Introducing Font Formatting

Formatted text is capable of communicating far more effectively than unformatted text. Editors and publishers have long recognized the value of italics, boldface, and other character formatting in calling attention to text. Choices of font communicate subtly (or not so subtly) about the type of information contained in text, and how that information should be viewed.

In Word, you can apply an extraordinarily wide range of formats to specific characters. As already mentioned, Word calls this font formatting. It includes the following:

  • Choice of font

  • Font size (measured in points)

  • Font style (for example, bold or italic)

  • Underlining

  • Font effects (for example, strikethrough, superscript, or emboss)

  • Font color

  • Scaling (font stretching)

  • Spacing between groups of letters

  • Position of text on a line

  • Kerning (spacing between specific pairs of letters)

  • Text animation

As already mentioned, you can control any type of font formatting through the Format, Font dialog box (see Figure 4.2).

Figure 4.2. The Font tab of the Font dialog box brings together Word's most commonly used Font formatting options.


Every aspect of controlling a font's formatting can be found here. However, when it comes to the formatting you do most, Word usually has quicker ways to get the job done than by using this dialog box.

Quick and Easy Font Formatting

In many cases, the fastest way to apply a format is to use Word's Formatting toolbar (see Figure 4.3). In other cases, it can be easier to use a keyboard shortcut. For example, pressing Ctrl+B may be a faster way of boldfacing selected text than locating and clicking the Bold button on the Formatting toolbar. Either way, you first select the text you want to format and then click the button or press the keyboard shortcut to format your text.

Figure 4.3. The Formatting toolbar is often the quickest way to apply text formatting.



Most formatting toolbar buttons and keyboard shortcuts toggle formatting both on and off. For example, if you select text that is bold, clicking the Bold button eliminates the Bold formatting.

Some toolbar buttons offer multiple options, accessible by clicking the down arrow next to them. For example, clicking the down arrow next to the Line Spacing toolbar button allows you to choose from 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, and several other line spacing options.

There are plenty of keyboard shortcuts for formatting text, including many that don't have Formatting toolbar counterparts. Table 4.1 lists the Formatting toolbar buttons that apply to font (character) formatting and corresponding keyboard shortcuts where they exist.

Table 4.1. Toolbar Buttons and Keyboard Shortcuts for Font Formatting


Standard or Formatting Toolbar Button

Keyboard Shortcut










Underline words only (not spaces)



Double underline



All caps



Small caps



Toggle capitalization





Ctrl+= (Equal sign)



Ctrl++ (Plus sign)

Format as hidden text



Apply Symbol font



Clear all font formatting




Some toolbar buttons listed in Table 4.1, such as Underline, do not appear if Word has been customized so that the Standard and Formatting toolbars share one row. To display the Formatting toolbar on its own row, choose Tools, Customize, Options and check the Show Standard and Formatting Toolbars on Two Rows check box. (You can also drag any toolbar down to its own line, or even undock it to float free.)

Superscript, Subscript, Grow Font, Shrink Font, and Language toolbar buttons can be added manually, using the Add or Remove Buttons option at the right edge of the Formatting toolbar.

Choosing Fonts and Sizes

Word can work with thousands of Windows-compatible fonts, including TrueType fonts (by default) and Adobe PostScript fonts.


TrueType and PostScript are competing "scalable font" formats?in other words, formats for organizing the information that allows computers to scale characters in a font to any size without losing clarity. PostScript font support is provided automatically in Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

The easiest way to choose a font is via the Font drop-down box on the Formatting toolbar (see Figure 4.4). To do this, select the text you want to format, click the down arrow next to the Font drop-down box or press Ctrl+Shift+F, and scroll to and select the font you want.

Figure 4.4. Selecting a font through the Font drop-down box. The fonts at the top are the ones you've used most recently.



You can also change formatting without any text selected. If you do so, all text you type immediately following the insertion point will take on the new formatting.

Each font name in this list is formatted to reflect the appearance of the corresponding font. This makes choosing the most appropriate font much easier.


In choosing fonts, be sensitive to the visual tone communicated by the font. It is traditional or cutting-edge? Sophisticated or cartoony? Commonplace?such as Times New Roman and Arial?or unfamiliar? If you're choosing fonts for text (as opposed to headlines), readability is Job #1: Never select a display font such as Algerian or Wide Latin for text.

You may also want to pay attention to the width of characters in a font, because this affects how much text can appear in a given number of pages. For example, Times New Roman was designed to fit far more text than Courier New without compromising readability.

