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In the past few weeks I’ve looked at a few steps you can take before you start writing (or typing!) to set up the document. These are all designed to save time in the future and ensure that the final document is clear and consistent. There’s one further thing that you can do before hitting the keyboard: set up the headings using Word STYLES.

How many STYLES?

Some of the Themes available on the DESIGN tab
STYLES: Some of the Themes available on the DESIGN tab

All Word documents have a basic, default style. In the version of Word 2013 that I use there are 17 built-in style sets and 33 themes – according to my calculations that gives you the possibility of 561 different documents, without even thinking of designing your own! The styles are linked with what Microsoft designers consider to be the best matching fonts, sizes and colours. The default style is Office Lines (simple); this is a minimalist look using the Calibri font.

Choose a plain style for academic writing

The great variation in styles and designs provides scope to create a different ‘look’ for all types of documents. It’s very useful when formatting CVs and I covered this in a previous blog post. For an academic thesis or dissertation you probably won’t want to use anything too fussy, no coloured lines or shaded titles, so one of the plainer style sets such as Word 2013 (B&W) will suit, or you can take advantage of automatically numbered headings and subheadings with Black & White (numbered). Just roll the mouse along the STYLES in the ribbon for a preview of the look.

As far as I can tell, the old favourite font of academia – Times New Roman – does not crop up in any of the 561 variations. So, if you’re committed to using this font you’ll need to modify the normal text and each of the headings that you plan to use. If this sounds like too much trouble then on the DESIGN tab in the ribbon the theme called View utilises Century Schoolbook, which is very similar in appearance to TNR, or alternatively the Slate theme uses Calisto which is also a serif font.

Three simple steps to set up a STYLE

If you’re set on TNR, or you’d like to design your own personal style, then setting this up is quite simple. Just follow these three simple steps to set up the styles you need for the text and headings.

First, plan how many levels of headings you are going to use. Try to keep it simple. It can be difficult for the reader to follow and so on. An automatic table of contents will use the first three levels of headings, so if you’re planning to use this option try to keep to this number. (I’ll be looking at using the TOC function in a future post.) For example, you may plan to have three levels of heading: the chapter title, heading 1 and heading 2.

STYLES: Changing the style of headings
STYLES: Changing the style of headings

Second, to change the default text style, just use the options on the font tab, and then right-click on the specific style in the style ribbon. I usually type a few words, highlight them, format as I wish and then modify by clicking update to match selection.

Finally, once you’ve styled all the headings you plan to use you might want to save this particular style for use on future documents. Just go to the DESIGN tab, hover on the first pane in the Ribbon and you’ll get a little message telling you right-click to save the current style. You can then name the style and save it as a Word template. It will then be added to the style icons on the Ribbon for future use.

OK, so you’re done for now. The document is set up and you can go full steam ahead with your write-up. Just remember, every time you come to use a heading or a chapter title, click on the relevant icon in the style ribbon e.g. Heading 1 and the wording will be formatted in your chosen style.