Word – Which style to use for simple paragraph text in Word

microsoft wordmicrosoft-word-2007microsoft-word-2010styles

How do I find out what the various built-in Word styles are intended for?

There are seven built-in styles that describe something along the lines of "normal base text paragraph":

  • Normal
  • Normal (applied to an object)
  • Plain Text
  • Body Text
  • Body Text 2
  • Body Text 3

Or they're like styles such as "List Paragraph," "List Continue," "Block Text," "Body Text," "Comment Text," "Balloon Text," etc.

How do I know which of these preset styles are to be used in what circumstances?

I know I can create my own styles and label them with more meaningful titles that make sense to me, but then I might be losing out on the benefits there are of using those that are packaged with Word (like having auto-generated table of contents by picking out when certain styles are applied).

Why are there so many styles that describe something as simple as "base text"? Which one is intended to be used (or act as a base) of a simple paragraph text?

The Normal (applied within a table) style does not apply here, since it is a table style (not paragraph).

I want to understand why a style is preset and what or when it is meant to be used for.

Best Answer

Built-in styles are supposed to make formatting more efficient and consistent. But when should you use them versus creating your own styles?

  • Use built-in heading styles? Yes.
  • Use built-in table styles? Maybe.
  • Use built-in list styles? Probably not.

Shauna Kelly and other Word MVP experts tend to recommend always using Word's built-in heading styles because they are stable and you can do so much with them. Based on personal experience, I agree. The following article gives 12 reasons:

See http://shaunakelly.com/word/numbering/usebuiltinheadingstyles.html

On the other hand, go cautiously if you are thinking of using the built-in table styles because of lack of documentation about how table styles work. See http://shaunakelly.com/word/styles/custom-table-styles-2002-2003.html

Her article cites specific problems with Word 2002-2003, and gave little hope for Word 2007 or subsequent versions due to a history of poor documentation from Microsoft on how table styles work. Her list of reasons for avoiding table styles would be a good checklist for you to use when deciding whether the built-in table styles are feasible for you.

Regarding lists, the built-in styles will probably not be sufficient because there are too few styles to work with and adapted built-in list styles are unstable. Better to just create your own list styles. This is based on personal experience.