How to Format a Word Document [Template]


Whether you use Microsoft Word for private or professional activities, many people have difficulties starting a document from scratch. Fortunately after many years of editing in Enterprise environments I’ve grown comfortable with creating structures from zero. That is why I want to share with you some guidelines, information and of course also a free template file, that you can utilize for yourself.

The theory of editing and formatting can be applied to other software solutions as well. The only reason why I choose Microsoft Word as example is because it is the most common type and widely in use all over the world. Check the paragraphs below for some insight into what formatting elements there are and what they should be used for.

Using the Styles-Bar

This bar in Word is one of the most relevant functions to utilize styles properly without breaking the functions of your document. You should not freely change bits and pieces to particular parts of the document but always leverage the Styles-Bar. I’m sure you’ve seen it before, but for some reason nobody really uses it and then people are surprised that the functions are all over the place and nothing works anymore. You just highlight the text you want to change and click the corresponding button for it – and that’s it. This is what I’m talking about:



With headers you can improve the structure of your document significantly. There are several types of headers available which are numbered from H1 (largest) to H6 (smallest). As we are in a web document here, HTML headers work similarly to those in a Word document. Here is an Example:

H1 Header

H2 Header

H3 Header

H4 Header

H5 Header
H6 Header

I encounter this particular misinformation often so just to make sure I did my due diligence: Making a single line bold does not make it a header. The mechanics in a Word file for headers and the readability for web browsers differentiates between a bold line and a proper header, even if they visually would look the same. For all you fans of standards and SEO I can ensure you that search engines like Google and others will appreciate proper headers a lot more than just bold lines.


Header / Footer

This is different from the headers above. These two here are on another layer of your document, so they won’t interfere with your copy text and content. These two parts can include meta information of the document that will remain the same on all pages of your file. A popular use is to add the page number on the footer as automated function.

Bold Typeface Emphasis

You know the internet and that means you know bold emphasis. Are you ready? It looks like this! Emboldened font weight is meant to draw the reader’s attention to the highlighted text and allows people to know about key information without reading the entire paragraph.

Italic Typeface Emphasis

This is also known as cursive style highlighting. Popular uses for italic typeface is stressing of speech in text (special pronunciation for instance). Other uses are to use italics when talking about titles of work such as books or movies. Foreign words are also marked up in italic emphasis as well and so are. Example on a movie title usage: “Not long ago I was watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens and I really enjoyed it..”

Underlining Text

This is not really used anymore in professional editing. It is however still popular in handwriting.  Not much else to tell you about underlining text, sorry!


Rubric Use and Other Special Colors

A very modern way of putting an emphasis on a particular part of your text, is to set it in another color. Studying branding and style manuals of several companies I saw that usage of bold and italic typefaces are on the decline and sometimes they are plainly forbidden and not included in the manual of style. The most traditional usage is the rubric highlight, applied always in red. Nowadays the color often matches the overall style or corporate identity and branding guidelines.

Word Template

frontpageSo you now know how to use the styles in Word but struggle to create a proper structure for your document? Just grab my free Word template and edit it the way you need it to be. You can easily leverage the Word style functions to make the colors match your design and you can remove anything you don’t need. You can either only view the file in your browser on our Microsoft OneDrive or hit the download button to edit it locally. This template is based on one of the designs that are provided by Microsoft and has been extended to assist you with building the content and using a proper structure. They also have a lot of other cool designs available for you within Word. Just pick one you like. 🙂

Do you have remarks or experiences to share? Just drop us a comment below. Good luck and have fun editing, writers!

Photo credit: Libel SanroKatrin BaustmannFaizal Sugi / David Mark

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Christopher Isak
Christopher Isak
Hi there and thanks for reading my article! I'm Chris the founder of TechAcute. I write about technology news and share experiences from my life in the enterprise world. Drop by on Twitter and say 'hi' sometime. ;)
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