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Quickly make your Word document look better

Word has some quick ways to turn a plain document into something fantastic. All it takes is a few clicks on the Design tab to change the overall look, fonts and colors. And we’ve added tips to fix formatting that doesn’t change.

Let’s start with a very plain version of a famous and definitely not plain document.  We’ve added headings for demonstrations purposes that you’ll see a little later.

In Word for Windows/Mac you can change that to one of these, among many, with a click or two:

All these formatting options work on any Word document but are best with documents that use Word’s standard styles; Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2 etc. That’s because Themes and other Design tab options are changing the Styles that set most document formatting.

Design Tab and Themes

In Word for Windows/Mac look on the Design tab.  On the right there are options like Paragraph Spacing, Watermark and Page Borders which are often used but this time we’ll focus on the main left-side options.

Choose a Style

Quick reformatting is done from the Style selector. Choose one of the available styles.

Live Preview is available so just hover your mouse over a style to see the changes applied, temporarily, to the document itself.


Most likely the style choices are from the default Office Theme, choose another from the Themes selector at far right. Don’t forget to scroll down the list to see more themes.

Colors, Fonts and other choices

Once you’ve found something close to your liking, there are Color, Fonts, Paragraph Spacing and other Effects available on the Design tab. For example, you might not like the new Aptos font, so change to the Office 2013-2022 font selection instead.

Don’t be afraid to make changes to the standard Word Themes. Those themes and styles are (over)used by people all over the world so there’s the risk that your document will look like too many others.

Changes not working?

If the Themes and Styles aren’t applying to text as you expect, there’s a few things to check.

Which Style?

Make sure the text is using one of Word’s common styles; Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2 etc. In short the styles listed in the default Styles gallery.

Word doesn’t know what to do with any custom styles.

Individual character formatting

Any direct character formatting is left untouched by a change of theme/style.  If some text doesn’t change when a new theme is applied, remove any direct formatting by selecting the text then Home | Clear All Formatting then apply a style.

A better choice is the shortcut Ctrl + Space (Word for Windows) which removes any character/direct formatting.

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