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: Automatically Updating Styles.

Automatically Updating Styles

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 12, 2019)


If you have spent much time working with styles, you know that Word includes a feature that allows for styles to be automatically updated based on explicit changes to a paragraph using that style within your document. (The Automatically Update check box in the Modify Style or Define Style dialog boxes controls this feature.)

There are times when you may want to make a change to a paragraph, and you don't want the change to automatically update the style used in the paragraph. If you find yourself in this situation, you don't have to go into the Modify Style dialog box and turn it off. Rather, you can just use Ctrl+Z (undo).

The reason this works is that a change to a style that uses the Automatically Update setting is actually a two-step process. (These steps happen together, so it appears to be one step to the user.) The first thing that occurs is the selected paragraph is changed. The second thing that occurs is the change is propagated to all other paragraphs of the same style. When you press Ctrl+Z, you undo step 2 (the propagation), without undoing the change to the selected paragraph.

Knowing this, you never have to turn off Automatically Update; you simply "roll back" the update step when you don't want it to occur.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11879) 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: Automatically Updating 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 eight minus 8?

2019-01-09 15:06:14


I have disabled "Define styles based on your formatting" but Word is still doing it and progagating changes to other paragraphs (and misidentifying which those should be even IF I wanted it to do this, which I don't). Terribly annoying, I'm having to Ctrl Z everytime I do anything. Suggestions?

2017-03-08 10:51:16


For whatever reason, un-checking "Automatically update document styles" doesn't work for me. It is unchecked and Word still applies the change to the whole document when one paragraph is changed!

2017-03-02 15:10:40


I'm not sure if any responded with this yet, but in Word 2010, you can access the Developer Main Tab and click on Document Template. There is a button right under the template name at the top. If you uncheck it, the styles will only update where you've made your change, not all of them throughout the file.

2017-02-22 11:20:05

J. Ringo

This is a workaround, not a fix. How do I TURN OFF the auto-update of styles FOREVER for ALL STYLES. This is incredibly problematic when working on a large file and MS-Word wrongly assumes that because I'm changing a single entry that I want all 1,000 pages changed too. Then, despite having the fastest computer Dell makes, it lags horribly - because it is updating a ton of stuff (that I never wanted updated in the first place), then I have to undo - taking more time - to undo what I never wanted done in the first place.

Another situation where Microsoft takes an approach of "Yes, I know what you said you wanted to do, but I'm going to do what you REALLY wanted to do even though it isn't what you asked for". Very frustrating. I know precisely what I want to do, I just wish the stupid program would DO IT.

2015-10-09 12:48:26

Bill T

I cannot find the answer I need.
I created a list style named Dfn1 which precedes the selected line with "Definition n", n is a integer.
Now, if I have text that was previously Dfn1 but put to normal, and then select Dfn1 I find all references to Dfn1 are changed to exclude the "Definition n" text.
Why is Word "helping me out" this way and how do I stop it?

2013-10-05 19:02:38

Ihor Prociuk

Hi Allen:

My thinking is that people use styles because a significant portion of their document formatting is covered by styles. With that in mind, I would think that the default action should be to NOT update styles. If automatic styles update is turned on, it can be quite frustrating if, when you make a change in one place, only to have it undone if you make a change somewhere else.

In another tip (T011159) you suggest a macro to go through all the styles and turn off automatic update. You can also to it through:

File > Options > Add-Ins >
Manage: Templates (pull-down)[Go...] >

On the Templates-tab, un-check "Automatically update Document styles".

I suppose one disadvantage to this is that you have to do this (once) for every template you have.


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