emphasis' (character) style to one word in that paragraph. When I select the paragraph and click on the 'normal' style, the 'emphasis' style stays in place. When I click once on the 'normal indent' (paragraph) style, the emphasis also remains. When I click on it a second time, however, the emphasis disappears. This is also the case for the built-in body text styles (linked styles): if I click one, the emphasis remains; twice makes it disappear. This makes me nervous, since sometimes I highlight whole sections to implement paragraph styles, and I have lost the italic formatting many times. What am I missing?


2022-06-07 09:24:01

JB

Hi Allen, you mention that "Using the character styles instead of explicit formatting removes the problem, as applying paragraph styles doesn't undo anything formatted using character styles." This isn't the case for my documents -- every time I apply a paragraph style to a paragraph with an italicised word (whether formatted with ctrl+I or as a separate character style), the paragraph style removes that italic formatting. I have seen a smattering of claims on the Web that suggest that the paragraph retains the majority of the formatting within the paragraph (see, for example, https://shaunakelly.com/word/styles/stylesoverridedirectformatting.html). How can I make sure that individual italicized words will be retained when I implement a paragraph style?


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