Copy Formatting: MS Word

Dennis Faas's picture

After you've gone to the trouble to apply all the various formatting options to your text, you may want to reproduce specific formatting in several places in your document.

For example: suppose you decide that the body of a report looks fine with an 11-point Courier New font, but for definition, you decide to make the headings 14-point Arial Bold Italic in blue, with a bold blue underline.

It would take a lot of time to highlight each bit of text and apply all those formatting commands. Instead, you can save time by copying the format you've already applied to text.

At first, you might think that you could use Copy and Paste to do this. But Copy and Paste reproduces not only the formatting, but also the text itself. In this case, you want to copy formatting only, but not the text.

Word has three different methods for doing so:

  • Use the Repeat command.
  • Use the Format Painter.
  • Create a style and apply it.

The Repeat Command

If you've just formatted something, you can use the Repeat command to duplicate that action. You can use the menu or a shortcut key:

  • Choose Edit | Repeat (the menu's wording changes to match the action you just performed).
  • Press F4; the command will only repeat the operation you have just performed.

If you click the bold button and then click the Italic button, for instance, it will repeat only the Italic, but not both. For example: the menu command will be "Repeat Italic." However, if you use the Font dialog box to apply both formats and then click OK, the Repeat command will repeat all formatting you made in the dialog box. In this case, the menu command will be "Repeat Font Formatting."

You can use the Repeat command to duplicate any operation you just used. It's useful for repeating, typing, inserting items, editing, and other operations.

Format Painter

Unlike the Repeat command, the Format Painter will copy formatting you have made at any time. To do so:

  1. Select the text that has the formatting that you want to duplicate.
  2. Click the Format Painter button. (It looks like a small paint brush).
  3. Drag with the special Format Painter mouse pointer to highlight the text you want to receive the formatting.
  4. To repeat the command several times, double-click the Format Painter button and when you're done, click the button to turn it off.

As soon as you release the mouse button, the text you dragged across receives the format of the other text and, if you single-clicked the button, the feature is turned off. If you double-clicked the button, you must click it again to turn of the format painter.

Creating a Style

The most sophisticated way to apply the same format to text is to create a style. A style is a set of formats that have been grouped together and given a name.

MS Word has a number of styles already defined styles that you can access on the Formatting toolbar. The Normal style, which you usually see in the Style box, is the default. You can create and apply your own styles to keep the formatting consistent throughout the document.

First, create the style:

  1. Apply the formatting that you want to use on some part of the text and then select the text.
  2. In the Style box, type a name for this format and press Enter.
  3. Highlight the text to receive the formatting.
  4. Click the arrow next to the Style box to drop down the list of styles.
  5. Click the style you want to apply.
  6. Click the arrow next to the Style box and choose Normal to change back to the regular font style.

As with the Format Painter, the formatting is carried over consistently from one part of the document to another. It's conveniently available on the formatting toolbar.

Visit Carol's web site to learn more tips like this one!

Rate this article: 
Average: 3.5 (2 votes)