Using Styles to Format a Large Document

Formatting a large document can be a tedious process. Between pagination, making sure that chapter headings work correctly and making a table of contents, you might think you need someone to manage these things full time. You don’t, though. Word can do a lot of this for you. Today we’re going to look at two things – customizing a Style so that you can have a chapter title appear on a new page each time, and then using those styles to create a table of contents.

Customizing Word Styles

This is a lot less esoteric than you’d think. As always, right-click is your friend.

You’ll right-click on the style you want to modify. In our example, we want Heading 1 to be our chapter title and we want that chapter to start on its own page. So, we right-click on Heading 1 on the Home tab in the Styles group.

So, we’re going to change the style, right? Modify is another word for change. Let’s click on it and see what happens.

Lookie there! We get the Modify style dialog box.

Now, from here, we’re going to need to change the way a style is formatted. Using our superior powers of deduction, we’re going to look and see what we can press to do that. Wouldn’t you know it, there is a Format button for us to click on.

This is less intuitive. We’re going to need to click on Paragraph. I know, not as obvious as it could be in this case.

Now by default, it is going to show you the Indents and Spacing tab. What you really need in this case is the Page and Line Breaks. Once you’ve clicked on that, select Page Break Before. Then click okay to close the Page and Line Breaks tab, and click OK to close the Modify styles window.

Now, you don’t have to manually add a page break each time you start a new chapter. Just format the chapter with a Heading 1 style, and you’re good to go!

Creating a Table of Contents

Adding a table of contents

You can use Word to generate a table of contents from headings in a document. To be included in the table of contents, text must be formatted in a Heading style such as Heading1 or Heading 2.

You can select a table of contents from a gallery of style options. To do so:

  1. Activate the References tab.
  2. Click Table of Contents.
  3. Select the desired style.

However, the thing that makes this impressive is not the fact that you can generate the table of contents. It is that you can then update the table at any time. If you decide to add a few pages of material to your document somewhere in the middle, instead of tediously going through and changing the page references on the table of contents, all you have to do is click on the Update Table button when you have selected the table of contents. It’s a serious timesaver. Try it some time!

Mail Merge to Create Holiday Letters

The holidays are here and many people will want to send out letters bragging about outlining their year and letting friends and family know what they’ve been up to since the last letter.

MS Word has a perfect solution for that in Mail Merge.

For this to work well, you will need some source data. An Excel spreadsheet works perfectly well for this, but if you use Outlook to maintain your contacts, that can be a good thing to use as well. We’ll be running with Excel today because I feel like it J

The first thing you need to do is make sure you have a list in an Excel spreadsheet with the information you want saved.

Firstname Lastname Spouse Child1 Address City State Zip
Harry Potter Ginny James 12 Grimauld Place New York NY


Miles Flint Rhonda Emmaline 78 Armstrong St. Verona WI


Matt Delamer Niqui Joshua 1100 Prince Edward Street Fredericksburg VA


Samuel Vimes Sybil Sam 1 Scoone Avenue Los Angeles CA


After that, you’ll write your letter, making sure to have place markers where you want the information to go. As a place marker, I’ve put brackets around the text I am going to be turning into fields for the mail merge.

Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Rust

                            1 Treacle Mine Road

                            White River Junction, VT 05001

                            December 1, 2016

<Firstname> <Lastname>


<City>, <State> <Zip>

Dear <Firstname>,

Happy Holidays. I hope <Spouse> and <child1> are doing well.

This year has been a difficult one for me. My oldest daughter, Buffy, was accepted to Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton, and Columbia University. It was such a stressful time trying to decide where to send her! Our son, Digby, won the Decathlon at the most recent Olympics, but only Ronald could be at the award ceremony because I, of course, had to be at Stephanie’s ceremony where she won the gold for the 100-meter Freestyle at the same time. It was cause for quite a bit of tension Chez Rust, I can tell you. Really, the Olympic committee ought to know better than to schedule conflicting events, don’t you think?

