A lot of editors don’t know much about using Styles. I admit that I didn’t either until I started formatting e-books. But I’ve since found that they’re very handy!

(This discussion is going to focus on Word for Windows. Some of the defaults for Macs are different.)

There are two basic styles that you may use for a regular editing manuscript: Normal and Headings (1 through whatever).

Ideally, the manuscript you receive has been typed in the Normal style. You can see this by putting your cursor among some text and looking at the Styles section of the Home tab on the Word ribbon.


Another way to see what style you’re in is to click the tiny southeast-facing arrow at the bottom of the Change Styles icon on the right. This will allow you to see more styles at one time than the ribbon view. Whenever I indicate to select or right-click on a Style in this article, I mean in either location—what’s shown above or what’s shown below.

So now you’ve identified the text is in the Normal Style. (If it isn’t, select the text and then choose Normal. That applies the Style to the selected text.) Unfortunately, the author who’s submitting the MS likes to write in expanded Courier New…which you hate. Yes, you could simply hit Ctrl+A (Select all) and change the font, but applying direct formatting, especially to a large MS, can lead to corruption problems. But you can modify the Normal Style very easily and everything marked with that style will change automatically.





Right-click on Normal and select Modify. You’ll get a box that looks like this.

Using either the controls shown here or the additional controls under the pull-down button Format, you can set it up any way you want. Here’s what it looks like when I’ve finished setting it to my standard editing defaults:

Now I have to admit that applying your Normal choices on a whole MS may not save you any time in editing…right off the bat. However, it may help prevent a large document from becoming corrupted and will make additional Style changes easier. It will also allow you to spot formatting inconsistencies more easily.

Click on Find on the Home and open the Navigation pane, then click on the far-left tab, “Browse the headings in your document.” See the message?

So we need to apply Heading styles to the chapter headings (and chapter heading text, if it exists).


Chapter 1

My Story Begins


Here’s a typical chapter heading. In the Style pane (either one), you will see Heading 1. If you put your cursor in the text of Chapter 1, you can right-click Heading 1 and choose “Update Heading 1 to match selection.” Now put your cursor in the chapter heading text and right-click Heading 2, updating that style to match what you have here.

Poof! Your Navigation pane now looks like this! The yellow highlight shows you where you are.


After the whole book is stylized with Headings, the Navigation pane looks something like this (notice the third level [Heading 3] headings in Chapter 5).


Now you can easily jump from chapter to chapter in the book, simply by clicking on where you want to go.



You can modify any Heading Style and they will all change immediately and consistently without changing the Navigation pane.



This looks pretty simple, but let me show you how a Navigation pane appears in a very complicated, very large nonfiction book. You can see how jumping from place to place—and keeping track of heading levels—is made easier.


Editor: What is this? Will it help? Will it save me time? Where are the benefits?


Learning how to apply formatting via Normal and Heading Styles will save you time and benefits you greatly by:

  • preventing large documents from becoming corrupted
  • making additional Style changes and decisions easier
  • allowing heading text inconsistencies to be spotted more easily
  • vastly increasing the speed and ease of movement within a document, jumping from chapter to chapter or to a subheading without using Find (and without remembering the specific wording)
  • keeping track of heading and subheading levels and indentations
  • permitting any applied Style to be changed instantly with a few keystrokes, and
  • ensuring document-wide consistency of text and level treatments.


BONUS: A Table of Contents can easily be created and updated using a variety of Heading style levels. You can find good instructions here: http://www.shaunakelly.com/word/numbering/tableofcontents.html.