If you're choosing fonts for Web pages, don't count on your audience having fonts other than those installed with Windows or Office. Microsoft Web fonts such as Georgia and Verdana were designed for Web reading and are now sufficiently widely distributed to be relatively safe alternatives to Times New Roman and Arial.


If Word doesn't display a font you expect to see listed, see "What to Do If Fonts Seem to Be Missing," in "Troubleshooting" at the end of this chapter.

If Word substitutes a font you don't like for one you don't have, see "What to Do If Word Substitutes Fonts You Don't Like," in "Troubleshooting" at the end of this chapter.

Now that you've specified a font, you can specify its size, using the Font Size drop-down box on the Formatting toolbar. Select the text you want to format, click in the Font Size drop-down box (or press Ctrl+Shift+P), type or select the size you want, and press Enter.


Sometimes you want to increase or decrease text size by only a point or two. Save time with these keyboard shortcuts:


Keyboard Shortcut

Enlarge font 1 point


Shrink font 1 point


Enlarge size 1 increment


Decrease size 1 increment


At smaller sizes, the increments Word uses with the Ctrl+Shift+> and Ctrl+Shift+< shortcuts are 1 point, no different from Ctrl+] and Ctrl+[. However, at larger sizes the increments grow. So, for example, you can use Ctrl+Shift+> to jump from 36-point to 48-point in a single keystroke.


Word can actually format text as large as 1,638 points?nearly 2 feet high?though not all fonts can scale that large. To format text larger than 999 points, you must work in the Format, Font dialog box.

Choosing Font Styles, Underlining, Color, and Effects

You've probably noticed that you can apply font styles from the Formatting toolbar by clicking the Bold, Italic, or Underline button, or that you can apply font styles by using the keyboard shortcuts shown earlier in Table 4.1. These and many additional options are available to you in the Font dialog box as well (refer to Figure 4.2). A quick way to display these options is to select the text you want to format, right-click it, and choose Font from the shortcut menu (make sure the Font tab is selected).

Using the Font dialog box, you can conveniently change all elements of font formatting at the same time: font, style, size, underlining, color, and effects. Choose from the corresponding Font, Font Style, and Size scroll boxes and the Effects check boxes.


Any changes you make in the Font dialog box are previewed in the Preview window at the bottom of the dialog box.

Selecting Font Underlining

You can select the Underline Style of your selected text from the drop-down box. Word provides several underlining choices, including dotted, thick, dash, dot-dash, dot-dot-dash, and wave underlining. Underlining is a separate control; you can use it with any other font style or text effect.

Setting a Font Color

In the Font Color drop-down box, you can select a text color from among 40 font colors?plus Automatic, the default setting. Automatic is black, unless one of the following situations occurs:

  • You have (perhaps inadvertently) changed Windows's overall text color using the Windows Control Panel.

  • You are formatting text in a table, against a background shaded with a very dark color, in which case Automatic reformats the text color to white for readability.


Automatic text color doesn't change when you format a page background with Format, Background?because backgrounds formatted this way do not print.

Word, however, does not limit you to a basic palette of predefined colors. To choose another color, click More Colors at the bottom of the Font Color list; the Colors tabbed dialog box opens. In the Standard tab, you can pick from a wider palette of 124 colors, as well as 15 shades of gray. If that still isn't enough, you can manufacture a custom color through the Custom tab (see Figure 4.5).

Figure 4.5. Specifying a custom color using the Custom tab of the Colors dialog box.


To start creating a custom color, click a color in the Colors box. The color now appears on a slider, in varying shades from very light to very dark. You can drag the slider triangle to get the shade you want. After you choose a color, through either the Standard or the Custom tab, click OK. The color now appears in your Color box and in the text you selected in your document.

For more information about choosing a custom color, see "Changing Fills and Line Colors," p. 497.


Word's text color controls might be thought of as "business color"; they are perfectly adequate for business uses (or, for that matter, most home uses) but are not really up to sophisticated design tasks.

To start with, the colors available to you depend on the colors displayed on your monitor. If you create a custom color on a system that can display 16-bit "high color" or 24-bit "true color" and then display it on a system limited to 15 or 256 colors, Word uses the nearest color available, which is probably not what you intended.

Also, be aware that Word does not offer the built-in color precision or color matching of a professional desktop publishing program such as QuarkXPress, so if you're planning to print a Word document professionally, your printed document might not maintain the precise colors you saw onscreen.

