How to Apply Character Formats in Word 2013

The Font group in Word 2013 lists some of the most common character formats. They’re applied in addition to the font. In fact, they enhance the font. Use them as you see fit:

To make text bold, press Ctrl+B or click the Bold command button.

Use bold to make text stand out on a page — for titles and captions or when you're uncontrollably angry.

To make text italic, press Ctrl+I or click the Italic command button.

Italic has replaced underlining as the preferred text-emphasis format. Italicized text is light and wispy, poetic and free.

Underline text by pressing Ctrl+U or clicking the Underline command button. You can click the down arrow next to the Underline command button to choose from a variety of underline styles or set an underline color.

Underline is what they use at the DMV when they’re feeling saucy.

Strike through text by clicking the Strikethrough command button. (There’s no keyboard shortcut for this one.)

Strikethrough is commonly used in legal documents, when you mean to say something but then change your mind think of something better to say.

Make text subscript by pressing Ctrl+= (equal sign) or clicking the Subscript command button.

Subscript text appears below the baseline, such as the 2 in H2O. It’s puzzling how this formatting command ranks up there with bold and italic. There's probably a lot of subscripting going on somewhere.

Make text superscript by pressing Ctrl+Shift+= (equal sign) or clicking the Superscript command button.

Superscript text appears above the line, such as the 10 in 210.

More text formats are available in Word, such as small caps, outline, and shadow. You can access them from the Font dialog box.

  • Basic character formatting affects only selected text or any new text you type.

  • To turn off a text attribute, use the command again. For example, press Ctrl+I to type in italic. Then press Ctrl+I again to return to normal text.

  • You can mix and match character formats. For example, press Ctrl+B and then Ctrl+I to apply bold and italic text. You press Ctrl+B and Ctrl+I, or the command buttons, to turn off these attributes again.

  • The best way to use superscript or subscript is to write text first. Then go back, mark as a block the text you want to superscript or subscript, and then use these commands. So 42 becomes 42 and CnH2n+1OH becomes CnH2n+1OH. Otherwise, when you apply super- or subscript, the text you modify tends to be rather teensy and hard to edit. Better to write it first and then format.

  • If you can remember that Ctrl+= adds subscript, just press the Shift key to apply Ctrl+Shift+= for superscript — if you can remember.

  • When will the Underline text attribute die? It seems like we're waiting for the last typewriter-clutching librarian from the 1950s to pass on before underlining is officially gone as a text attribute. And please don't fall prey to the old rule about underlining book titles. It's Crime and Punishment, not Crime and Punishment.

Here are a few more text attributes — call them second-string players. You may not use these as often as bold or italic, but Word makes them available to you just as well:

To switch to all caps text, press Ctrl+Shift+A. This is a text format, not applied by pressing the Shift or Caps Lock key. In fact, like other formats, it can be removed.

To set double-underlined text, press Ctrl+Shift+D. This text is double-underlined.

To produce small caps, press Ctrl+Shift+K. Small caps formatting is ideal for headings.

To underline words only, and not the spaces between words, press Ctrl+Shift+W. Word underlining looks like this.

You create hidden text by pressing Ctrl+Shift+H. Hidden text is good for what it says — hiding text in a document. Of course, you don’t see the text onscreen, either. To show hidden text, click the Show/Hide command button (in the Paragraph group on the Home tab). The hidden text shows up in the document with a dotted underline.

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