Word: My styles pane is a mess!

July 7, 2010

You open a Word 2007 document and turn on the Styles pane to see what the author has done with the formatting and you’re confronted with something like this:

“Arrgghh! Where did all that stuff come from and how do I get rid of it?”

Don’t panic! The author has some settings turned on that display EVERY variation of paragraph and character styles in the Styles pane. You’ll do your blood pressure a lot of good if you turn them off and go back to the basic paragraph styles list. Here’s how (Word 2007):

  1. Click Options (at the bottom right of the Styles pane).
  2. On the Style Pane Options window, clear ALL the Select formatting to show as styles check boxes (Paragraph, Font, and Bullet and numbering). (If these options are selected but grayed out, follow the instructions in the next section to get them back to a selectable state.)
  3. Click OK. They’re gone and you’re back to your usual list. Now breathe….

But my check boxes are grayed out

If your Style Pane Options window looks like this you can’t clear the check boxes:

Here’s how to get these selection options back:

  1. Click the Microsoft Office button .
  2. Click Word Options.
  3. Click Advanced on the left.
  4. Scroll down to the Editing options section.
  5. Select the Keep track of formatting check box.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Go back to the Styles pane.
  8. Click Options again.
  9. Clear all those check boxes, then click OK.
  10. Go back to Word Options and clear the Keep track of formatting check box if you have no reason to leave it turned on.


  1. Not to disagree… ;-)

    But instead of hiding the various styles overrides, I fix them. “10pt” and “10pt Black” are probably the base format for the doc, or “Normal” (in this doc) and “Body Text” (in my docs). “10pt Black Centered” is “Body Text Centered”. Etc…

    And if the styles are updated with the correct formatting, then future edits won’t revert back to whatever the current definitions are, which then have to be overridden themselves. For example, “Normal” in this doc is probably a serif font (since the override is a sans serif font) and 12pt (because the override is 10pt and I think 12pt is the default).

    (Why, yes, I am anal about my styles :-) )

  2. I agree — fixing them is best. But sometimes, like when the doc has to go back to the multiple authors for the next round of revisions, I don’t bother until the final editing pass.

  3. […] Cleaning up Word’s Style pane […]

  4. Style pollution is the bane of my existence. Is there a way to force the style pane to show only approved styles [a less clunky way than fiddling with Recommend, Restrict and Hide settings over and over again] and, at the same time highlight in the document itself any style that doesn’t conform. And I mean conform: not allow any tweaked variations to slip by. Now that would be a really useful topic. A VBA solution perhaps? As it is, the only known workaround is 2 parts steely grit and 1 part caffeine.

  5. I just want to get rid of the bloody styles pane altogether. Who designed this mess? In Word 2000 I had everything I needed for writing two textbooks and a statistical software package manual, including equations, charts, diagrams, screen captures, on one line. None of this busy, busy eye-candy. And I could do most things with a right mouse click. Now I have to wander all over the frackin’ screen to find an obscure button–for paragraph adjustments, font options, etc.

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