Most people merely scratch the surface when they use Word. It's ideal for writing letters and reports but spend a few minutes learning how to use Word's formatting features and your documents can look so much more attractive and professional.

Here, we'll explain how to use styles, columns, page breaks, headers and footers, and add frames and images.

Readers are more likely to give their undivided attention to documents that are visually attractive and easy to read, it's well worth a little extra effort.

Separately, we've written guides on how to make a newsletter in Word and how to create a Table of Contents.

How to format Word documents

1. Using styles makes it far simpler to format your text than defining fonts, point sizes, paragraph spacing and so forth individually. Some styles are already setup for your use. Click into any paragraph and then select the style (e.g. Normal, Heading 1) on the Home ribbon.

How to format documents in Word - Step 1

2. You can edit styles to better meet your needs. Right click on a style on the Home ribbon and select Modify... Choose what you want to change from the Format menu, make the changes in the dialogue box which will appear and click on OK.

 How to format documents in Word - Step 2

3. Newsletters can look so much better in multiple columns. However, to allow the main title to span all columns so you’ll have to divide your document into sections. After the main heading select Breaks and then Continuous Section Break from the Page Layout ribbon.

 How to format documents in Word - Step 3

4. With the cursor in the section you want to format in columns, click on Columns on the Page Layout ribbon and select the number of columns you want. If you want more control, for example over the space between columns, select More Columns...

 How to format documents in Word - Step 4

5. Having the first line of a paragraph at a page bottom or the last line at the top doesn’t look good. To avoid this for a paragraph, select the Line and Page Breaks tab in the Paragraph dialogue box and ensure that Widow/Orphan Control is selected.

 How to format documents in Word - Step 5

6. In addition to allowing Word to insert a page break to prevent widows and orphans, you can force your own page breaks. Place the cursor where you want a new page to start and press Enter while holding down the Ctrl key.

 How to format documents in Word - Step 6

7. Headers and/or footers include some common information, often including a page number, at the top and/or bottom of every page in a document. To start, just double click into the blank area at the top or bottom of a page.

 How to format documents in Word - Step 7

8. When a header or footer is selected, you can type ordinary text but additional options will appear in a ribbon. Note the Page Number and the Date & Time buttons. When you’re done, double click in the main area of the page.

 How to format documents in Word - Step 8

9. Text boxes – ruled off or shaded box – can look particularly attractive, especially in multi-column documents as they can span more than one column. Click on Text Box on the Insert ribbon, choose a format, drag it where you want, and enter your text.

 How to format documents in Word - Step 9

10. To include a simple chart without having to import it from Excel, click on the Chart icon on the Insert ribbon. A mini-spreadsheet will appear for you to edit and the result chart is inserted in your document. Note the options in the ribbon.

 How to format documents in Word - Step 10

11. Similarly, insert a picture by clicking on the Picture icon on the Insert ribbon. Navigate to your picture and click on Insert. Resize it size in the usual way and format it by right clicking on it and selecting Format Picture...

How to format documents in Word - Step 11

See also: Speedy Shortcuts for Microsoft Word