Formatting With Style

Few things drive me more crazy than trying to work on a document that someone else has created. This is because very few people understand how to use styles in Microsoft Word and instead try to format everything using the formatting buttons on their formatting toolbar.

I am glad to see that I am not the only person disturbed by this problem. Writing, Clear and Simple, addressed this problem head-on recently. The author explained the problem as follows:

I frequently collaborate on projects with several different people, exchanging documents to review and revise. And all too often, I see documents where all of the formatting—bold, italic, font, type size, and so on— has been set manually. That’s the hard way to do it. It’s like having a woodworking shop full of expensive equipment at your disposal, but building a cabinet using only a hatchet.

He could not be more right. I see people do this all of the time. The main cause of this problem, in my opinion, is a lack of training. People don’t know they are supposed to use styles instead of the formatting tools on the formatting bar. Besides, those tools on the formatting bar are so convenient.

In his post, Roy points you toward some resources for learning how to use and modify styles. Additionally, I have written a series of posts on the issue as well.

Some of you may be wondering why this is so important. Or, as I am often asked, “What’s the big deal?”

The answer is simple and Roy nails is perfectly:

You should be focusing your attention on the content, on making sure the words say what you want them to say, and here you are, fiddling with the cosmetics, wasting precious time making the document look pretty.

Once you spend a little time putting your styles together, you never have to worry about formatting again. You simply apply the approriate style and go on. You can concentrate on the writing without having to worry about whether the document will look good.