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Five tips for lightning-fast formatting in Word

No matter what kind of document you're working on, it will probably need some formatting. These shortcuts will help you zip through those tasks so you can concentrate on the content.

Even if you're a diehard mouse person, certain keyboard shortcuts are undeniably useful -- especially when it comes to formatting. Here are five areas where you can save time using the keyboard instead of traipsing around the Ribbon or searching through menus for the options you need.

1: Apply styles

Not everyone uses styles to format their documents, which is really too bad -- styles are almost always more efficient than manual formatting. But even if you're style-shy, you'll appreciate the instant formatting provided by these little shortcuts. They work on the current paragraph or multiple selected paragraphs:

  • Ctrl + Shift + N applies the Normal style.
  • Ctrl + Shift + L applies the List Bullet style.
  • Ctrl + Alt +1 applies the Heading 1 style.
  • Ctrl + Alt +2 applies the Heading 2 style.
  • Ctrl + Alt +3 applies the Heading 3 style.
  • Ctrl + Shift + S will open the Apply Styles dialog box, where you can choose any style available to the document. (In Word 2003, it will move the focus to the Style box on the Formatting toolbar.)

2: Adjust font size

Word offers two types of size adjustment, although it's a subtle distinction:

  • Ctrl + ] increases the size of selected text by 1 point; Ctrl + [ decreases the size of selected text by 1 point.
  • Ctrl + Shift + > increases the selected text to the next largest installed point size; Ctrl + Shift + < decreases the selected text to the next smallest installed point size.

So, for instance, the first shortcut would increase a selection of 12-point Calibri to 13 points. But the second shortcut would increase it to 14 points.

3: Modify line or paragraph spacing

These are handy if you're trying to add white space and/or improve readability in a document but you don't have a lot of time to spend tweaking the layout and design:

  • Ctrl + 0 (zero) applies or removes 12 points of space above the current paragraph.
  • Ctrl + 5 applies 1.5 line spacing to the current paragraph.
  • Ctrl + 2 double-spaces the lines in the current paragraph.

4: Transfer formatting

I always get some truculent feedback when I share this shortcut -- apparently, the Format Painter feature has a militant and devoted following. But this trick offers something Format Painter doesn't: It remembers the formatting you copied until the end of your Word session. So if you think you may need to apply a particular set of formatting attributes at various times as you work, this trick is golden:

  • Ctrl + Shift + C copies the formatting of selected text.
  • Ctrl + Shift + V applies the copied formatting to a new selection.

5: Remove manually applied formatting

If you often work with documents created by other people, you've probably encountered more than your share of extraneous formatting. You may have even applied some dubious touches yourself, in the form of wild fonts or excessive italics. The fastest way to eliminate all the manual formatting from selected text and get back to the underlying styles is to use these shortcuts:

  • Ctrl + Spacebar removes character formatting, leaving just the formatting of the default character style.
  • Ctrl + Q removes paragraph formatting, leaving just the formatting of the paragraph style applied to the selected paragraph(s).

Other favorites?

Do keyboard shortcuts save you much time? Which ones do you find yourself using on a regular basis?

About

Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic and is now senior editor for Tech Pro Research.

21 comments
Rob-dawg!
Rob-dawg!

Shift + F3 is a golden three-way toggle that changes text from lower case to mixed (aka camel) case to upper case. It affects all selected text or, if no text is selected, the word where the cursor is positioned.

DP2008
DP2008

Thanks for the PDF file,Judy! But for those like me who want to have the comments also in a pdf file to include all shortcuts from readers, I used a DOPDF free software to take a printout in pdf format to preserve. D PARAMESWARAN, www.sunflowerdance.com

Shadeburst
Shadeburst

These are all great shortcuts and all keyboard too! I'm one of the old fossils who hates having to jump mouse-kb-mouse-kb every few seconds.

Rob-dawg!
Rob-dawg!

To underline the words and not the spaces between the words select the words and press Ctrl + Shift+ W. Repeat to toggle the underlining off.

RCrossett
RCrossett

Tip #5 is very helpful. I have this question: Is there a way Word can tell me what the reviewer was thinking when he changed the body type style to Copperplate Gothic? Great tips, thanks. P.S. I was also concerned to read that the Format Painter feature has a "militant and devoted following." I have got to keep up.

Tink!
Tink!

I have to admit I don't use most of the above keyboard shortcuts, mainly because I wasn't aware of them. I am not ashamed however, as I can probably do the same thing the shortcuts do using navigational key strokes in nearly the same amount of time. I may have to try the Ctrl+Shift+C and V though. Sound useful. As for the others...my list of shortcuts is full, partly due to the fact that I have many custom macros to which I assign keyboard shortcuts. :D

SherryScott
SherryScott

Don't have time to check - someone else probably pointed this out - but the MOST awesome thing about CTRL+SHIFT+C / CTRL+SHIFT+V is that it doesn't just format text - you can use it to transfer object formatting from one object to another, as well.

edf
edf

Thank you for the tips. If I have a manuscript completed using Word 2007, and I want to save the format as a template for all the other manuscripts that I write---how can I do it?

