Outlining Styles


this page is designed to help you develop a workable style, assemble documents, and master MS Word’s interface.

  • MS Word buries its outline feature under a complicated, confusing user interface and further confuses structure with style.
  • My first Outlining advice is to cut through style to get at the power of outlining’s deep structure.
  • On this page I’ll review how in MS Word, and on the web, styles are applied to the outline structure.

Learn how to distinguish between structure and style

  • CSS Zen Gardens is a website built around 2003, when the engineers and designers creating the modern web were learning how to work with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). By clicking on any of the 150+ styles you will find here you will see how differently the very same texts, structured in HTML, appears differently as different CSS styles are applied
  • Structural and Presentations Layers illustrates the concept using the figure of bodies (structure) and clothing (attributes, or style)

Structure in MS Word

Outlines do their powerful work insofar as you organize your materials in a hierarchy, which in preparing documents for academic and professional purposes typically involves text elements arrenged in the following level or heading hierarchy

  1. Header, Assignment Date
  2. Sub-head, Article Title
  3. Sub-head, Article Section
  4. Text, Discussion
  5. Quotations, Images
  6. Citations (from Mendeley)

Style sheets for MS Word

  • Style Sheets, referring to the sheet of paper where, in an old publishing house, the designers defined a publication’s style, refer today to the styles in CSS as they are applied to a web document’s HTML or an MS Word’s hierarch of levels or headings
  • Here, “H1” refers to the standard HTML coding hierarchy (<h1></hw>)and corresponds to MS Word styles, beginning with “Heading 1” or “Level 1”
  • As it happens, when you can copy a document rendered in MS Word’s Outline View and past it into the Text View of a wordpress.com website, WordPress will convert the headings into legal HTML
  • Note how the higher elements are assigned larger, bolder type and with more space before to set the main heads and sub-heads off


H1 = 14pt

H2 = 12pt.

H3 = 12pt.

H4 = 11pt.

H5 = 10pt.

H6 = 10pt.


H1 = Bold

H2 = Italic

H3 = Underline

H4 = Normal

H5 = Italic

H6 = Normal

Space Before

H1 = +6

H2 = +6

H3 = +3

H4 = +3

H5 = +3

H6 = +3


H1 = Left

H2 = Left

H3 = Left

H4 = Left

H5 = Left, +.5cm

H6 = Right

Implementation Quickstart: Styles

In the document template I share with you you will find “My Template”, a file set up as above, and from there you should:

  1. Copy my sample document to your hard drive and “save as” something memorable that you will copy from
  2. Open this document, delete all text to leave only the hidden styles, and save.
  3. Optional Method 1: “save as” .dot or your “normal.dot” file so that all of your new documents automatically contain these styles
  4. Optional Method 2: learn how to “manage styles”: search for “ms word YourVersion manage styles” and follow the directions to open the Organizer and copy the styles from “My Template” to your open file — essentially clobbering, replacing, my styles with yours
  5. Optional Method 3: learn how to adjust each style individually: search for “office support YourVersion ms word modify style” and follow the directions to change each style individually as you might like

Working With Hidden Styles

MS Word hides style parameters so that you can work undistracted with the text

  • MS Word attaches style paramaters to each object at the end, which you can reveal by clicking Nonprinting characters/All in the application Preferences dialog box
  • When you change an object’s style, you can choose to change ALL instances of that object by clicking the appropriate box, and by clicking “save to normal.dot template” you save for every new file you created
  • If you paste an object from one file to another, it will automatically carry the styles from that original file, so if you want the text you are copying to appear in the new file’s style, you will need to Edit/Paste Special/Unformatted Text.