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Advanced authoring in Microsoft Word – Part 11: Character styles

So far we have only talked about different types of text at the paragraph level (‘this paragraph is a heading, that one is a subheading’), but one can also talk about different types of text within paragraphs. For example, in written books, italics (a presentational attribute) is often used to indicate a number of different meanings (semantics, content): stress emphasis, a title of a work (e.g. a book), a defining instance of a term, an idiomatic phrase in a foreign language, a name of a ship, a taxonomic designation, a technical term, a word when you discuss the word itself, etc.

When it comes to such in-paragraph types of texts, it is again possible to apply presentational attributes (such as italics) directly. For instance, if you use an English-language version of Microsoft Word, Ctrl+I and Ctrl+B will toggle italics and boldface, respectively, at the caret (or to the selection). Or one can use styles to separate content and presentation.

Of course, the second approach is the preferred one in most cases (in theory). Indeed, if you want keywords in a textbook to be in bold orange text, you should create a style for this (named ‘Keyword’, perhaps?). This way

In the terminology of Microsoft Word, styles that apply to paragraphs are called ‘paragraph styles’ whereas styles that apply to spans of text within paragraphs are called ‘character styles’. The latter cannot contain any information about paragraph settings (like paragraph spacing or indentation). There is also a third kind of style: linked style. Those contain paragraph settings and may be used as paragraph styles, but may also be used as pure character styles by ignoring the paragraph settings.

In the following example, two definitions are marked up using a character style (named ‘Definition’, perhaps?). Three good-looking versions of presentational attributes connected to this style are given.

A sentence containing the defining instances of two terms. These terms are styled in italics.

A sentence containing the defining instances of two terms. These terms have a thick, orange underline.

A sentence containing the defining instances of two terms. These terms are styled in bold orange.

In addition, more specific (and visually complex) in-paragraph types of text, such as those related to computer code fragments, benefit greatly from the use of character styles. For example, you could create a character style named ‘Computer Code’ and give it a monospaced font and a greyish background:

A sentence containing a snippet of computer code. This snippet is styled in a monospaced font with a grey background.

Some padding would probably make this look better, but unfortunately Word does not support padding at the character level.

Although the general rule is to use styles and never apply formatting directly to the text, it is not unreasonable to make exceptions for some kinds of very simple character-level presentational attributes.

Indeed, in practice, you often do use direct formatting in the form of italics and boldface at the character level instead of using character styles. There are a few reasons for this:

In conclusion:

Visa alla tidigare notiser.

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