Copying a style from one Word document to another

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My work involves a lot of writing. And document editing. Mostly in Microsoft Word. I’m a heavy user of our corporate template and, over the years, I’ve worked with colleagues to iron out issues in the built in styles.

If you’re not familiar with styles, they are a method to apply standardised formatting to a block of text. Instead of selecting the font, size, colour, indentation, bold, italic, etc. just select a style. The style groups together all of the associated formatting so you can pick Normal text, Heading 1, Heading 2, Bullets 1, Bullets 2, Subtitle, Quote, Emphasis, etc.

if you’ve ever created a website using HTML and CSS, you’ll be familiar with separating the content from the presentation. This is a similar concept.

There’s more information about customising and creating styles in this Microsoft support article.

I sometimes find that the styles in a Word document get corrupted when I’m working collaboratively. Common things I’ve learned to spot are that indentation is wrong on bulleted text, or that headings lose their numbering. I haven’t found the cause but I suspect it’s text copied from incorrectly-formatted documents with similar style names. I did find a fix though!

Faced with a stubborn Heading style that had lost its numbering a few weeks ago, I stumbled on a Microsoft Answers post that told me how to copy a style from one document to another.

The process involves finding an obscure Organizer dialogue:

  1. Open the document you want to copy the correct style from.
  2. In the Styles ribbon group, click the breakout arrow in the bottom-right corner to open the full set of Styles options.
  1. Click on the “A with a tick”, which opens the Manage Styles dialogue.
  1. From here click Import/Export… and it will open the Organizer.
  1. Close the file on the right hand side (we don’t want to use the default Normal.dotm).
  1. Open the file that you want to copy the style to – you may need to change the filter from Word Templates to All Word Documents.
  1. Select the style to copy, click Copy -> and then Close.

Your “problem” document should now be able to use the style you copied across from the “known good” document.

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