Why choose Body Text vs Normal in Word


There are good reasons to avoid the Normal style for the main text in a Word document and use the hidden ‘Body Text’ style instead.

The standard Microsoft Word document structure has Headings (Heading 1, Heading 2) … with  paragraphs of text in the Normal style. It sounds good but, as usual with Microsoft Office, there’s hidden complexities.

Savvy Word users change Microsoft’s setup for main text to something that’s easier to use and less likely to cause trouble.

This is one of those tips that many people think is ‘too much trouble’.  It’s a Word document fundamental that will make your document management a lot easier. Especially docs with lot of text paragraphs like a novel, report or thesis.

With the right styles, documents can be changed depending on the situation. Drafts might be left-justified with greater line spacing while the final version is fully-justified with single line spacing. Text fonts might need changing, for example a Dyslexia font version.  All those changes can be done in seconds with the right style setup.

Normal – the mother of all styles

There’s nothing wrong with Word’s Normal style except that it’s the basis for all other styles in a standard Word template.  A change in Normal can do ‘collateral damage’ to your document.

Styles inherit most of their settings from another style (‘Style based on’) which makes it easy to have a change which flows through an entire document, for example changing the font for headings.

Normal is the mother of all styles.  In the blank document template supplied by Microsoft, styles inherit most of their settings from Normal style.

That’s great but changing Normal style can have unintended effects on your document.  Look at any of the Heading style (in the default Word template) and you’ll see it’s based on the Normal style.

For example, Heading 2 style is connected to Normal in two ways.  Heading is based on Normal (‘Style based on’) meaning Heading inherits all its settings from Normal then applies a few changes.

Normal is also the style for the following paragraph (‘Style for the following paragraph’).  When you press Enter at the end of a Heading, the next paragraph will be Normal style.  A very handy time-saver.

Body Text is the new Normal

Experienced Word users use a different style for the main text in a document. It can be changed anyway you like, without worry that it will affect any other style.

Of course, you can make your own styles based on this new style, that’s up to you.

The style ‘Body Text’ is in the default ‘Blank Document’ template in Word, it’s hidden until used.

You could make your own style for text paragraphs called whatever you like e.g. ‘Main Text’ ‘Standard Paragraphs’, ‘Alpine Scenery’ or ‘Tommy the Sea Lion’  – the name doesn’t matter.

Where is Body Text style?

Open up a document using the Word template you want to use for your novel, report etc.  Or open the template itself.  If you want to change the Blank Document template (aka normal.dotx), that’s OK.

Check Word’s Style pane to see if Body Text is already there.  Click on the little icon at bottom left of the Home | Style Gallery to open the Style pane.   If Body Text is there, you’re almost done.  Check out Modifying Body Text style in Microsoft Word

If ‘Body Text’ isn’t on the Style list, you have to dig into Word and make it appear. See Make Body Text style appear in Microsoft Word


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