This question comes up constantly on various listserves I frequent: “How/Why would I use Styles in Word?”
Seriously, that’s like asking “why would I breathe?” or “should I go to the bathroom when I wake up in the morning?” That basic, that fundamental. If you’re among the vast miserable majority NOT using Styles in Word to format your documents, you’re absolutely word processing the hardest possible way. In fact, as my Solosez pal and WordPerfect Wizard Mike Koenecke says “one can use Styles in WordPerfect every bit as effectively and comprehensively as in Word, if that is the way you prefer to work. There are character styles, paragraph styles, document styles aplenty. If you prefer that approach, there is no reason to “change font codes a paragraph at a time through a long document.” In fact, there is no reason to do that in WordPerfect at all.” Essentially a very polite version of “duh.”
So why don’t most Word users we encounter in our client’s offices use Styles? I think the answer has always been the same:
- We were brought up in a WordPerfect world and never learned what styles were and didn’t need them. So there.
- We taught ourselves Word. So, we learned how to do everything “unofficially.”
So it’s time to break out of that cycle of document generation despair and get onboard with Styles in Word (and WordPerfect if you still use it). Styles are nothing more than a way to apply a single smart “macro” (a concept familiar to the legion of WordPerfect-ingrained among us), that affects all the text in a document or a paragraph within a document. It couldn’t be simpler to use – you don’t even need to highlight and mark text as you used to do in WordPerfect in the “good old days.” Just be in the paragraph or document where you want to have the appearance changed and click the Style you wish to choose from your Word 2007 or 2010 Home ribbon Styles choices. Et voila! Multiple appearance changes applied in a single click.
You can create new Styles on the fly by formatting a block of text you wish to look like the Style you want to create. Then highlight the formatted text and right click, then select the option to create a QuickStyle from the highlighted text. Fill in the box that appears, naming your style, click to okay it and you now have a brand new Style you can reuse over and over. There are also ways to share these with other users.
AND, as we’ve advised clients for years (many of whom still don’t seem to listen, such is the power of old habits and their unwillingness to die in the face of logic and reason :-)), discuss the Styles you’d want to use as standards for document layout and appearance in your practice, create them, wipe out all the extraneous default Styles you’d never use (and which clutter the Styles “windowblind” in Word 2007/2010) and then actually use the abbreviated, streamlined “official” firm set you’ve created for body text, headings, pleadings, etc.
So it’s NOT mysterious. It’s NOT obtuse. It’s NOT byzantine. Styles are massive timesavers and professionalism boosters since all your firm’s documents will have the “official” look and feel, as opposed to a collection of inconsistent looking content that just screams (“we can’t get our act together!”).
Abe at MicroLaw, as some of you know, and others perhaps not, offers superb remote (and live when practical) Word 2007 and 2010 training for all MicroLaw clients – he has for years. Contact me here to find out about it – one hour of online training time can change your word processing life for the better forever. He can also show you how to create “firm styles” and make them available to all your users on your systems and networks. And if you mention the phrase “Obviously Styles” in your email, I’d be happy to give you a 15% courtesy professional services discount on any MicroLaw Word or MS Office training your practice decides to get (yes, we do Outlook, PowerPoint and Excel training for law practices as well). We’ve been training on MS Office for almost 20 years and have custom training reference materials that have gotten rave reviews from clients.
The other thing to think about is purely economic. How much time do you and your staff waste every single day formatting the hard way in Word? I’m guessing that if you’re relatively typical, the answer is TONS of time – and if you happen to be working on a flat fee or contingent fee billing arrangement, that wasted time manually formatting, unformatting, reformatting, all eats directly into your profit margin. On hourly matters, you’re probably still eating a ton of time that you just can’t bill for all the subsidization of your own inefficiency. For the sake of mathematical/fiscal argument, if you waste just 15 minutes a day of lawyer time at $200/hour monkeying around with the manual formatting of a Word document, that’s $50/day, $250/week, $1000/month and $12,000 per year of your otherwise billable and productive time. Not to mention the psychological toll of all the accumulated frustration and angst that flows from struggling with software.
As a reference, you could buy my techno.pal Ben Schorr’s latest ABA LPM book on Word here – I think it’s a must-have. And if you’re still a Word 2003 hanger-on, the Payne Consulting book on Word 2003 for Lawyers is now only $10 – a steal if you need it still.
If you prefer a more impersonal “show me fast” approach, here are some video links on how to use styles in Word 2007 and 2010 (I’m not showing you how to do this in Word 2003, for goodness sake – get CURRENT already, would ’ya???):
en-us/word-help/video-apply- styles-in-word-2010- VA101820568.aspx
office_casual/archive/2011/02/ 15/using-quick-styles-in-word. aspxhttp://blogs.office.com/ b/microsoft-word/archive/2011/ 06/21/word-of-the-week- formatting-vs-styles.aspx