After this summer, we remodeled our house, and I have to admit that was a comfort. I’d had the same kitchen for a whole three years, and just needed an upgrade!

Ronald has been working on some mysterious project in the basement that he just won’t tell me about. We keep getting medical grade equipment – bone saws and grinders… I cannot imagine what he’s going to create, but I’m sure that next year’s letter will have some exciting news of a new invention.

Do keep in touch. We miss hearing from you!

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year,

After we have our text, it is time to start the Mail Merge.

  1. In the form letter, place the cursor where you want to insert the merge field.
  2. In the Write & Insert group, click Address Block to open the Insert Address Block dialog box. You’ll use this dialog box to insert the address merge fields.
  3. From the “Insert recipient’s name in this format list, select a format for the merge field. By default the company name and postal address are inserted along with the same field. You can also clear these setting, if you prefer.
  4. Click OK.
  5. In the Write & Insert Fields group, click Greeting Line to open the Insert Greeting Line dialog box.
  6. Select a greeting-line format and click OK.
  7. In the Write & Insert fields group, click Insert Merge field and choose the merge field you want to insert.

When you are done, you can click Preview Results.

The letter should look something like this:

If you like the way it looks, you can then click on Finish and Merge. This generates a new document, each letter on its own separate page. You can save that document, and even edit it, if you want to personalize particular letters to particular people. I don’t think it would be Poppy’s thing, of course. J

How to Lock Their Sticky Fingers Out of Your Formatting

Do you ever collaborate on documents?

Do you ever find that when you do, someone with whom you collaborate does not know how to use Styles in Word?

It’s okay. I know the answer to this one. You totally do. It might even drive you up a wall when someone you’re collaborating with will force formatting instead of using Styles. If you’re using them extensively, this messes up everything from the seamless look of the document to logical text flow.

Did you know you can lock them out of that? Your collaborator, the brilliant writer, can then write the brilliant text without messing up the rest of the structure of the document. It’s awesome.

How to restrict formatting and styles in MS Word

Let’s take this somewhat out of date document – a guide to some new features in Office 2013. It makes extensive use of styles for both formatting and text flow. If you check to the right, you’ll see the navigation pane which shows the organization of the document in headings and subheadings. Text flow is also controlled by forcing a page break before certain types of headings. (See The Top Three Reasons to Use Styles When Formatting a Document for a little blurb on how to do that)

If I wanted to hand this document to someone else so they could contribute some material, I still would not want them messing with how the styles work in it. It drives the layout and look of the document.

So, I restrict formatting.

  1. Click on the Review tab and go to the Protect group.
  2. Click on Restrict Editing.

  3. The Restrict Editing task pane will appear on the right of your screen.

  4. Under Formatting Restrictions, click on Settings.

  5. From here you can restrict formatting changes to the styles you want the author to use. I strongly recommend using Recommended Minimum. Once you’ve made your choices, click OK.
  6. You will get a warning telling you that if styles are used for which you’ve blocked changes, they’ll be removed. Make sure you choose all the styles you use in your document! It will only activate, however, after you’ve clicked Yes.
  7. If you want to add editing restrictions such as Tracked Changes, you can choose that under Editing Restrictions.

  8. When you’re ready, just click on Yes, Start Enforcing Protection. You will get a notification to enter a password. DO NOT FORGET THIS PASSWORD. There is no way to recover it, and you might lock yourself out of something you don’t want to if you forget this password. When you have set a password that you will remember, click OK.

Now that you have your document protected, I want you to notice something on the Home ribbon:

See the Font and Paragraph groups? They’re ghosted – locked down. The only formatting that the writer can now add is in styles. No more Purple Comic Sans for that author! Yes, there is a style that’s equivalent to Bold. It’s called Strong. However, the use of styles versus font-based formatting brings up a point. If you’re going to do this, you need to educate your writers on what you did, why you did it, and then show them how they can accomplish what they want within Styles.

I mean, you’re working on documents, so like… Communication is a thing, right?