This tutorial shows how to create headings in Microsoft Word. First, we’ll look at how to create headings using Word’s built-in styles. Then, we’ll look at how to customize Word’s built-in heading styles to your preferred font, font size, alignment, and color.
Do you want to create your own custom heading styles separate from Word’s built-in styles? Check out “How to Create a Custom Heading Style in Microsoft Word” and “How to Create a Custom Heading Style in Microsoft Word for Mac.”
Or, do you want to add numbers to your headings? Check out “How to Add and Modify Heading Numbers in Microsoft Word (PC & Mac).”
Table of Contents
- How to Create Headings Using Word’s Built-In Heading Styles
- How to Customize Word’s Built-In Heading Styles
Before jumping to the tutorial, 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 who use screen readers will have less information about how your document is organized.*
This tutorial’s companion video shows all the steps in real time.
Watch more than 250 other writing-related software tutorials on my YouTube channel.
The images below are from Word for Microsoft 365. The steps are the same in Word for Microsoft 365 for Mac (a.k.a., Word for Mac), Word 2021, Word 2019, and Word 2016, and similar in Word 2013 (PC only).
How to Create Headings Using Word’s Built-In Heading Styles
The following steps show how to create headings using Word’s built-in styles.
- 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.)
- Select the Home tab in the ribbon.
- 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.)
The selected text will be formatted with the new heading style immediately.
- Deselect the heading and then press Enter (PC) or Return (Mac) 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 Built-In Heading Styles
The following steps show how to customize the built-in heading styles in an individual Word document.
There are many ways to change styles in Word. For this tutorial, we’ll stick with the basics: font, font size, emphasis (i.e., bold, italic, or underlined), color, alignment, spacing, and indentation.
- Select the Home tab in the ribbon (see figure 1).
- Right-click (PC) or Control-click (Mac) the heading level in the Styles group, and then select Modify from the shortcut menu.
- Make all necessary formatting changes in the Modify Style dialog box. Here are the eight basic modifications:
B. Font size
D. Font color
F. Line spacing
G. Spacing before and after
- (PC Users) Select Only in this document to ensure that your customized style is limited to your current document.
- (Mac Users) Ensure that Add to template is not selected to limit your customized style to your current document.
- Ensure that Automatically Update is not selected. (If Automatically Update is selected, you won’t be able to edit the styles of individual same-level headings.)
- Select the OK button.
Your changes will be applied to all existing text using the heading style you just customized.
- Save your file to save your changes.
*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.
Updated March 18, 2023