Roger Simons
Roger Simons

When I first read this, I thought Ctrl + Shift + C was independent of the format painter, but alas, when the format painter is used to copy formatting, the format saved by this key combination is lost. So this key combination is equivalent to double clicking on the format painter which does the same thing.

mckinnej
mckinnej

When I get a document with runaway formatting I've found it to be faster to paste the document into a text editor, open a new document, and then paste the clean text into it. It's faster to apply new formatting in the clean document than try to find and fix everything in the old one. I've seen Word get stuck on some bad formatting and this is the only way to really get rid of it. I've also used OpenOffice to fix documents that Word couldn't fix.

bkfriesen
bkfriesen

For printing, click and drag from the bottom up to select. Paste special into Word using the Unformatted Text option. You'll need to do a bit of clean up, but that's how I save these gems. (KB shortcut = ALT/E/S/U/U in sequence. No simultaneous keys.) BTW Jodi, this is an absolutely brilliant article. #5, 'Remove Manually Applied Formatting', is functionality that I didn't even know existed, much less the keyboard shortcut. I'm all about using KB shortcuts. This article has been printed, posted in my cubicle, distributed to interested co-workers, etc.... Thanks!

Brian Bevan
Brian Bevan

I use a program called Clipmate. You just select the text that you want, Click copy and it is ready to paste into any word program or just print in Clipmate.

vuralun
vuralun

To keep a hard copy of the shortcuts, for reference, Iwanted to have the article printed, but can not.

pgit
pgit

Thanks! Bookmarked for reference. In fact I made a new sub folder "word tips" for this one. Now I have to find the other word/office related bookmarks and move them to their new home. I've always been your die hard mouse type, but as I've gotten older keyboard shortcuts have been slipping into my repertoire. These ones are golden.

DOSlover
DOSlover

I have been using Word for Windows since version 2.0 and I thought I knew a few shortcuts but these are spectacular. Thank you very much and keep these articles coming!

Jody Gilbert
Jody Gilbert

Wellsir, offhand I'd say the reviewer was paying homage to Hoosier font designer Frederic W. Goudy, who created Copperplate Gothic in 1901. Either that or the reviewer actually meant to select Comic Sans (and for that, I can offer no logical explanation). Regarding the Format Painter cadre, yes -- you'd better take cover. They aren't highly organized, but the FP brigade takes no prisoners.

Jody Gilbert
Jody Gilbert

Wow, you're right -- Format Painter does wipe out any formatting you previously copied using Ctrl + Shift + C. I never discovered that because I don't mix the two. The Ctrl + Shift + C shortcut is still different from double-clicking Format Painter, though -- even though double-clicking Format Painter lets you continue to transfer formatting to multiple instances of text, you have to click the Format Painter button to turn it off when you're through with it. And as soon as you turn it off, it forgets the formatting you copied with it. Ctrl + Shift + C remembers the formatting you copied until you close Word (assuming you don't jump ship and start using Format Painter). That's why I think the shortcut has an edge over Format Painter. Thanks for uncovering this bit of Word weirdness!

lucho_con_cerveza
lucho_con_cerveza

Save yourself some time if all you want to do is print. Highlight (select) the text in the article, File > Print and there is usually a checkbox for "Selection". Click OK, and it prints what you select. If you are going to be fussy about how it looks, then go ahead and paste in Word. But for something short and quick. selection works for me. BTW, most used kb by me are: CTL + Insert > copies text like CTL + C Shift + Insert > pastes text like Ctl + V Alt + Print Screen > screenshot of the active window CTL + Print Screen > screenshot of entire screen. I find the last two useful when I want to convey a quantity of text in an email, and don't want to type it in. Quick and easy, and I get back to the task at hand.

gfeucht
gfeucht

I use an app called CutePDF to save almost anything as a pdf file. CutePDF installs as a pseudo printer, so I clicked on the "more +" link at the upper right corner of this article and selected "Print" and then CutePDF from the list of printers.

n4aof
n4aof

Thanks for the pdf -- which is handy since TechRepbulic doesn't make it easy to print these articles. On the other hand, Tech Republic also doesn't make it easy to download your pdf because they insist on making the "download" a pop-up within a pop-up. You have to follow the link, then click the "download" button (Which is NOT a download link) so that it pops up a new page which then tries to popup the file (only to be blocked by the pop-up blocking of almost any corporate browser), then click the link that TechRepublic provides in case the download doesn't pop up. Whatever happened to simple download links direct to a file...