How to use Word Styles in your legal documents

Word Hacks for Lawyers #2 • How to use Styles for quick and consistent formatting in your legal documents.

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How to use Word Styles in your legal documents?

If you’re a lawyer that hasn’t used Word Styles before, or you’re just looking to brush up, then you’ve come to the right place.

Styles are a great time saver and a quick way to apply major formatting changes throughout your entire document. Instead of using the 'paint format' button to individually edit each heading, you can use preset Styles to make formatting changes in your document with just a few clicks. Which means, finally all your Heading 1, Heading 2 text will be consistent and all it takes is a few clicks of a button.

And if your document requires a table of contents (TOC), using Styles will allow you to auto populate a TOC in a few seconds.

Where to find Styles in Word?

In most versions of Word since 2007, you’ll see a Quick Styles gallery in your Home tab. Use the little downward arrow in the bottom-right corner of the Quick Styles gallery to expand the Styles pane, so you can see all the predefined Style options available in Microsoft Word. Depending on the template you have open, you will either see Word's default Styles, which you'll recognise by the navy Heading 1, like below. Alternatively your template may have its own preset Styles.

Quick Styles Gallery in Word

How to apply Styles?

Chances are if you’re using a firm wide template, you may already have predefined Styles set up in your legal document. If this is the case you can start by highlighting the piece of text you want to format, like a heading and applying an existing Style from the Quick Styles gallery. Watch our video to see where to find Styles in Word and how to apply them.

How to modify existing Styles?

Let's say you’ve just been on a legal design course and you’ve decided to make some format changes to some of your existing legal documents. In this case you would want to open up an existing document and modify the preset Styles. Follow these steps or follow along with our video.

  1. In your Quick Styles Gallery find the Style you want to modify
  2. Right click and select 'Modify'
  3. Make your formatting changes
  4. Choose between saving 'Only in this Document' or for 'New documents based on this template'
  5. Click 'OK'

How to create new Styles?

Before you create your own Style format, take a minute to read through these different Style selection options below that are available for you to choose between.

'Style type' asks you to choose the elements you want to format.

  • The Character option will only allow you to make text formatting changes.
  • The Paragraph option will let you format text, plus indentations, line spacing and more.
  • You can also use Styles to recreate perfectly formatted tables and lists.

'Style based on' lets you choose an existing style as a base starting point. It's a nice shortcut if you just want to make a few tweaks to an existing Style.

'Style for following paragraph' lets you choose the style for the following paragraph, great for Q&A or similar documents with alternating styles types.

Now you're ready to create your own Styles.

  1. Find the arrow icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the Quick Styles Gallery or you can also use the shortcut (Alt+Ctrl+Shift+S)
  2. Select 'Create new Style'
  3. Enter in the name for your new Style
  4. Select your 'Style type'
  5. Choose an option for 'Style based on' if you want to use an existing style as your base
  6. Make your formatting changes
  7. Don't forget to tick the checkbox to add the new Style to the Quick Style Gallery
  8. Specify whether you want to apply your new Style to your current document or others like it.
  9. Click 'OK'

How to use Styles to create numbered headings?

Using numbered headings in MS Word can get frustrating, especially if you have more than one type of numbered list in your document. There’s a better way of adding in numbering into your headings, that's using Styles. Follow these steps or watch our video to see how it's done.

  1. Select your heading
  2. Click Modify Style
  3. Click the Format button in the bottom left-hand corner
  4. From the drop-down menu select Numbering
  5. Choose an existing format or create your own Define New Number Format
  6. Click Ok

Now that you’ve gotten a hang of Styles you can even use them to create a quick Table of Contents. Stay tuned for our next hack coming soon.

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