Automatically Applying Custom Styles to Footnotes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 14, 2013)

Jesse has created templates and custom styles for legal documents in his company. He has a style for footnotes so that the first line is indented. Ideally, he'd like them to automatically indent the first line each time a footnote is created. He has searched and hasn't been able to find a way to do this, so he wonders if he has to apply the custom style each time he creates a footnote.

This is actually easier than you might think. Word includes two built-in styles that affect how your footnotes appear:

  • Footnote Reference. This is a character style that applies to the footnote number. (If you use footnote symbols instead of numbers, it applies to them as well.) It is automatically applied to the footnote number in the main body of your text (the one that appears at the point where you chose to insert the footnote) and it is applied to the footnote number that begins the actual footnote itself, at the foot of the page.
  • Footnote Text. This is a linked style (it can be used as both a paragraph and character style) that applies to the text of the footnote, at the foot of the page.

It is this second style that you should modify to reflect how you want your footnotes to appear. Want the first line of the footnote indented? How about from the right margin? How about making it a smaller font? How about a different typeface? All of these characteristics—and many more—can be defined as part of the style. Then, when you insert a footnote, Word automatically applies all those formatting characteristics because it automatically applies the Footnote Text style to the footnote.

If you want a different style to be automatically applied to footnotes as they are entered, then you are out of luck. For instance, if you create a paragraph style called MyCoolFootnotes and want Word to use it when formatting footnotes, there is no configuration setting you can use to make this happen—Word always uses the Footnote Text style and only that style.

You could write a macro to step through all your footnotes and apply the differing style to the footnotes. This approach, while simple enough, may be overkill. You could just use the Find and Replace feature of Word to search for any paragraphs using the Footnote Text style (which, as you no doubt know by now, is all your footnotes) and replace the style with the one you want.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12840) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013.

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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