by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 25, 2014)
Fred has a 60-page legal document that has styles from all over the map (such as a dozen versions of Heading 2, numerous tab distances even for the the same level of text, etc.). Fred wonders how he can easily, quickly, and safely reset and make all these styles consistent.
Given the three requirements (easily, quickly, and safely), the old adage comes to mind: You can have any two you want, and two out of three ain't bad!
Seriously, there is no quick way to do what you are asking. The reason is because, literally, you are trying to unravel what has become a bowl of spaghetti. Editors of various stripes have been struggling with this problem for years, and it is not a problem that Microsoft has been able to fix. In fairness to Microsoft, it is not a problem that is really possible to fix. For just one instance, let's say that you have (as you say) a dozen versions of Heading 2 in the document. If Microsoft were to develop some automated way of fixing this, how would the automation know which of the versions of Heading 2 was the correct one? What if it chose incorrectly? Now, multiply that by a dozen or more different styles you need in the document. The problem quickly goes from bad to worse and the solution may be no improvement over the original problem.
What seasoned editors have done to address this problem is to come up with their own techniques to "unravel" the spaghetti. If the document is short and has relatively few errant styles, you may be able to work directly in the document. Here's one approach:
Figure 1. The Style Pane Options dialog box.
In applying this technique, you'll want to save your document periodically so that you don't lose your work.
Obviously, this technique can take a while, which is why I mentioned it as a good approach if you are working with a relatively short document. If the document is really messed up, the best approach is to start fresh and apply styles as you want them applied. When choosing a "start fresh" approach, though, it is always a good idea to do your work on a copy of the problem document, not on the original.
One way to start fresh is to select the entire document (Ctrl+A) and then press Ctrl+Q to remove all explicit paragraph formatting and then press Ctrl+Space Bar to remove all explicit character formatting. While this won't get rid of the unwanted styles from the document, it will allow you to reapply styles without the complication of dealing with weird explicit formatting that may have been applied.
To take this process a step further, create a brand new document that is based on a template that includes your approved (desired) set of styles. With the two documents open (the source document from which you've removed explicit formatting and the target document you just created), follow these steps:
This tip has addressed only three possible techniques you could use; there are dozens of others you could use and that editors use every day. In my experience, it is this last technique—the one just described—that is probably the best approach. It is not quick, it does get easier with practice, and it definitely is safe. It also provides the cleanest approach to creating a document that is easy to maintain with the fewest chances for "gottchas" to crop up.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13289) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013.
Learning Made Easy! Quickly teach yourself how to format, publish, and share your content using Word 2013. With Step by Step, you set the pace, building and practicing the skills you need, just when you need them! Check out Microsoft Word 2013 Step by Step today!
Styles are invaluable when it comes to applying consistent formatting in and across documents. If you need to rename a ...Discover More
Using styles to format templates can save a lot of time and ensure consistency when working on several documents. Some ...Discover More
Do you routinely work with multiple languages in your documents? If so, you may appreciate the suggestions in this tip, ...Discover More
FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."
Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.