Image: Hans Engbers

In the article, How to access Word styles quickly, I showed you two quick ways to access the styles you use the most in Microsoft Word. There’s a third way: Use a keyboard shortcut.

I recommend doing so when the gallery is inadequate. Perhaps you work with many styles infrequently; you still want easy access, but you don’t need them daily, so moving them into the gallery might usurp styles you use more regularly. When this is the case, consider assigning a keystroke shortcut to assign a style. In this article, you’ll learn how quickly you can do so.

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I’m using (desktop) Office 365, but you can use earlier versions of Word. There’s no demonstration file; you won’t need one. This isn’t appropriate for the browser edition.

How to assign a keyboard shortcut in Microsoft Word

The good news is that assigning a keyboard shortcut to a style is easy, and you can assign shortcuts to both paragraph and character styles. Let’s demonstrate by assigning a shortcut to the HTML Code style (it’s one that I use a lot):

  1. In the Styles group (Home tab), click the dialog launcher or press Alt+Ctrl+Shift+S to open the Styles pane.
  2. Thumb down until you find HTML Code. Wait… you can’t find it? That’s right. This style isn’t in the Styles pane by default. That’s why I chose it. When a style is in the Styles pane, you can skip to step 9.
  3. Click the Manage Styles icon at the bottom of the Styles panes.
  4. Click the Recommend tab in the resulting dialog.
  5. Select the style you want to add to the pane. (Use the Sort Order option to display the list alphabetically, if that’s helpful.)
  6. Click Show (Figure A.)
  7. If you want this change to be available in all new documents, click the New Documents Based On This Template option. Don’t do that now, but you’ll want to know how to do this later when assigning shortcuts to your styles.
  8. Click OK, and Word will move the style into the Styles pane.
  9. Find HTML Code in the Styles pane, click the dropdown, and choose Modify from the dropdown list.
  10. In the resulting dialog, click Format and choose Shortcut key from the resulting menu (Figure B). Notice that the top two controls in the resulting dialog (Figure C) identify what you’re assigning the shortcut to: the HTML Code style.
  11. In the Press New Shortcut key, enter the combination you want to use to assign this style: Alt+Ctrl+H (Figure C). You can’t spell the words from the keyboard; press the Alt, Ctrl, and H keys. This next bit is important: If the combo is already assigned, the dialog will update the Currently Assigned To setting. If you continue, Word will overwrite the original assignment, which is Highlight in this case. You can also change the Save Changes In setting, which is Normal.dotm by default. This is where you’ll want to store most of your shortcuts unless you’re working with a custom template.
  12. Click Assign to add the new shortcut to the Current keys list, click Close, and then click OK.
  13. Close the Styles pane (or not).

Figure A

Figure B

Figure C

Once you’ve assigned a keyboard shortcut to a style, it’s simple to use. Select some text and press the combo, Alt+Ctrl+H. It couldn’t be easier!

You can assign many keyboard shortcuts to styles

Implementing the shortcut really is as simple as seems. You can assign as many as you like; remembering them will be more difficult than assigning them! The only thing that you really need to watch out for is overwriting an existing shortcut that you use frequently—don’t do that. Instead, choose another combo. If you overwrite an existing shortcut by accident, don’t worry. Repeat the process and remove it. Doing so will restore the original if it’s a built-in combo.

In addition, you’ll probably want to save these assignments to Normal.dotm, the default option, unless you have a specific reason for not doing so, for instance, creating a custom template.