Almost half of our Styles Survey Respondents reported that ‘Direct Formatting’ was their most common method of changing formatting AFTER  inserting content into a proposal.  Direct Formatting is usually the formatting method of last resort for skilled users of Custom Styles, but even so many of them admit to needing to rely on this tactic in a pinch.

Custom Style Trouble Shooting

So you have named and defined your Custom Styles.   With great anticipation you select content from your Source document that has been formatted with your Custom Style, copy it, and then paste it into the Target document .  Presto – NOTHING.

When Custom Styles fail  it is usually due to one of four causes:

  1. The Custom Style is defined differently in the Target Document
  2. The Custom Style is based on a Style that is defined differently in the Target
  3. The copied content has been formatted directly, which overrides the Custom Style definition.
  4. The copied content doesn’t include an anchoring paragraph mark.

Conflicting Style Definitions

When Custom Styles fail to adhere to pasted content as we expect, it may be due to a conflict in style definitions in the Target document.  To review, a style’s ‘definition’ contains the font and paragraph settings that are applied by the style.

Just like a built-in style, if your Custom Style has the same name as  a style contained in the Target document, your content will conform to the way the Target document defines that style.   If you name your custom style “RFP Answer” or “RFP Heading”, there is a chance that that style name may already appear in the Target document.

If this is the case, you can remedy the problem in the short term by redefining the Custom Style with your preferred definition.  In the long term, consider choosing a name for your Custom Styles that will be unique to your company.  See  our previous post on Creating Custom Styles.

Conflicting Base Styles

One of the most common reasons for Custom Styles to behave in unexpected ways is that the styles on which the Custom Styles are based are defined differently in the Target document.  So, even though your “*xyz Custom Style” does not appear in the target document, if that style is based on ‘Normal’, or some other built-in style, it will be influenced by the way the base style is defined in the Target.  So, if your Custom Style is based on ‘Normal’ and Normal is defined differently in the Target document from how you define it in your Source document,  that difference will ripple through your Custom Style too.

Again, a short term remedy is to refine your Custom Style in the Target document to reflect your desired format.  In the long term, consider basing your Custom Styles on ‘no style’ to maintain complete control over the results.  See  our previous post Creating Custom Styles.

Direct Formatting

If you have redefined a style for a piece of content and NOT seen a change in its appearance this is probably due to a case of ‘Direct Formatting.’

In a previous post  we explained the difference between ‘formatting’ that is applied directly to content and ‘styles’ that contain a formatting definition that is applied to content.  In the former case formatting is ‘glued’ on to the content and will not change, even if it’s underlying Style is redefined.

Fortunately, to remove direct formatting from content is quite easy to do. Select the affected content and click Ctrl + Spacebar.  This will remove the direct formatting but preserve the underlying styles, including Custom Styles. Do NOT use the eraser icon on Word tab.  This removes ALL formatting, including styles, reverting the content back to the default ‘Normal’.

For tips on identifying direct formatting in your reusable content, see our post Quick Tips for Spotting Formatting Booby Traps.

Anchoring Paragraph Marks

If a Custom Style is a ‘Paragraph’ or ‘Paragraph and Font’ type of style, it is typically applied to full paragraphs of content.  If you copy a section of content in your Source document without including the trailing paragraph mark, it may lose it’s own style when pasted into the Target  and conform to the style of the surrounding content.

To be sure that you are including the trailing paragraph when copy/pasting content, click the paragraph icon on Word’s Home tab.

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