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The "Word styling" ward of the asylum

The "Word styling" ward of the asylum
The "Word styling" ward of the asylum

February 25, 2010 Justin Lipton Contract Management   Document Generation  

At Exari we take Microsoft Word styling seriously. Your documents depend on styles not just to look good, but also to remain error-free. With templates, it's garbage in, garbage out. If templates aren't well styled, then the documents you create from them are at risk.

The importance of good styles

Properly styled contracts, letters and other documents ensure:

  • Your outline numbering remains intact, and updates correctly when changes are made
  • Cross references and tables of contents are automatically generated and maintained
  • Changes to branding and look-and-feel can be implemented quickly
  • It is easy to retain a consistent look-and-feel across related documents

That's why our training classes always include a segment on getting styling right in Word.

Outline numbering - Word's problem child

As anyone who's ever drafted legal documents knows, Word outline numbering is a minefield. This is because Word tries to hide complexity from its users - and outline numbering is unavoidably complex. As Word styles guru, Shauna Kelly puts it, "You seem to go round and round in circles, and never end up with what you want. And just when you get close, it falls to pieces."

It's essential that you use styles for outline numbering. Otherwise, you'll end up spending years of your life fighting Word. (Unfortunately, even when you have set up your styles '100% by the book,' there are still some risks. This last week alone, we've found three new bugs in the way Word's outline numbering handles particular scenarios. Trying to report these issues to Microsoft is worthy of another blog post...)


Any organization serious about streamlining document production must invest in Word styling capabilities. The upfront effort in 'getting it right' will be repaid many times over in the long run.


Justin Lipton is Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Exari. @liptonj