In some cases, you might be able to achieve the results you want with Microsoft Publisher 2003, which is designed to work closely with Word 2003. However, before you assume that either Word's or Publisher's color matching will achieve the results you want, consult with a representative of the printing company you plan to work with.

Similar issues apply if you are setting colors for a Web page: If precise colors are important to you, check them in various Web browsers and with various computers and monitors.

Setting Text Effects

Text effects provide even more ways to distinguish text, from basics like subscript and superscript (for formulas and trademarks) to far more decorative effects. You might be surprised at how many text effects Word provides:

  • Strikethrough

  • Superscript

  • Subscript

  • Hidden

  • Small Caps

  • All Caps

  • Double Strikethrough

  • Shadow

  • Outline

  • Emboss

  • Engrave


Additional animated text effects are available through the Text Effects tab of the Font dialog box, covered later in this chapter.

Figure 4.6 shows samples of all 10 visible effects. Not all of these effects can be applied together. Sometimes, the limitations are obvious. For example, you cannot apply strikethrough and double strikethrough to the same text. Sometimes the limitations are not so obvious. For example, you cannot apply shadow or outline to text you also intend to emboss.

Figure 4.6. Samples of Word's text effects.


Notice that subscript lowers text by 3 points and reduces its size at the same time; superscript raises text by 3 points and reduces its size. If you want to change the position of subscript or superscript text, select it and use the Position controls on the Character Spacing tab of the Font dialog box.

For more information about character spacing, see "Character Spacing: Creating Typographer-Quality Documents," p. 119.


If you need more sophisticated text effects than those provided here, use the WordArt applet provided with Word (choose Insert, Picture, WordArt).

For more information about WordArt, see "Using WordArt," p. 468.

Changing Case

One of the most common effects-related tasks is to change the case (capitalization) of selected text to (or from) all caps. You don't have to bother with displaying the Font dialog box to do this: Just press Ctrl+Shift+A.

Word also recognizes that there are several common ways to capitalize blocks of text you've selected. For example, you might want to format text as a sentence, in which only the first word is capitalized, or as a title, in which every word is capitalized. Or you might want to format text entirely lowercase.

You can quickly toggle selected text through five types of capitalization by pressing Shift+F3 repeatedly. Or you can choose the capitalization you want by selecting Format, Change Case, and selecting an option there.

Hiding Text

Hidden text is most valuable as a way to make temporary notes to yourself. (You don't have to use the Font dialog box to format text as hidden; try the Ctrl+Shift+H keyboard shortcut.) Formatting text as hidden makes it invisible by default, though you can see it by clicking the Show/Hide Paragraph Marks button. Word automatically uses hidden text to hide the contents of certain fields, notably index and table of contents entry fields.

If you print a document while hidden text is displayed, the hidden text also prints. Also, make sure that you "hide" your hidden text before you create tables of contents or indexes. Otherwise, Word might miscalculate your document's length and apply incorrect page numbers to referenced locations.


Because hidden text is so easy to view, don't consider it a security tool. If you really want to secure your document, use passwords, encryption, or permissions, as covered in Chapter 33, "Word Document Privacy and Security Options."


You've just carefully applied a series of formatting commands in the Font dialog box. Now you want to apply them again elsewhere, without returning to the Font dialog box and selecting everything again.

Select the new text and press either F4 or Ctrl+Y, Word's shortcuts for repeating the last editing or formatting command you've made. F4 and Ctrl+Y repeat only one command made by a toolbar button or keyboard shortcut; however, if you click either shortcut after using a dialog box, it repeats all the commands you applied through that dialog box.

Character Spacing: Creating Typographer-Quality Documents

Word includes character spacing controls that were once available only on typesetting systems that cost tens of thousands of dollars. You don't have to be a typographer to use them, either. Simply display the Font dialog box and click the Character Spacing tab (see Figure 4.7).

Figure 4.7. The Character Spacing tab controls spacing between characters, kerning between pairs of characters, the height and depth of characters, and their scale.


There are three reasons to use the controls on this tab:

  • They can help you improve the look of your documents, typically in subtle ways. Your readers will believe that your documents look a cut above the rest?even if they don't know why.

  • You can use some of these features, especially scaling, to create interesting text effects without inserting graphics into your document.

  • Some character spacing features can help you control the size of your document, squeezing one or more pages out?which can save you money on production, printing, and/or mailing.


