In the previous post we compared the advantages of using Normal style to those of using custom, user-defined styles.

With either strategy it is important that styles be applied consistently throughout the content you intend to reuse. If this is not done you run the risk of creating formatting problems that can pop up unexpectedly in your documents consuming valuable time and energy.

When you paste content into a document and the formatting goes haywire, it is probably due to one of these two common formatting booby traps:

  1. Mixed Styles
  2. Direct Formatting

Mixed styles occur when you have reusable content formatted with multiple styles. Though different styles have different names, appearances may be deceiving. If these different styles are defined in the same way the content will look the same and you may not even be aware of the problem.

However, when you copy and paste that content into a target document, some of the pasted content may match the target and other pasted content may not. That is because even though the pieces of content look the same in the source document, their different underlying styles behave differently when pasted into the target.

A quick way to spot mixed styles is to modify the dominant style definition in some striking way, and see if all the content follows suit.

For example, in a document holding my reusable content, I believe that all of the content has been formatted as Normal. To test this I modify Normal by redefining Normal style to be bright red:

A quick look at the content reveals that some of the content is NOT formatted as Normal. To repair this I simply select the inconsistent content and apply the Normal Style.

Once the content is formatted consistently I can reset the style definition of Normal back to its original settings.

If re-applying the desired Style does NOT repair the inconsistency, it may be due to the second type of problem: Direct Formatting.

Direct Formatting occurs when we select some content and format it by clicking on buttons and dialog boxes instead of applying a style.

For instance, when we select a word and click the ‘Bold’ button or enter Control+B, this is a case of direct formatting. This is a common way to perform specific bits of formatting and usually doesn’t present any problems.

But Direct Formatting also occurs when I select some content and change the font type or size or adjust the alignment or spacing.

Sometimes when we see inconsistent formatting, our first reaction is to select it and manually fix it by changing the font directly. It is quick and easy and seems to work.

But the problem is that when we reuse content that has been directly formatted, the content holds on to that format, even when we want it to conform to its surroundings. Then we might be tempted to do the same thing and ‘directly’ re-format it, thereby perpetuating the problem.

What we should do instead is remove the direct formatting and apply the correct style.

To remove direct formatting select the content and enter Control+Space bar or click on the eraser button on the Home tab.

This will remove the direct formatting. You may then need to re-apply the Style if you are using something other than Normal as your base style.

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