Office Q&A: How to get the style you want in Word

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Microsoft Word’s built-in styles aren’t providing two TechRepublic readers the results they want. One situation requires a work-around; the other requires modifying the style.

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Two TechRepublic readers contacted me about Microsoft Word style problems this month: Matt wants to remove the caption label from the table of contents, and Howard doesn’t like the default formatting for comments. Both problems are easily solved but not in the same way.

I’ll show you a work-around that removes caption labels when figures are included in a table of contents and how to alter the comment styles (there’s more than one). You’ll also learn how to link a custom style to a table of contents when you don’t want to rely solely on the built-in heading styles.

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I’m using Office 365 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can work with earlier versions. Neither solution is appropriate for the browser version. You can work with your own data or download the demonstration .docx and .doc files. This article assumes you know how to insert pictures and create a caption in Word.

How to hide caption labels in table of contents in Word

Matt has a lot of figures in a document, and they all start with the word Figure inserted by Word’s caption feature. Unfortunately, the word Figure also shows up in the table of contents; he wants to remove that word from the table of contents. There’s a lot more going on than meets the eye, so let’s start at the beginning.

Figure A shows the default table of contents for our simple demonstration document. As you can see, the figures aren’t part of the table of contents. If you use the caption feature to insert the caption, Word applies the Caption style, which isn’t included by default in a table of contents. (To add a caption, right-click the picture and choose Insert Caption.)

Figure A

wordcaption-a.jpg

  The default table of contents using built-in styles.

You could bypass the Caption style and apply a Heading style, but you might not want a different style. The easiest way to add captions styled with the Caption style to the table of contents is to link the Caption style to a table of contents level as follows:

  1. Position your cursor where you want to insert the table of contents and click the References tab.

  2. In the Table of Contents group, click Table of Contents and choose Custom Table Of Contents from the dropdown list (near the bottom).

  3. In the resulting dialog, click the Options button (bottom right).

  4. The resulting dialog lets you add a style in use to the table of contents; Caption is near the top of the list. Enter the value 4 to the right (Figure B). Because level 3 isn’t in use, you could enter 3 and remove the Heading 3 level but do so only if you’re positive you won’t add that level to the table of contents.

  5. Click OK twice to return to the document. The new table of contents includes the figure captions (Figure C).

Figure B

wordcaption-b.jpg

  Add the Caption style to the table of contents as the fourth level.

Figure C

wordcaption-c.jpg

The captions include the label Figure.

At this point, the table of contents includes the entire caption for each figure, and you still need to remove the word Figure. The easiest solution is to use the Replace feature to remove each instance of Figure in the table of contents, as follows:

  1. Select the Table Of Contents.

  2. Click the Home tab and click Replace in the Editing group.

  3. In the resulting dialog, enter Figure as the “find what” text.

  4. Enter nothing for the Replace text.

  5. Click Replace All, click OK to confirm the replacements, and click No when prompted to continue with the remaining document. As you can see in Figure D, the word Figure doesn’t appear in the table of contents but remains in the figure captions; unfortunately, if you update the table of contents, you must remember to run Replace.

Figure D

wordcaption-d.jpg

  Use Replace to remove content from the table of contents.

There’s a style work-around, but it’s more work than running Replace after updating and not quite worth the angst in my opinion, but I’ll share the gist of it. 

  1. Create a new style exactly like Caption and give it another name. 
  2. Somewhere in the document enter Figure followed by the text separator character (Alt+Ctrl+Enter) and apply the new style to it.
  3. Copy both to the Clipboard and then replace Figure in the caption with the contents of the Clipboard.
  4. Replace the word Figure in every caption.
  5. When creating the caption, be sure to check the Exclude label from caption option.

It’s a beast of a work-around, but give it a try if you like. Matt preferred it to the Replace solution.

How to change comment styles in Word

Howard has a similar problem; he wants to change the format for comments. He tried changing the Comment style (Figure E), but didn’t see any change. Most users don’t realize that there are two comment styles: Comment Balloon and Comment Text. There are subtle differences between the comment styles, which you’ll soon see, and that causes confusion (even for me). 

Figure E

wordcaption-e.jpg

  The default comment formatting.

Now, let’s change the same formats for both styles to see how they work:

  1. On the Home tab, click the Styles group dialog launcher.

  2. At the bottom of the pane, click Manage Styles.

  3. In the resulting dialog, choose Alphabetical from the Sort Order dropdown.

  4. Select Balloon Text and click Modify.

  5. Change the font to Chiller, change the font size to 18, click the Underline, Align Right, and Double Space options, and choose a bright orange from the Font Color palette.

  6. Click OK twice to see the results (Figure F).

Figure F

wordcaption-f.jpg

  Modify the Balloon Text style.

The comment doesn’t seem to reflect all of the change, does it? Repeat the above instructions for Comment Text and then compare the formats as shown in Figure G. Table A offers a quick comparison. As you can see, you can’t change everything by modifying only one style, and not every format can be applied to both the header and the paragraph text.

Figure G

wordcaption-g.jpg

  Compare Word’s Balloon Text and Comment Text formatting.

Table A

Setting

Balloon Text

Comment Text

Font Face

Header only

Entire balloon

Font Color

Header only

Entire balloon

Font Size

Entire Balloon

Entire balloon

Space, double

Paragraph text

Paragraph text

Underline

NA

Paragraph text

Align Right

NA

Paragraph text

Send me your Microsoft Office questions

I answer readers’ questions when I can, but there’s no guarantee. Don’t send files unless requested; initial requests for help that arrive with attached files will be deleted unread. You can send screenshots of your data to help clarify your question. When contacting me, be as specific as possible. For example, “Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what’s wrong” probably won’t get a response, but “Can you tell me why this formula isn’t returning the expected results?” might. Please mention the app and version that you’re using. I’m not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise when helping readers, nor do I ask for a fee from readers I help. You can contact me at [email protected]

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