The settings in the Character Spacing tab are primarily intended for print documents. Word does retain them when you save a file as a Web page, and they are displayed properly in Internet Explorer 4.0 and higher; but they do not display correctly in Netscape Navigator 4.0 or earlier versions of Navigator.

Stretching Your Type with Word's Scaling Feature

Scaling allows you to stretch individual characters either horizontally or vertically. Why scale text? Generally, for design reasons. For instance, you might want to create a drop cap that drops down more than three lines at the beginning of a newsletter article. If the character is a wide one, such as W, it's likely to stretch wider than you might want. You can narrow it by scaling. (If you scale one drop cap in a document, be sure to scale all of the other drop caps equally, to be consistent.)

You can see an example of a scaled drop cap in Figure 4.8.

Figure 4.8. Sometimes scaling a drop cap can improve its appearance and, not incidentally, make it fit better.


Scaling body text slightly can also help you fit more of it on a specific page. This is an issue especially in large directories and catalogs, where narrower text translates directly into fewer pages and lower cost.

Normally, you would use a condensed font such as Arial Narrow for this purpose. However, you might not have a condensed font available that meets your needs and fits with the rest of your document's design. Scaling lets you "fake" a condensed font. The results won't thrill a professional typographer who is familiar with the subtleties of quality font design, but for day-to-day business work, scaling does the job.

Figure 4.9 shows the difference in appearance (and size) between standard Times New Roman text and text narrowed to 95% of its normal width.

Figure 4.9. Standard Times New Roman text, compared with text narrowed to 95% of normal width.



Don't narrow body text by more than 10%. Beyond that, readability deteriorates significantly.


Although the Scale drop-down box includes only eight choices, you can manually enter any value from 1% to 600%.

If you set scaling to one of Word's predefined settings, Word automatically shows you an immediate preview at the bottom of the Font dialog box. If you enter a custom setting, you can preview what your selected type will look like by pressing Tab to move out of the Scale drop-down box.

Controlling Spacing

Spacing complements scaling. Scaling narrows or widens the characters themselves; spacing changes the space between characters. Professional designers sometimes call this tracking.

Word's default spacing is called Normal; you can tighten or loosen spacing as much as you want. As with scaling, use spacing judiciously. Tightening your spacing just a little can save space and might even make type read faster. That's one reason advertising copy is spaced a little tighter than normal. On the other hand, over-tightening type quickly renders it illegible.

To control spacing for selected text, select either Expanded or Condensed in the Spacing drop-down box on the Font dialog box's Character Spacing tab.

In the By scroll box, set the amount by which you want to expand or narrow your spacing. The default is 1 point, and the scroll buttons increase or reduce spacing by tenths of a point. However, you can manually enter spacing values in twentieths of a point if you want (for example, 1.05 points).

Kerning: One Secret to Great-Looking Text

Kerning is similar to spacing in that it adjusts the space between letters. But whereas spacing controls the space between all letters, kerning adjusts the spacing between special pairs of letters?and then only if kerning data has been included with your font by its designer. It's used most commonly with larger font sizes.


Depending on the quality of a font, there might be as many as 500 kerning pairs stored within it?pairs of letters that come with kerning instructions. This is one way expensive fonts can be superior to cheap ones.

You can see in Figure 4.10 why kerning matters. In the unkerned word WATCH at the top, the letters W and A are far apart; so are the letters A and T. The effect is subtly distracting; the word looks uneven, not quite natural. In the bottom example, kerning has been turned on. You can see that the A now slips slightly under the W, and the T is also closer to the A. It just looks better. You'll hardly ever see a professionally produced advertisement that hasn't been carefully kerned.

Figure 4.10. Notice the difference between the unkerned word at the top and the kerned version under it.


Why not turn on kerning all the time, for every font, size, and kerning pair that supports it? Technically, as long as the font supports it, you can. However, it might slow down your computer, plus kerning isn't really necessary for very small text, such as in classified advertisements. Here's how to decide when and whether to kern:

  • First, test your computer. If you don't notice a speed difference with kerning turned on, make it part of your default settings for all text that is 7 points or higher. You'll learn how to change your font formatting defaults later in this chapter.

  • For day-to-day newsletters, it's usually sufficient to turn on kerning for all headlines but skip the body text. You might set kerning to begin at 12- or 14-point text.

  • For more sophisticated publications, or for high-end customer proposals, kern body text as well. Set kerning to start as low as 7-point text. Especially consider kerning if you are printing on a relatively high-resolution printer, such as a 600 dpi (dots per inch) laser printer.

