Microsoft Word Heading Styles Tutorial

Adhering to APA conventions on headings can be a breeze when done the right way with Microsoft Word. This short tutorial will show you how.

Word makes use of styles, which allow you to apply font and paragraph attributes to blocks of text in a consistent way. There are two flavors of styles in Word:

  • Character Styles: These offer relatively few options, but can be mixed with other styles within a given paragraph. They basically allow you to control only font-related attributes.
  • Paragraph Styles: In contrast to their cousin, paragraph styles give significant control over text, including font, paragraph, and even numbering. The catch to using paragraph styles, however, is that they can't be mixed together in a single paragraph. That is, only one paragraph style may be used within a paragraph. Most of the APA styles are paragraph styles.

Creating a document containing APA styles

There are two ways to use the styles found in the "APA.dot" document you just downloaded. If you're creating a document from scratch simply double-click the file icon, and Word will open with a blank document containing the styles. If you'd like to copy the styles into an existing document read through the rest of this section; otherwise, feel free to scroll down to the "Utilizing the APA Styles" section below.

If you'd like to copy the APA styles into an existing document, first open that document in Microsoft Word. Now from the Tools menu select the Templates and Add-Ins... option. You should see a dialog box that looks something like this (the Mac screen will look slightly different):

Now click on the Organizer... button, which will bring up another box like this:

Note that the Styles tab is currently selected, which shows the styles in your current document on the left, and styles from a document that you might copy from on the right. We'll want to copy styles from the APA.dot template. To do this, first click the "Close File" button on the right. The button should now say "Open File..." Click the button, find the "APA.dot" document you downloaded earlier, then click the "Open" button. The dialog box should now look like this:

The styles shown on the right are those found in the "APA.dot" template, which you'll be copying to your own document. Do this by holding down the "Ctrl" key on your keyboard ("Command" key on a Mac), then clicking on all of the styles listed (you may have to scroll). Now click the "< < Copy" button. When asked if you'd like to copy over your existing style, click "Yes". You've now copied over the styles you'll need, so close the "Organizer" dialog box by clicking on the "Close" button in the lower-right corner.

Utilizing the APA Styles

Now for the easy part. As you type text normally now, you'll notice that the first line of each paragraph will ident half an inch, and that they will be formatted using double-spacing. The styles Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, TITLE, Normal, Block Quote, Reference, and Body Text can be applied to an existing line of text by simply placing the cursor somewhere within the text, then selecting the style you'd like to use. Styles are selected from a drop-down list which should be on the Formatting Toolbar at the top-left corner of your document as shown below:

If you haven't already specifically selected a style the drop-down list will likely contain the text "Normal" (meaning the "Normal" style is the current one). For example, try applying a level 1 style by placing the cursor on a new line, typing the heading, then selecting "Heading 1" from the style drop-down list on your Toolbar. Because the cursor is on that paragraph (and it's a paragraph style) it applies it to the entire line. Once you've applied an APA heading style to a block of text you can return it back to the "Normal" style by simply placing the cursor in the paragraph or line and selecting "Normal" from the style drop-down list.

APA level 4 style is slightly different from the others in that it is a character style as opposed to a paragraph style. You might remember that character styles can be mixed with other styles within a single paragraph. The level 4 APA style requires this, as it's to be indented half an inch, underlined, and followed by a period. Applying the level 4 APA style requires a couple of extra steps that aren't required with the others. To utilize it with an existing paragraph of text place the cursor at the beginning of the paragraph, type the heading you'd like to use, then a period, then a space. Having done that, select the heading you just typed, including the period, then select "APA 4" from the style drop-down list found on your Toolbar. As a side note, the style is called APA 4 instead of Heading 4 simply because Microsoft Word reserves Heading 4 for its own purposes.

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