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How to Understand Styles in Microsoft Word to Format Your Family History

Do styles in Microsoft Word confuse you and seem to have a mind of their own? If only you could take a peek behind the scenes and see what was happening.

The good news is that you can. You can trade in the format painter tool as styles in Microsoft Word are easy to understand if you know where to look. So get ready to say hello to consistent styles and goodbye to hot mess formatting.

I’ll show you the three ways to see what is happening with the styles in Microsoft Word. So you can be confident when formatting any family history keepsakes.

I’m talking about styles in episode 31 of Art of Family History. I’ll show you a few things, so you find formatting easier and create more consistent documents.

Keep watching to find out how to

  • See all the styles in the document
  • Inspect your text to see what formatting is in use
  • Use the Draft view to see what’s happening behind the scenes in your file.

Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments. I’d love to hear if these tips were useful and which of these features you’ll use to ensure consistent styles in Microsoft Word when formatting your family history keepsakes.

Click the image below to watch the video now.

Looking for the transcript? Scroll down and you’ll find it at the end of the article.

How to Understand Styles in Microsoft Word to Format Your Family History

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Read the transcript below


Hey, do styles in Microsoft Word confuse you and seem to have a mind of their own? You keep applying — and reapplying — the style, but nothing changes, yet it still doesn’t look quite right. You’re the first to put your hand up and say you don’t understand styles. But no one else seems to either, so maybe this is just a case of it is what is.

Therefore the only choice you have is to shrug your shoulders, pretend you don’t see the problem and just move on, right? Nope, not at all. You can quickly and easily see what is happening with your Microsoft Word styles if you know where to look. 

Today, on episode 31 of Art of Family History, I’m jumping into the Microsoft Word Family History Summary template and demonstrating a few things that will make your formatting sessions more effortless.

Keep watching to find out how to:

  • see all the styles in the document
  • inspect your text to see what formatting is applied
  • use the Draft view to see what’s happening behind the scenes in your file.


Is this your first time watching one of my videos? If so, let me quickly introduce myself. Hello, I’m Prudence, The Creative Family Historian. I’m a graphic designer who helps genealogists — like you — bring their family history to life by converting research into stories and beautiful heritage keepsakes.

On this channel, I provide tips on family history productivity, organisation, writing and design, as well as sharing my current journey as I undertake a genealogy reset. And if you’re a regular visitor to this channel, welcome back.

Are you enjoying my family history content and want to hear more from me? Then hit subscribe and the notification bell, so you get updated every time I upload a video. And consider giving this video a thumbs up to let me know you enjoy the topic and would like to see more content like this.

Now, I’m going to jump straight into the word template so we can start our conversation about styles.


Okay, here we are in Word, and I have opened the family history summary template. One of the first things you want to do when you open any template is to ensure that you are familiar with the styles. So if you’ve spent any time in Word, you’ll know there is a style gallery on the home tab.

Style Pane

But what I would encourage you to look for is to go into the style pane. Access that by clicking on this little arrow at the bottom of the style gallery, and then it will pop up. The first thing to do is make sure you can see all the styles in the document. So you want to go to options, and you want “select styles to show” to be set to “in current document”.

And I like to set mine to alphabetical just because I find that easier to view. So, you say okay to that. And then, we’ll know all the styles in the document. So now, let’s talk about these two formatting tools that I mentioned earlier. The first one is going to be show hide. So you’ll find that on the home ribbon as well.

And that’s this little backwards paragraph mark. If you turn that on, you’ll see all the breaks and the paragraph marks. Also, you’ll see with these little squares over here in the margin that’s telling me that that style has “Keep With Next” or “Keep Lines Together” applied to it. So that you’ll know that the headings are set to always stay with the paragraph below.

Style Inspector

And another thing that you can do to see what styles are doing in your document is to click on any paragraph. Then go to the “Style Pane” and choose the “Style Inspector”. Click on that, revealing what’s going on with the styles. It will tell us that the paragraph formatting applied is “Normal” and that no additional paragraph formatting is applied. At the text level, we have condensed that font at point one. So, if I were to select this paragraph and clear all the formatting, you’ll notice that that plus condensed text has gone away.

That’s always a good thing to look for if you feel your paragraph isn’t behaving the way it should, based on what you know of the style. That’s one way to see what’s happening with your styles.

Draft View Style Pane

Another way to see what’s happening more broadly in the document is to change your view to “Draft”, and you want to ensure that you’ve got this pane open here. Now, the way you do that is you go up to “File”, then “Options”.

You want to go into “Advanced” and then scroll down until you see “Display”. And then, in “Display”, you’ll see “Style Area Pane Width in Draft and Outline Views”. I have mine set to 5 centimetres, but you set yours to what’s best for the monitor that you’re using. And then, you’ll have this pane appear when you’re in the outline or draft view.

And that’s also going to tell you what style is applied. It will tell you when there are breaks and what kind of break that is. So that can be a convenient thing as well; when you’ve got problems with breaks happening in the document, you’re trying to work out what is going on. So now you know how to say all styles in your document.


Plus, you can inspect the formatting of any paragraph and use the draft view to see what’s happening behind the scenes. Style Super Power Unlocked. Okay, maybe that wasn’t life-changing. But, hopefully, it makes you feel more confident about formatting in Microsoft Word. And that you’re ready to start creating family history keepsakes that match your creative vision.

Now let’s continue the conversation in the comments. Tell me which of these features you plan to put into practice on your next Microsoft Word document.

Ask The Creative Family Historian

Perhaps you have a question about Microsoft Word or the Family History Summary template that you’d like me to answer. Or a genealogy organisation writing or design problem you’d like me to look into. If so, look for the Ask the Creative Family Historian submission form link in the description below. I look forward to hearing from you.

And if you’d like to learn more from me, check out the video on the screen now. But that’s it for me for this video, so I’ll see you in the next one. Until then, happy storytelling.

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