Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 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: Applying Styles.

Applying Styles

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 17, 2020)


Styles do you no good if you cannot apply them to your text. You apply styles in three ways:

The first way depends on your use of the ribbon. On the Home tab of the ribbon you see the Styles group. It contains a series of styles that are known as a Style Set. You can click any of these styles and that style is applied to whatever text is selected in your document. (You can also hover the mouse pointer over any of these styles and the text in the document momentarily changes to reflect the style over which you are hovering. This allows you to see what a style looks like before actually applying it by clicking.)

The second method of applying styles uses the Styles task pane. You can follow these steps to apply a style:

  1. Select the portion of your document you want to format. For instance, position the insertion point in the paragraph to which you want to apply a paragraph style, or select the characters to which you want to apply a character style.
  2. Click the small down-pointing arrow icon at the lower-right corner of the Styles group on the Home tab of the ribbon. Word displays the Styles task pane.
  3. In the list of styles displayed, click the name of the style you want to apply.

The third method assumes that you have assigned your styles to specific shortcut keys. If you have, just select what you want to format and then use the shortcut key.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9772) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: 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 six more than 7?

2015-07-20 10:54:30


I'm not sure what the Quick Styles pane is, and my installation has also been modified so that Alt-h-s does something else.

Browsing through the keyboard customization menus I was able to identify a number different commands that invoke some kind of Styles window -- and I'm sure there are more. Here are the ones I've found (so far) that seem worth mentioning:

FormatStyle -- Opens W2003 Styles window. Works on my installation with Alt+o+s, but that may be a customization.

StyleApplyPane -- Opens small Apply Styles window. Ctrl+Shift+s on my system.

FormatStyleGallery -- not sure what this is. No default keyboard command.

FormatStyleManagement -- apparently, allows restrictions on style availability (among other things). (Customize Keyboard description: "Manage your stylesheet.")

Style -- Apparently same as FormatStyle.

StylePaneNewStyle -- Create New Style from [current] Formatting. No default keyboard command.

I don't know the name of the command associated with the Styles pane that opens from the Styles section of the Home ribbon.

2015-07-20 08:33:22

Jennifer Thomas

Linda - you are correct for Out-of-the-Box builds; I forgot that when we customized Word for our Firm we had to make custom groups to accomodate that (thus the odd Alt key for the home tab). That's the price you pay for straying off the designated Microsoft path! Anyway, thanks for the response.

2015-07-17 11:56:04

Linda M

Jennifer--I did not get desirable results from the key combination alt+y1+l. Perhaps your intention was Alt+h+l? This pulls down the gallery on the Home tab. I could not find another option but maybe someone else knows.

2015-07-17 10:38:26

Jennifer Thomas

This is great - I'm inspired to create an FAQ for my firm with these tips and other shortcuts for styles.

Does anyone (Linda? Drew?) know the command name for displaying the Quick Styles gallery or an existing keyboard shortcut other than alt+y1+l?

I searched the 'net and couldn't find this ... thanks!

2015-07-16 13:56:45

LInda M

In the apply styles (Ctrl+Shift+S) task window, you may also start typing the style name to go directly to it rather than using the arrow keys. You have the option to Auto Complete names or not using the check box at the lower portion of the style drop-down. Seems pretty keyboard friendly.

2015-07-16 13:47:15

Linda M

@Drew and Jennifer Thomas

You may be interested in the Apply Styles task pane. I can use Ctrl + Shift + S to access it and press the down-arrow to move through the styles. Click the Enter key to apply a selected style to move back to your document. Selecting and tabbing will move to the Modify option.

Not sure if this does everything you want but it sounds similar.

2015-07-16 08:45:27

Jennifer Thomas

Good point, Drew -- for others, the 'old' style dialog box he is talking about is the one you get when you double-click a style name in Draft view (where you get a choice of all styles, In use, etc. and also a Modify button for the selected style).

I like that too, for some tasks, so it is nice to know what MS calls it. I actually wanted to add that to my toolbar, but it is not in the All Commands list under that name, so unless someone knows what else it is called, a shortcut seems to be the only other way to invoke this.

2015-07-15 12:38:15


There are actually two style panes, at least in Word 2007. The one invoked by most of the methods described here is the new version, which I don't like because I have never succeeded in using it without involving the mouse. The older style pane, which is invoked by the method I described, can be navigated entirely from the keyboard. If somebody knows a way to do that with the new one, then please disregard all my posts in this thread.

2015-07-14 14:54:21

Linda M

Also, Alt+Ctrl+Shift+S are the keys that will toggle to show and hide the Styles task pane.

2015-07-13 17:19:48

Jennifer Thomas

Alt+o+s worked on mine, and I haven't customized that. But Alt+A didn't work to apply the selected style (which is OK because [Enter] works).

Here's a related tip -- if you double-click the top of the style pane, it docks the pane to the right at full screen height. I use that one a lot!

Also, Ctrl+Shift+8 toggles formatting marks on and off; another handy one for going between styling and reading for content.

2015-07-13 13:31:38


On further reflection I think I customized my Word 2007 installation to restore this function after my employer "upgraded" from Word 2003. To do the same, you must assign the desired keyboard combination to the

(1) Click on the Office button.
(2) Click on "Word Options".
(3) Click on "Customize".
(4) Click on "Keyboard Shortcuts: Customize".
(5) Under Categories, select "All Commands".
(6) Under Commands, select "FormatStyle".
(7) Clear any text in the "Press new shortcut key" box.
(8) With cursor in above box, type desired shortcut (I used Alt-o-s).
(9) Click Assign.
(10) Close box.

You have now restored the ability to select and apply styles without leaving the keyboard by the method described in my previous post.

2015-07-13 12:42:15


Unfortunately, all of these techniques require using the mouse, which some of us still prefer to avoid. (Except the last one, which only works for heading styles.)

To invoke the old Styles window, which Microsoft has tried to bury because it worked so well, type Alt-o-s. Arrow down to the style you want, then press Alt-a.

2015-07-13 02:58:59


Here are some quick styles-related tips: you can press Ctrl+Shift+S to display a dropdown list of styles, sort of an abbreviated Styles pane. For those hectic moments when moving your hands between keyboard and mouse is too much of a distraction, just press Ctrl+Alt+(1, 2, or 3) to quickly format your current paragraph as Heading 1, 2 or 3, respectively.

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