Reapplying Styles Seamlessly

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 26, 2019)

Deb often formats documents that come to her after several other people have contributed content. One of her first steps is to apply the correct styles. Sometimes, for example, a paragraph labeled as Body Text is not formatted as her Body Text style is. The problem is, when she reapplies a style to a paragraph that has the same style name in place, she gets a Modify Style dialog box that asks her if she wants to "Update the style to reflect recent changes" as the default, or "Reapply the formatting of the style to the selection." Needless to say, this becomes annoying very quickly. Deb always wants the "Reapply" option. She wonders if she can make the "Reapply" option the default or, better yet, get rid of this pop-up entirely.

There are actually several different ways you can reapply styles in a document. One way is paragraph-by-paragraph, as Deb is doing. You find a paragraph and then click the style name in the Styles pane. When you use this approach, Word may ask you if you want to reapply the style or update the style to reflect the formatting in the paragraph as it exists.

The reason that Word asks this question is because it is configured, by default, to ask it. To disable this asking, 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 or a later version, display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Click Advanced at the left side of the dialog box.
  3. In the Editing Options area, make sure the Prompt to Update Style checkbox is cleared.
  4. Click OK.

That should do it; now you should not be asked if you want to reapply or update. Instead, Word assumes you want to reapply, and you can move merrily on your way.

There is one side note that should be mentioned; one I ran across while doing some testing for this tip: None of the above really applies to the Normal style. It doesn't really matter what the setting of the Prompt to Update Style checkbox is when you are reapplying the Normal style. Click it in the Style pane, and it is reapplied without any prompting. It is only other, non-Normal styles that Word prompts about.

There is another interesting way to reapply styles: using shortcut keys. If you assign a shortcut key to a style, you can use that shortcut key to reapply the style to a paragraph and Word doesn't really pay any attention to the Prompt to Update Style setting. For instance, let's say you want to reapply the Quote style. You can assign the shortcut key in this manner:

  1. Press Alt+Ctrl+Shift+S. Word displays the Styles pane. (You can also display the Home tab of the ribbon and click the small icon at the bottom-right of the Styles group.)
  2. Hover the mouse over the name of whatever style you want to reapply. A small down-arrow appears at the right of the name.
  3. Click the down-arrow to disclose the options available.
  4. Select Modify from the options. Word displays the Modify Style dialog box.
  5. Click the Format button (lower-left corner) and then choose Shortcut Key. Word displays the Customize Keyboard dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  6. Figure 1. The Customize Keyboard dialog box.

  7. With the insertion point in the Press New Shortcut Key box, press the shortcut key you want to use. (For instance, press Alt+Q.)
  8. Click the Assign button. The shortcut key is associated with the style.
  9. Click the Close button to dismiss the Customize Keyboard dialog box.
  10. Click the OK button to dismiss the Modify Style dialog box.

Now, when you want to reapply a style, just press the shortcut key you specified in step 6. Word reapplies the style without asking you any questions.

Even if you use one of the techniques already discussed, you are still left with the tedium of going through each paragraph and reapplying styles. You can relieve much of the tedium by using a different approach to updating. With the Prompt to Update Style checkbox cleared, as described above, follow these steps:

  1. Press Alt+Ctrl+Shift+S. Word displays the Styles pane. (You can also display the Home tab of the ribbon and click the small icon at the bottom-right of the Styles group.)
  2. Hover the mouse over the name of whatever style you want to reapply. A small down-arrow appears at the right of the name.
  3. Click the down-arrow to disclose the options available.
  4. Choose Select All Instances. Word selects all the styles in the document that use that particular style.
  5. In the Style pane, click the same style name. Word reapplies the style to all the selected paragraphs.

You could also, at step 5, press Ctrl+Q instead of reselecting the style. This reapplies all the paragraph-level formatting to the selected paragraphs. It won't, however, change any of the character-level formatting that may have been explicitly applied to the paragraphs. To get rid of that, you'll need to also press Ctrl+Spacebar. Doing so, however, also gets rid of any specific character formatting you may want to retain, such as bold or italics. In my experience, it is much better to simply select the style name from the Styles pane, as written in step 5.

Finally, another technique is to use Find and Replace to do the updating. Follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you save your document.
  2. Press Ctrl+Home to go to the beginning of your document.
  3. Press Ctrl+H. Word displays the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.
  4. Click on the More button, if it is available. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  6. Click once in the Find What box and make sure it is empty.
  7. Click on Format and choose Style. Word displays the Find Style dialog box. (See Figure 3.)
  8. Figure 3. The Find Style dialog box.

  9. Choose the name of the style you want to reapply.
  10. Click OK to close the Find Style dialog box.
  11. Click once in the Replace With box and make sure it is empty.
  12. Click on Format and choose Style. Word displays the Replace Style dialog box. (This dialog box is essentially the same as the earlier Find Style dialog box.)
  13. Choose the same style that you chose in step 7.
  14. Click OK to close the Replace Style dialog box.
  15. Click on Replace All.

Word searches the document and replaces all of the styles you selected in step 7 with the exact same style, thereby reapplying them.

One significant advantage to the Find and Replace technique is that you can use the macro recorder to record the replacing of several styles in a row. That allows you to later replay the macro and, in one step, reapply styles to a lot of paragraphs. Very quick; very convenient.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11812) 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. ...

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