Can't Find or Delete a Style

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated June 17, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


In the Styles pane Carmel can see a style that she'll call Style1. Word tells her that there are 133 instances of this style in the document. If she hovers over the style name and chooses "Select All 133 Instance(s)", nothing in the document is selected. If she tries to delete the style, it won't delete. She even tried to do an advanced Find for the style and (separately) the formatting represented by the style, but Word reports it is "not found in document." Carmel wonders what would cause this behavior.

This, no doubt, seems like odd behavior, but there may be little you can actually do about it. Understanding a few things about the styles count could help explain what may be happening.

First, the count is less than perfect: not everything is always shown in the count, and not all styles reflected in a count may be selected. For instance, styles used in layers other than main text layer don't show in the usage count. This means that the count won't reflect styles applied in text boxes, headers, footers, footnotes, and endnotes.

Second, if you have tables in your document and you've applied styles within the table, Word may show those styles in the count, but it won't select them when you choose that option. Further, if the style is applied to an empty table cell, it may appear in the count, but you won't be able to locate it using Find either.

You may be able to delete the style by using the Organizer (described in other WordTips issues), but it could be dangerous to do so if that style is actually in use as described above. You should also know that if the style you are trying to delete is a built-in style, Word won't let you actually delete it—trying to do so simply sets the style back to its default settings and leaves it available in the document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13418) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

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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