Your Guide to Using Styles in Word


Styles Make Your Writing Better.

Well, ok, they won’t make your writing better, but they make it a hell of a lot easier to format.

Styles also make it a LOT easier if you change your mind and want to create a new look for your document.

They’re also the editor’s friend, so if you want to impress your editor (and get rid of all those pesky tabs, redundant spaces and end of line returns) Styles are the way to go.


And they’re not at all scary! (honest)

So here is a very quick guide on how to use Styles – once you start using them you’ll use them all the time.


Create your document


Word Styles screenshot 1

Right, open up your Word document or create a new one. Depending on which version of Word you use you’ll see something similar to the screenshot. Look above your ‘paper’ there is the Style section of the toolbar.

This is where the magic happens. But you can ignore all those Subtle, Emphasis and Intense Emphasis boxes for now, just stick with the Normal and the Headings.

Write something fabulous so you have something to practice on.

Create a Normal Style

The Normal style is for the body of your document, the main text, the stuff like these words right here. You want to use the Normal style for everything that’s just normal text.

Now, I have a fondness for Calibri when I’m working. It’s a nice clean font, no annoying squiggles and it’s easy on the eye. But you might want something different, a nice serif font such as Times New Roman, or Blackadder so you can pretend to be a pirate.

Let’s change the normal style to something else.

Screenshot (3)

First right-click on the Normal box (the one highlighted in orange here to show that I’m using it right now) then click on Modify.

The Modify Style box will now magically appear on your screen.

Word Styles screenshot 4

You can see that under formatting I have Calibri 11 Automatic colour, left justified. There’s also a nice little box to show you what your style will look like. Pretty handy that.

Word Styles screenshot 7

Now look down the bottom. Unless you want your modified style to work on ALL the documents you create, keep the ‘Only in this document’ circle checked. If it’s not checked you might find that your lovely pirate document style carries over into all those business letters you’ve been writing.

The quickest way to change your style is to just change things in this box, so let’s do that. Just hit the little down arrow next to Calibri (Body) and choose your font, then do the same for size. Let’s also change the colour and get rid of Automatic.

Once you’re happy with your selection click OK.

Word Styles screenshot 5

Ta Daaaaaa. You can now write like a pirate! Aaaaaaaar.

Word Styles screenshot 6

But that’s not easily readable, so for now let’s use your new skills and change it to something else – repeat what you’ve just done, but make it a better font.

Word Styles screenshot 9

That’s better.

Once you’re happy with your Normal style you can stop fiddling or you will NEVER get any work done. Believe me, you can spend hours playing with Styles.

Make sure your text is all using the Normal style. Select your text and click on the Normal box if it doesn’t have a border to show that it’s in use.

Next …

Create your heading styles

When your text is split up using headings there’s no need to manually change things on the ribbon every time you want to change the font and size. Save yourself the hassle (and make editors go ‘ooooooh’) by creating a Heading style and using that.

You can change the Heading in the same way you just modified the Normal style, or you can delve deeper into the Modify box. Let’s do that and alter your Heading 1 …

Word Styles screenshot 12

Go to the Heading 1 box, right-click and hit Modify, which will open the same box you used last time, only now it’s linked to the Heading 1 Style.

Word Styles screenshot 12a

It shows that Heading 1 currently uses the Cambria font in size 14. Let’s look into the format further. Hit the ‘Format’ button. This gives you a whole heap of choices for font, paragraph, tabs, border etc.

Click on font and you get a new box with lots of lovely choices.

Word Styles screenshot 15

I’ve chosen Cooper Black font, lilac, Bold and size 14 and checked the Emboss box, because, hell why not. But you can choose whatever you like, the preview box will show you what it looks like.

Hit OK

Congratulations, you’ve just changed your first Heading style.

Type your heading, then highlight it and click on the Heading 1 box, or click on the box before you start typing your heading.

My heading can be seen here –

Word Styles screenshot 16a


It’s not very good though so I’d probably change it.

So now you know how to change Styles, you just do this for every different part of your document.

I’m going to change back to my normal styles and show you a screen shot of parts of a document that are most common:

Word Styles screenshot 17


There are lots of ways you can customise the Styles to make your document fabulous, don’t be afraid to play and, as long as that ‘Only in this document’ box is ticked, you won’t really risk doing anything to your other documents. I say ‘really’ because there is always the risk.

Anyway, let’s do one final thing and get you that lovely indented Normal style.

There are obviously going to be other ways to do this, but being totally honest, I like to stick with what I know and I’ve found this to be the easiest way to do things.

Create your indented Normal style

Make sure you are using the Normal style.

Word Styles screenshot 18a

Go to the little arrow on the bottom right of your Styles box and an option box will appear.

Word Styles screenshot 19a

Now click the little AA box (new style box) and it takes you to the usual modify box that you are used to using.

Word Styles screenshot 20a

BUT … this time you will see Style 1 is highlighted – change this to name your style, which in this case will be based on your Normal style. I call it Normal Indented.

Next hit the Format button, then Paragraph and you will be faced with a box to help you format your text.

