You may be tempted to make a heading by using the direct formatting tools to make the font larger and bolder. The direct formatting tools are those in the Home ribbon in the Font and Paragraph sections shown below. They are also accessible from the right click menu. Although these are right in front of you and very tempting, it is best NOT to use these tools to format headings.
Instead, you should move along the ribbon to the Styles section and use those to format headings.
Why is it better to use the heading styles rather than directly applying styles?
Using styles to format your document has lots of advantages.
- It allows you to have a consistent look to your document which makes it look more professional.
- This consistency makes it easier for readers as they can more easily tell which are sections and subsections of the document.
- It enables you to use Word’s automatic tools for creating a table of contents.
- It enables you to use the Navigation Pane to view the structure of your document and easily rearrange sections.
- It enables you to use Outline view to view the structure of your document and easily rearrange sections.
- If you want to change the style of your headings, you can make the change in one place and the change will be consistently applied throughout your whole document.
What if you don’t like the heading styles that are there?
These can be easily changed and there are several different ways. Here are two ways I use commonly.
Via the right click menu
When you right click on one of the heading styles the options will include one to Modify the style. Clicking this will open a pane that allows you to change the font size, type, paragraph spacing, underlining and so on.
By applying direct formatting and then updating the style
You can use the direct formatting tools to make a heading look the way you want it. Once you have it ready, select the heading in your document. Then move the mouse to the ribbon and right click on the heading style you want to change. The right click menu will include an option to Update Heading to Match Selection. Clicking on that will change the heading style to match the direct formatting you just applied to the selected text in your document. Now all the headings of that style in your document will look the same as the direct formatting you applied.