Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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: Can't Select Style Instances.

Can't Select Style Instances

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 12, 2019)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016


Graham is having a problem with the Styles and Formatting task pane. In every document that he opens, Graham can see the styles in the Styles and Formatting task pane. If he clicks the down-arrow to the right of a style in the task pane, the top line is supposed to show the number of occurrences of that style in the document. However, for every style listed the line is always grayed out and says "Select All: Not Currently Used." Graham is wondering why Word won't show him the correct occurrences of styles like it should, nor allow him to select the option.

The answer lies in the configuration of Word. The feature that allows you to select all the instances of a style is controlled by a configuration setting in the program. Follow these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 and later versions, display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Click the Advanced option at the left of the dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Advanced option of the Word Options dialog box.

  4. In the Editing Options group, make sure the Keep Track of Formatting check box is selected.
  5. Click OK.

The Keep Track of Formatting check box is selected by default in Word. However, it is not unusual for the option to get turned off by experienced users. With the option turned on, Word keeps more rigorous track of variant styles, creating a new one each time you apply a paragraph style to a selection of individual characters instead of to an entire paragraph. (This has been discussed in other issues of WordTips.) What these users often do is turn the Keep Track of Formatting option back on when they want to use the Styles and Formatting task pane to select instances of defined styles, as Graham wants to do. When they are done working with the styles in that manner, they turn the option off again.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10972) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Can't Select Style Instances.

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 five less than 5?

2021-02-16 19:56:56


Hi Allen,

Thanks for the advise, but it is not working. Tick this option caused warning all over my document.

My experience,
Those couldn't be selected instances are invisible and cursor couldn't jump to the location.
Most of the styles exist between between paragraph mark and the character in front of mark.
delete it can remove ONE instance. (the problem is you don't know where are they)

They were generated by WORD autostyle (unable to disable completely) and
This is an very old problem still no solution.


2020-01-28 08:21:19

Lee Batchelor

Thanks for the reply, Andrew.

I don't really wish to remove the style or its formatting. I know I can remove a paragraph's formatting by using the method you suggested. The goal is to place the cursor inside any paragraph to see what style the student has used, and then to make sure he or she has been consistent throughout the document. This is the first case where I couldn't see which style was used by placing my cursor inside a paragraph out of hundreds of assignments. Very strange!

It's exactly like the behavior you would see if the student had not used any styles but direct formatting instead. That's what I thought at first but that isn't correct because if I right-click a style in the Quick Styles Gallery, I can select all instances where that style was used. I just can't do the reverse - and that's to place my cursor inside a paragraph and look at the Styles Gallery to see which style was used. No style is selected.

Thanks again.

2020-01-27 10:55:22


Lee, ^Q will only reset the paragraph to its selected style. Assuming what you want is to remove that style, what you can do is while the paragraph is selected click "Clear All" at the top of the Styles box. That should take you back to the Normal style.

2020-01-27 09:24:15



If I were you, I would press Ctrl+A, Ctrl+Spacebar, Ctrl+Q and see what that does for you. If that doesn't give you back control, then the only other thing I can think of is that, perhaps, the document is corrupted (or on the verge thereof) and you might want to copy the text to Notepad and then back into a new Word document.


2020-01-26 08:18:11

Lee Batchelor

Hi Allen and thanks for the quick reply.

I tried your suggestion before asking this forum and no matter which paragraph I place my cursor in, the style in the Styles box remains on Subtle Emphasis. In the Options dialog box, I have chosen All Styles to be displayed.

The only anomaly I can find is, he has based two out of three styles on List Paragraph, which is wrong. I instruct my students to very seldom base one style on another due to the sometimes destructive nature of the parent-child relationship with styles. I tell them it's all right to use this function as long as they know the implications.

I've never seen this in Word after 10 years of teaching. More thoughts welcome. Thanks.

2020-01-25 10:05:15



Display the Styles task pane at the right side of the screen. When you put the insertion point in a paragraph, the style in effect at that point should appear in the task pane. Understand, though, that it could be either of two styles that are shown -- the paragraph style OR the character style (if a character style is applied).


2020-01-25 09:04:56

Lee Batchelor

Great post, Allen!

On a related note, I mark my students' assignments from a technical writing course that I teach. I came across an assignment where the student had used four styles for his document. Normally, I can place my cursor inside any paragraph and the corresponding style is selected in the Styles Gallery and Quick Styles Gallery. In this case, no styles were selected. On right-clicking the style > Modify, everything looks normal. Assuming the student used a licensed copy of Word (.docx format), why aren't those styles selected when I place my cursor inside any paragraph? I'm stumped! Many thanks.

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