Start Page: Decorate your documents for the holidays (and beyond)

December 14, 2016

WilsonOne of the best (or worst?) features of Microsoft Word is its automatic formatting. Properly understood, Microsoft Word’s automatic behavior controls are incredibly helpful. In this article, learn how to decorate your documents to your liking with styles and create a table of contents and table of authorities automatically.

A stylish gift

The first automatic behavior control to discuss is styles. Take a look at Microsoft Word’s toolbar for the area marked “Styles.” The first style you will see is “Normal.” This style formats the document paragraphs by default, setting the default font, spacing, indentation and the like. To decorate your documents, simply right-click and choose “Modify.”

Microsoft Word displays a dialog box with options to select. Set the default font and paragraph settings for the paragraphs in your documents to appear each time you open a new blank document. Make changes and click “OK.”

Some new head(ing) gear

The most important style is the heading style: automatic formatting for the headings and sub-headings in your documents. By default, you will see Heading 1, Heading 2, etc. These heading styles are useful in briefs and contracts for consistent formatting and ease of re-arranging arguments or provisions.

How many times have you moved an argument from one sub-heading to a sub-sub-heading and then had to reformat your document? Did you use underlining or italics the last time? Small caps versus title caps? Using heading styles can avoid those issues. Apply a certain heading style (say Heading 1) to each first-level heading in the document, and those headings will look the same throughout your brief or contract.

This is easiest to see in action. Open a blank Microsoft Word document. Type the words “Heading 1.” In the Styles toolbar, click “Heading 1.” Watch the words you just typed automatically change to match the Heading 1 Style. Repeat the process, but this time use the phrase “Heading 2” and apply the Heading 2 Style to see the results.

It is easy to change the appearance of a heading style. Right click on “Heading 1” and click “Modify.” Change some options and watch your Heading 1 styles change automatically. This change occurs through the entire document for anything marked “Heading 1.”

Gifts that keep giving: automatic table of contents

Heading styles make it easy to insert a table of contents. No need to re-read the brief and manually add tab leaders and page numbers. Instead, click “References,” “Table of Contents” and select an Automatic Table. The resulting TOC will show any text with Heading 1 and Heading 2 applied.

It’s relatively easy to modify the TOC style. On the Home tab, choose the Styles area. Click the icon in the lower right-hand corner to expand the Styles pane. There, you will see TOC Heading, TOC 1, and TOC 2. Each of those areas of the TOC can be modified (right click or click the dropdown arrow and choose “Modify”).

An automatic TOC only shows three levels of heading styles. If you want more than three, you will want to use a custom TOC. Choose Table of Contents | Custom Table of Contents. From here, you can adjust how the TOC will appear, including how many heading levels to show. Choose “Show Levels” (up to nine) to add additional heading levels.

Finish with authority

Though not technically a style, the table of authorities is another important ABC. Most lawyers who type their own briefs understandably don’t want to interfere with the writing process to “tag” each case or statute as they write. The issue becomes that a “finished” brief still needs the table of authorities before it will be ready for filing. This can often happen with minutes to spare before the filing deadline. Build some time into the writing process for building the TOA or incorporate it into your drafting.

Legal authority can be “tagged” and inserted automatically in a TOA. First, select the citation as you want it to appear in the TOA. Go to the References tab. Click “Mark Citation.” Choose the appropriate options and category (this is important). Click “Mark.”

Repeat with statutes, but change the category to statutes. Now, go to the page you want the TOA to appear and choose Reference | Insert Table of Authorities. The result is a TOA indicating the location of the legal authority, broken down by categories. The TOA can be formatted as described above.

If you mark the legal authority appropriately, and then change your mind on where a particular paragraph should appear, you can move sections of your brief around and simply update the TOA. The page numbers in the TOA will update automatically. This is great for re-writes or last-minute clarity on about how to arrange the argument.

Hopefully, these tips helped you decorate your documents and were a gift that keeps on giving.•


Seth R. Wilson is an attorney with Adler Tesnar & Whalin in Noblesville. In addition to practicing law, he helps manage the day-to-day technology operations of the firm. Seth writes about legal technology at sethrwilson.com and is a frequent speaker on the subject. The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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