Word Styles screenshot 22a

The Indents and Spacing tab should be showing you a selection of choices, head to the Indentation area and click on the right arrow next to Special

Select First Line and in the box to the right you’ll see 1.27 cm – you can leave this or change it to the indent you want.

Hit OK and you’ve got yourself a new style.

Now whenever you want to have the body of your text to be indented, apart from the first paragraph, you set your first paragraph to Normal, and the rest to Normal Indented.

Word Styles screenshot 23

And if you want to change the line spacing of your text, go Modify>Format>Paragraph and change to whichever line spacing you like.

So, there you go. A really quick guide to Styles. There may be other ways to do it, but this is the way I use it and it works for me.

You can see now that simply by using Styles you can change the way your document looks whenever you fancy and you don’t have to go through the whole damn thing manually changing the font size, colour or type. You just hit ‘modify’ and everything under that Style changes automatically. And if a Style is based on another one, like my indented Normal style, if you change the original style, the ones that are based on it will change too. Simple.


Now you can be in total control of your document and save valuable time, allowing you to write like a pirate whenever you like.


The Damned Apostrophe and How To Use It



Sometimes I just think ‘get rid of it’. It’s a pain. Even those of us who work with words occasionally sit scratching our heads at where the damn thing should go.

But, despite our agony, most of the time the apostrophe is a much maligned punctuation mark. It does its job wonderfully well – if you can get your head around it.

So, in the spirit of friendship for everyone who hates the little thing, here’s the lowdown to help you polish your prose.


Contractions (shortened phrases)

One of the most common ways to use the apostrophe is in shortened phrases – where letters have been omitted in a group of words. The apostrophe basically takes the place of the missing letters.

So, if there’s a letter missing that’s where you stick the apostrophe:

’d instead of would or had – he’d, she’d we’d

’ve instead of have  – they’ve, we’ve

’t instead of not – can’t, aren’t

’ll instead of will or shall – we’ll, he’ll, she’ll

’s instead of is – that’s, what’s, it’s, who’s

’re instead of are – we’re

won’t – this stands for will not (I know, it’s weird)


It can also be used for shortening years. But beware!

When you write out a year like this, simply hitting the apostrophe/single quote key on your keyboard just won’t cut it. The computer brain thinks you’re starting a quote, so you get an opening quote mark instead of an apostrophe. The quickest way to remedy this is to hit the quote key twice and delete the first one – that way you have a nice, correct punctuation mark facing the right way.

Summer of ’69

We went to Madrid in ’86



Exceptions – clipped words

Again, beware! Not all contractions need an apostrophe. If a contraction is formed from a word that has been clipped and has made it into everyday use (basically, because us humans are lazy), you don’t use an apostrophe.

This isn’t where one or two letters have been cut out, but where a whole part of the word has been consigned to the bin.

Words like:

bus instead of omnibus

phone instead of telephone

gym instead of gymnasium

fridge instead of refrigerator


Way back in time we used an apostrophe for these, but that was when the ’bus was new and exciting, and the writer was being oh, so hip by nonchalantly cutting out part of the word. These days it will only make you look like an old fuddy-duddy.

confused over apostrophes


This is a nightmare. The thing that trips people up. The monster that refuses to die.

’s shows that something belongs to someone or something:

Helen’s present

Heidi’s fashion sense

a week’s work

somebody’s chocolate


But beware! There is no apostrophe in the possessives its, yours, hers, ours, or theirs.


What if the word already ends in an s? Well, there are two ways to go:

More common these days is – if you say it, you spell it:

Tom Jones’s dog

Thomas’s portfolio


But the other, more old-fashioned, way is to just have the apostrophe and leave out the s. This is also preferable if the word ends in an ‘ez’ sound. (This can be down to personal preference, and honestly it’s perfectly fine to drop that second s it if it’s easier.)

Tom Jones’ dog

Thomas’ portfolio

Moses’ sense of humour


And for plural nouns and names ending in s, if you don’t pronounce it, don’t use it.

My sisters’ champagne

three weeks’ time

Socrates’ followers


Getting confused yet?

Possessives still confuse a lot of people. It can be something you have to think carefully about, but it’s usually fairly simple. Think about if the noun is singular or plural and that will tell you where to put the punctuation mark:


the artist’s work = the work belonging to the artist (singular)

the artists’ work = the work belonging to the artists (plural)

my brother’s champagne = the champagne belonging to my brother (singular)

my brothers’ champagne = the champagne belonging to my brothers (plural)

sad man


Its or it’s / whose or who’s

This causes so much confusion!

When you are using the apostrophe to show a letter is missing you use it’s

it’s = it has or it is

it’s wrong

it’s confusing

it’s not funny

who’s laughing?


but that’s the only time the apostrophe is used.

For possessives, if something belongs to someone or something, there is no apostrophe as no letters are missing, so it would be:

its huge tentacles

its sharp teeth

whose eyes are those?



This one is the worst. The one that drives you mad when you spot it on a sign. The one that spawned the so-called grocer’s apostrophe.

People – we don’t use an apostrophe for plurals unless the word would be unreadable without it.

