My short cuts – headings (part 1)

29 Feb

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

Today we’re going to look at how to set up headings in Word. I am breaking this series up into small pieces, so we will be learning about setting up numbered headings and creating contents pages too.

You will use this to save yourself time and ensure consistency when you’re setting up a large document with lots of headings and sub-headings. Imagine I’ve written a document about what I do in my business. I might write it up like this (you can imagine the one-word sentences are longer paragraphs if that helps!)

It’s not very easy to see what’s a heading and what’s the text, though. So I might think up my own styles of headings or sub-headings (yes, I might number them, too, but let’s keep it simple for now) and do this:

All well and good, but if this is a great big document: am I going to remember that I put main headings in bold, sub-headings in italics, etc., etc.? Or am I going to get in a mess and make my document confusing, so when you read it you don’t know which kind of section you’re in?

This is where the pre-set headings available in Word come into their own. If you’re using Word 2003, you’ll need to be using the formatting toolbar, then styles. If you’re using Word 2007 or Word 2010, then you’re on the Home tab of the ribbon at the top. Have a look: can you see some boxes labelled Heading 1, etc.?

I’ve circled Heading 1, and the arrow points at a scroll bar that will let you see a whole range of different things you can do.

Now you’ve located the headings buttons, you need to highlight the text you want to mark as Heading 1, and click on the Heading 1 button

And there it is, changed into blue (it doesn’t have to be blue, or that size; we’ll look at that in the next session) and every time you mark a heading as Heading 1, it will look like that.

Note: you don’t have to have all the text already written, highlight and click. You can also click Heading 1 (or whatever) when you want to type a new heading; the text on that line will adopt the Heading 1 format until you press return.

Time to do the Heading 2 level now. Oh – if you want to be clever, highlight each example of a heading you want to change to Heading 2, keeping the Control button pressed on your keyboard as you do so. This will highlight all the text you want to alter at once, saving a few clicks.

Anyway – highlight your Heading 2 text, all together or one at a time, and click on the Heading 2 button.

You’ll notice that Word has realised you’re setting levels of headings and has helpfully moved the button for Heading 3 up to the top row now, to save you looking for it (see the blue arrow). How useful!

Now, carry on highlighting and choosing heading levels until the whole document is done. You’ll end up with something like this:

Now, maybe this doesn’t look very different from what we started off with. But three things make this better than what we started with:

  1. You don’t have to remember what look you’re using for each level of heading; it does it all for you
  2. If you want to number your headings, that’s going to be really easy to do, AND if you change sections, swap them around, add or delete them, the numbering will change automatically
  3. You will be able to create an automatic Table of Contents

Next time, we’ll look at assigning numbers to all the different heading levels, and how that will help make your document easy to navigate …

If you have enjoyed this post and found it useful, please click on the “share” buttons below or tell your friends and colleagues about it! Thank you!

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here


Posted by on February 29, 2012 in Copyediting, Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing


Tags: , , , ,

9 responses to “My short cuts – headings (part 1)

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