This tutorial shows how to create headings in Microsoft Word. More specifically, we’ll look at how to create headings using Word’s styles. Then, we’ll look at how to customize Word’s default heading styles to your preferred font, font size, alignment, and color.
But first, let’s discuss the importance of using Word’s heading styles.
Why Are Heading Styles Important?
You can make any text in Word look like a heading by using a large font size. However, you won’t have access to several important features if you use a large font size rather than Word’s official heading styles. For example, Word’s heading styles help you perform the following tasks:
- Create an automatic or custom table of contents
- Create bookmarks in a PDF using Adobe Acrobat
- Use Word’s outline feature
- Use Word’s Navigation pane
Most importantly, screen reading software can identify your heading hierarchy based on Word’s styles. If you only use a large font size for headings, people with vision impairment who use screen readers will have less information about how your document is organized.*
This tutorial is also available as a YouTube video showing all the steps in real time.
Watch more than fifty other videos about Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat on my YouTube channel.
The images below are from Word for Office 365, which is currently the same as Word 2019. The steps are the same in Word 2016 and similar in Word 2013 and Word 2010.
How to Create Headings Using Word’s Heading Styles
The following steps show how to create headings using Word’s default styles. These steps will also work for custom heading styles. The next section explains how to customize heading styles.
1. Select the Home tab in the ribbon.
2. Select the text you want to turn into a heading. (Or, move your cursor to a blank line where you want to type your new heading during the next step.)
3. Select the appropriate heading level in the Styles group. (If you didn’t select existing text during step 2, type your new heading text after making your selection.)
Pro Tip: Word includes nine heading levels, although only a few will appear in your Styles group when you open a new document. Additional heading levels will appear after you use higher-level headings. For example, Heading 4 will appear after you use Heading 3.
The selected text will be formatted with the new heading style immediately.
4. Press Enter on your keyboard to move your cursor to the next line. The heading formatting will automatically turn off.
5. Save your file to save your new heading.
How to Customize Word’s Heading Styles
The following steps show how to customize heading styles in an individual Word document.
There are many ways to change styles in Word. For the purpose of this tutorial, we’ll stick with the basics: font, font size, emphasis (i.e., bold, italic, or underlined), color, alignment, spacing, and indentation.
Note that you can also change heading styles by choosing a different theme or template. We’ll cover themes and templates in separate tutorials because they can change all the styles in a document, not just headings.
1. Select the Home tab in the ribbon (see figure 1).
2. Select the Styles dialog box launcher to open the Styles pane.
Pro Tip: You can also use the keyboard shortcut Alt + Ctrl + Shift + S to open the Styles pane.
3. Select the menu arrow to the right of the heading you want to customize.
4. Select Modify from the drop-down menu.
5. Make all necessary formatting changes in the Modify Style dialog box. Here are the eight basic modifications:
- Font size
- Font color
- Line spacing
- Spacing before and after
6. Select Only in this document to ensure that your customized style is limited to your current document.
7. Ensure that Automatically Update is not checked. (If Automatically Update is checked, you won’t be able to edit the styles of individual same-level headings.)
8. Select the OK button to save your changes. The Modify Style dialog box will close automatically.
Your changes will be applied to all existing text using the heading style you just customized.
9. Save your file to save your custom heading style.
*Visit “Make Your Word Documents Accessible to People with Disabilities” from the Microsoft Office Support website for an in-depth list of ways to make your document accessible to the widest audience.