Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Using Alternating Styles.

Using Alternating Styles

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 10, 2014)

There may be times when you want to set up Word so that you can easily enter alternating types of paragraphs. For instance, you may have a series of questions and answers to enter, one right after another. Word is powerful enough that you can define different styles that allow entering these types of alternating paragraphs very easily.

For the sake of this example, let's say you want to follow the Q and A scenario. You want each Question paragraph to begin with a bold capital Q and use a hanging indent. You want each answer to pretty much be the same, but use a bold capital A.

The following is a rather long and involved process to accomplish this, but you only need to do it once. Once the styles are set up, using them is very, very easy.

  1. Choose Style from the Format menu. Word displays the Style dialog box. If you are using Word 2003, choose Styles and Formatting from the Format menu. Word displays the Styles and Formatting task pane.
  2. Click on New or (in Word 2003) New Style. Word displays the New Style dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The New Style dialog box.

  4. In the Name field, enter the style name you want to use for your questions. For instance, you could enter Question. (Makes sense, huh?)
  5. In the Based On field, pick a style on which you want this Question style based. Typically this will be something like Normal or Body Text.
  6. Click on Format. Word displays a drop-down menu.
  7. Choose the Numbering option from the menu. Word displays the Bullets and Numbering dialog box, with the Bulleted tab selected.
  8. Choose one of the pre-defined bullet types from those at the top of the dialog box. Make sure you pick one you won't really use for your regular bullets.
  9. Click on Customize. Word displays the Customize Bulleted List dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  10. Figure 2. The Customize Bulleted List dialog box.

  11. In the bullet choices at the top of the dialog box, pick one you don't use.
  12. Click on the Bullet or Character button. Word displays the Symbol dialog box.
  13. Using the Font drop-down list, choose the Normal Text option.
  14. Click on the capital letter Q in the font display.
  15. Click on OK. The Symbol dialog box is closed.
  16. Click on Font. Word displays the Font dialog box.
  17. In the list of Font Styles, choose Bold.
  18. Click on OK. The Font dialog box is closed.
  19. Click on OK. The Customize Bulleted List dialog box is closed.
  20. Click on OK. The Question style is now defined, and the Style dialog box is still displayed.
  21. Click on New or (in Word 2003) New Style. Word displays the New Style dialog box.
  22. In the Name field, enter the style name you want to use for your answers. For instance, you could enter Answer. (Again, a cognitive leap.)
  23. In the Based On field, pick a style on which you want this Answer style based. Typically this will be something like Normal or Body Text.
  24. In the Style For Following Paragraph drop-down list, choose Question. (This setting controls what style is used next when you press Enter at the end of an Answer-formatted paragraph.)
  25. Click on Format. Word displays a drop-down menu.
  26. Choose the Numbering option from the menu. Word displays the Bullets and Numbering dialog box, with the Bulleted tab selected.
  27. Choose one of the pre-defined bullet types from those at the top of the dialog box. Make sure you pick one you won't really use for your regular bullets.
  28. Click on Customize. Word displays the Customize Bulleted List dialog box.
  29. In the bullet choices at the top of the dialog box, pick one you don't use.
  30. Click on the Bullet button. Word displays the Symbol dialog box.
  31. Using the Font drop-down list, choose the Normal Text option.
  32. Click on the capital letter A in the font display.
  33. Click on OK. The Symbol dialog box is closed.
  34. Click on Font. Word displays the Font dialog box.
  35. In the list of Font Styles, choose Bold.
  36. Click on OK. The Font dialog box is closed.
  37. Click on OK. The Customize Bulleted List dialog box is closed.
  38. Click on OK. The Answer style is now defined, and the Style dialog box is still displayed.
  39. In the list of Styles, select the Question style you defined earlier in this process.
  40. Click on Modify. Word displays the Modify Style dialog box.
  41. In the Style For Following Paragraph drop-down list, choose Answer.
  42. Click on OK. The Modify Style dialog box should close.
  43. Click on Close. All the dialog boxes should now be closed.

This is undoubtedly the longest list of steps I have ever done in WordTips. It goes much quicker than it reads, however.

You are now ready to use your two new styles. When you are ready to start your first question, apply the Question style to a paragraph. The expected Q immediately appears, and you can type your question. When you press Enter at the end of the question, the next paragraph is formatted as an answer and includes the A. Press Enter at the end of the answer, and the next paragraph is formatted again as a question. When you are done and have no more questions and answers, simply pick another style for your paragraph.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (6859) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Using Alternating Styles.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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