Styles and why we should use them

If you haven’t been using Styles in Word or Google Docs, you should start now. Not only will it save you time with formatting and give your documents a consistent look, it is also one of the most important accessibility considerations in documents. Styles provide a quick standard way to control the formatting of a document.

How do styles save you time?

Have you ever finished formatting a large document and then decided to change your headings or subheadings to a completely different font, size, color or spacing? Without styles, you have to make these changes manually to every heading, every paragraph, etc. With styles, you can make one change and it will automatically apply to the entire document. You can also easily create a table of contents just by using styles in your document.

How do styles provide a consistent look?

Using styles helps you easily apply consistent headings and subheadings to create a hierarchical representation of your document. You can create consistently spaced paragraphs, bulleted lists, highlights, etc. 

What is the difference between styles and templates?

In Extension we use templates for just about everything. Templates contain content and design elements that you can use as a starting point when creating a document. Styles are included in the templates to ensure we are use the formatting recommended by Extension and University communications.

How do styles help make your documents accessible?

Sighted users often scan through pages looking for headings to get an idea of structure and content. Screen readers and other assistive technology users rely on properly formatted headings to understand and navigate documents and web pages. Without this structure, there is no easy way to navigate a document because the document is read as a single long section.

Using styles in the right order

I’ve used styles in my documents off and on for years but I didn’t always use them in the proper order (Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc). Until recently, I didn’t realize how important it is to use them in the right order for accessibility. Screen readers can isolate a list of headings on the page that the user can scroll through or they can read or jump by headings or even navigate directly to top level headings, next level headings, third level headings, and so on. This helps all users find the information they’re looking for.

How to use Styles in Word and Google Docs

One of the University's accessibility core skills is knowing how to format headings to improve the reading experience of all your readers. The Headings section on the Accessible U website provides examples, instructions and tips for customizing headings in Google Docs and Word - this is worth the 4 minute read!