So we say:

mind your p’s and q’s

dot the i’s and cross the t’s


but for everyday plurals, leave those damn apostrophes out:

a kilo of toffees – not a kilo of toffee’s

the best whiskies in the area – not the best whisky’s in the area

free range eggs – not free range egg’s


So there you go, a short guide to the apostrophe. There’s no other punctuation mark that seems to annoy and confuse so many people. Hopefully now you can go forth and use the mark with wild abandon – but please, be kind to those who still get it wrong. Just quietly point them towards a friendly guide such as this and don’t call them out in public, no one likes a smart-arse.

Stop The Race To The Bottom, Value Your Writing Services

Business people Running Towards Finish Line --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

I need an editor … you’ll be rewarded

I need an editor … you’ll get great exposure

I need an editor … fast

I need an editor … I don’t mind paying

I need an editor … willing to pay

I need an editor … for free


If you need an editor … I’ll do it cheap

If you need an editor … I need the money

If you need an editor … I need a job

If you need an editor … I need the experience

If you need an editor … I’m not a great fit but …


All of these comments were taken from Twitter within the last six months. And they all appeared more than once, by different people, at different times and from different countries.

The potential ‘clients’ actually needed video editors, developmental editors, copy editors, proofreaders, copywriters and writing coaches. But hey, an editor is an editor on social media.

writing and editorial professsional despairing

Social media is great, don’t get me wrong, I love it, but it does seem to facilitate a race to the bottom. Everywhere you turn there are ‘experts’ who will tell you what you want to hear, potential clients who are in desperate need of help and professionals who are trying to keep their businesses afloat.

It may be controversial (or perhaps it isn’t) but sometimes, as professionals, we don’t really help ourselves. You can see it clearly from the comments above. Creative shaming is something I wrote about last year, but there has to come a time when creative professionals decide what is important in their working lives and start to help themselves.


Stop the race to the bottom, value your services.

To stop this awful race to the bottom, and to make it less acceptable to pay creatives a pittance (or even nothing, because, hell, exposure is great), we all need to value our services.

Writing and editing are valuable skills:

If everyone could do it there would be no typos, bad grammar or just plain awful prose in the world.

If our skills weren’t valuable there would be no need for editorial professionals or professional writers.

writing services


Writing and editing – the hidden talent.

Businesses rely on conveying a message, and that message should be concise, clear and articulate. The creatives behind business communication are often well hidden, but professional writers, editors and proofreaders can make the business more attractive to clients. And that skill has value.

Authors rely on crafting a great story, and that story should be a pleasure to read. The creatives that help behind the scenes are often well hidden, but editorial professionals can make a good story into a great story. And that skill has value.


Embrace your skills.

We must get out of the mindset that ours skills are of little value, and embrace our knowledge for what it is – hard graft that comes through years of experience and training. We may enjoy what we do, but our skills have value to others.

Creatives help to make the world a brighter place, and help businesses grow and flourish, so they should be treated as professionals and paid well for their expertise. And that needs to start with the creative professionals themselves. We need to value our skills and help others to value them too.

I’m lucky, I have great clients who value my services. But that may be because I know my value, understand the value of great training and help potential clients to understand what they really need. I refuse to do something just because a client thinks they need it: if they don’t need a service I won’t do it. I also refuse to join in a race to the bottom, even if it means missing out on work.


Learn to say no.

If you are a professional creative you are skilful, confident and competent. You are also engaged in an activity as a paid occupation. It is your job.

It can be really difficult to say no when someone needs help, but you have to take on work that pays you enough to settle your bills and buy the odd bottle of Prosecco. If your business has you taking on low-paid work (and let’s admit it, we have all done it), you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it. If you can’t pay your bills it isn’t. If you’re taking on low-paid work because you need a filler you are going to kick yourself when you have to say no to a decent commission, because your time is being monopolised by the job that has you working for below minimum wage.

Freelancer learning to say no


Fight back.

So, it’s time to fight back. Just because you can help doesn’t mean you have to help.

Your professional expertise has cost you:

              Time – you didn’t become a competent professional creative overnight.


              Money  – for training and equipment.


Even if you are starting out, you have the skills and training. If this is your job, it is your livelihood.


Have the answers ready.

It can be daunting to take that leap and decide that from now on you will only work for a decent wage. It’s scary – you may never work again, you have bills to pay, you need to eat. Yes, but it’s a vicious cycle; once you start accepting low-paid work, or you work for ‘exposure’, your mindset follows and you start to believe that you are only worth that minimum wage or that you need the ‘exposure’.

So take a stand. Know your worth. Here are the answers:


I need an editor … you’ll be rewarded  (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … you’ll get great exposure (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … fast   (Great, thanks, my rush rates are …)

I need an editor … I don’t mind paying  (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … willing to pay (Great, thanks, my rates are …)

I need an editor … for free  (Great, thanks, but I don’t work for free. My rates are …)


And here is what you should say:

If you need an editor … I’ll do it cheap    my rates are …

If you need an editor … I need the money    my rates are …

If you need an editor … I need a job     I have some flexibility in my schedule, my rates are …

If you need an editor … I need the experience    my rates are …

If you need an editor … I’m not a great fit but    I would love to expand into this area, my rates are …