  • If kerning does slow down your computer, consider doing all your editing with kerning turned off, and then select the entire document and apply kerning to it before you take care of final "design tweaks," such as fixing line and page breaks. If you want, you can record a macro to select and kern your entire document.

To turn on kerning for selected text, place a check in the Kerning for Fonts check box on the Character Spacing tab. Word sets kerning to 12 Points and Above. If you want, enter a new font size in the Points and Above scroll box.


Some desktop publishing programs, such as QuarkXPress, not only enable you to automatically kern all text larger than a specific size, but also allow you to manually adjust the kerning of individual pairs of letters. Often, you can manually improve the look of your headlines by kerning them beyond the settings that come with your font, especially when you are using large type?48-point or higher.

You can do manual kerning with Word, even though there's no formal setting for it. If you want to tighten or loosen the spacing between two letters, select the first letter and apply a small amount of Condensed or Expanded Spacing to it. Word can control spacing down to 1/20 of a point, which should be as precise as you'll ever need to get.

Controlling Position

The Character Spacing tab has one more feature: Position. Look at a line of text and visualize an imaginary line where the text is "sitting." That's called the baseline. The Position setting determines how far above or below the baseline text should appear.

Most users will rarely need to use Position. For instance, it's usually easier to create superscript or subscript characters using Word's keyboard shortcuts, Ctrl++ (plus sign) for superscript, and Ctrl+= (equal sign) for subscript. These keyboard shortcuts also shrink the characters in the way true subscript and superscripts should appear. However, some users find that these keyboard shortcuts shrink the size of text too much or too little, or they want more control over exactly how far from the baseline their subscripted or superscripted text moves. Position offers this control.

To set the position for selected text, choose Raised or Lowered in the Position drop-down box. Word sets the change in position to 3 points. You can scroll to increase or decrease the baseline shift, or type in a position in 1/2-point increments (for example, 2.5 points).

Animating Your Text

Now, after studying the subtleties of kerning and baseline shifts, it's time to shift to one of the most garish features ever to be found in Word: text animation.

You can apply one of six simple animations to any block of text, calling attention to it when it is viewed onscreen in Word or in Internet Explorer 3.0 or higher. Netscape Navigator or other Web browsers do not recognize text animations. They are also not recognized by Word 95, Word 6, or other older versions of Word?and, of course, they don't print. Table 4.2 describes each of these animations.

Table 4.2. Descriptions of Word's Animated Text Options


What It Does

Blinking Background

Blinks reverse text on and off

Las Vegas Lights

Borders text with rapidly changing colored shapes

Marching Black Ants

Borders text with black dotted lines that constantly move to the right

Marching Red Ants

Borders text with red dotted lines that constantly move to the right


Repeatedly blurs and unblurs text

Sparkle Text

Superimposes moving colored sparkles on text

You might use text animation when you are sharing a document file (or displaying it on a corporate intranet running Internet Explorer) and you want to be especially sure that your reader looks at a specific block of text. To animate text, select it, press Ctrl+D, choose the Text Effects tab, and choose an animation from the Animations scroll box. (The Preview box shows what it will look like.)


Learn from the experience of Web designers who alienated many of their visitors through heavy use of blinking text?use text animations sparingly. If you must use text animation at all, stick with the animations that are least intrusive, such as Marching Black Ants. Apply them only to small blocks of text?possibly even single characters, such as Wingding symbols.

Setting Default Font Formats

By default, Word formats your text as 12-point Times New Roman. If you find yourself changing this setting in every new document, you can save yourself some time and effort by changing Word's default settings. Follow these steps:

  1. Select some text that's formatted as you want your default text to look.

  2. Right-click on the text you've selected and choose Font from the shortcut menu (or press Ctrl+D).

  3. Check all the settings and change any that you want to change. For example, do you want to turn on automatic kerning?

  4. Click the Default button and then choose Yes to confirm the change.

The new default font formatting will apply to your current document in the future, and to every document you create with the same template you're currently using.

To learn more about the relationship between styles and templates, see "Understanding the Relationship Between Styles and Templates," p. 366.

    Part I: Word Basics: Get Productive Fast
    Part II: Building Slicker Documents Faster
    Part III: The Visual Word: Making Documents Look Great
    Part IV: Industrial-Strength Document Production Techniques
    Part VI: The Corporate Word