Shifting Styles, Part 3

You’re working away, editing a client’s document, and decide to modify the Heading 1 style to use a Goudy typeface. Whoa! Now the Heading 2 and Heading 3 styles are in Goudy as well. What’s going on here?

What’s going on is that your client has made the Heading 2 and Heading 3 styles “based on” the Heading 1 style. If you don’t know how this works, you’ll be scratching your head over the changing formats. If you *do* know how it works, you can use it to ensure consistent formatting throughout a document.

Let’s say you want all of your headings to be set in Baskerville. It’s true that you could go through and set Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, Heading 4, Heading 5, Heading 6, Heading 7, Heading 8, and Heading 9 (whew!) all to use that font (in varying point sizes, say). But now what if you want to switch to Palatino? Do you really have to go through and modify all of those styles again? Not if you originally based them all on Heading 1. If you did that, all you have to do is change the font for Heading 1, and all of your other heading styles will change as well. Pretty neat! Here’s how to do it:

  1. Click the “Format” menu.
  2. Click “Style.”
  3. In the Styles list, click the style (Heading 2, for example) that you want to base on another style (such as Heading 1).
  4. Click the “Modify” button.
  5. In the “Based on” dropdown list, click the style on which you want to base the current style.
  6. Click the “OK” button.
  7. Click the “Close” button.

Now, whenever you modify the “parent” style (Heading 1), the “child” style (Heading 2) will be modified automatically.

Please note, however, that any changes you make to the “child” style will override the attributes of the “parent” style. For example, if Heading 1 is set to 18 points, you can still modify Heading 2 (based on Heading 1) as 14 points. If you do that, though, you may wonder how to get rid of the override if you need to. Here’s the secret: change the attribute in Heading 2 back to the way it’s set in Heading 1 (14 points back to 18 points). The “child” style will simply pick up its attributes from the “parent style” once again.

This “based on” feature is extremely useful. You can use it to set up whole families of styles that are based on a “parent” style. For example, you might want to set up a family of heading styles, a family of body text styles, and a family of list styles, and then store them all in a special template. Just be sure to use a naming convention that makes it easy to remember which styles are the “parents.” The easiest way to do this may be to use “1” to designate “parent” styles: Heading 1, Body Text 1, List 1, and so on. Then you can use other numbers (2, 3, 4) to indicate “child” styles.

Now, when your styles start shifting, you’ll be happy rather than sad.


Last week’s newsletter discussed Word’s “Automatically update” feature for styles. In the newsletter, I suggested turning on the feature while designing a document but turning off the feature while writing or editing. If you’ve got lots of styles, however, this can get pretty tedious. Gary Frieder, a Microsoft Word MVP at Woody’s Lounge ( created a macro to turn off updating for all styles, and Bill Rubidge edited the macro to turn on updating. Thanks to Bill for sending the macros, and thanks to Gary for giving permission to use them. Enjoy!

Public Sub TurnOnAutomaticallyUpdate()
' TurnOnAutomaticallyUpdate Macro
' Created by Gary Frieder, edited by Bill Rubidge to turn on, not off
Dim aSty As Style
For Each aSty In ActiveDocument.Styles
   If aSty.Type = wdStyleTypeParagraph Then
   aSty.AutomaticallyUpdate = True
   End If
Next aSty
End Sub
Public Sub RemoveAutomaticallyUpdate()
' RemoveAutomaticallyUpdate Macro
' Created by Gary Frieder
Dim aSty As Style
For Each aSty In ActiveDocument.Styles
   If aSty.Type = wdStyleTypeParagraph Then
   aSty.AutomaticallyUpdate = False
   End If
Next aSty
End Sub


Microsoft Product Support Services is actually one of my favorite places to find information about using Microsoft Word:

I just use the dropdown list on the left to select the version of Word I want to learn about (Word 2000, for example). Then I type some key words in the box just below that (“modify styles,” for example), and click “Search now.” The site has a lot of information, although you may have to dig to find just what you need.

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