Normal vs. Body Styles

Home Tutorials My MVP FAQs Useful Links


What is the difference between the Normal and Body Text styles?

Normal is the style on which almost all other styles (unless you change this) are based. If you change the font or paragraph formatting of Normal style, it will have a ripple effect throughout most of the other document styles.

For example, if you apply a first-line indent to the Normal style, you’ll find that your headings will be indented. So will your footnote separator, your header and footer, and many other elements that you might not associate with the Normal style. Even more important, when you center a paragraph, it won’t be exactly centered because it will have a first line indent.

That’s why it's more satisfactory, when creating a document of a structured, permanent nature (as opposed to a quickie to be printed and discarded), to use other styles intended for specific purposes.

Note: In all versions of Word, the Normal style is actually based on the “document defaults,” but these are not accessible through the UI. In Word 2007 and above, the document defaults can be changed independently of the formatting of the Normal style (though it’s recommended they be kept the same). For more on this, see my article on customizing the Normal template.

Body Text is just that, a style intended for the ordinary text of the body of a document. By default it is identical to Normal except for having 6 pts Spacing After. This means that if you use it, you'll get half a line space between paragraphs, which you will often want. If you don't—if you want more or less space, a first-line indent, a different font, or any other change—then you can customize the Body Text style without affecting other styles except for those in the “Body Text family” (such as Body Text Indent, Body Text First Indent, and so on) that are based on Body Text. And you may want to use those styles as well.

For example, following a left-aligned heading, it is conventional to use a flush left paragraph. In a printed book, the rest of the body paragraphs will have a first-line indent instead of space between paragraphs. The default “Style for following paragraph” of Word’s built-in heading styles is Normal, but you will change it to Body Text. You will assign Body Text First Indent as the following style for Body Text, modifying that style to have the desired first-line indent. So when you type a heading and press Enter, you will get Body Text, and when you press Enter at the end of that paragraph, you will get Body Text First Indent for all the succeeding paragraphs until you insert another heading.

Also note that you can break any style's linkage to the Normal style when you define it; in the Modify Style dialog, for “Style based on,” select “(no style).”

For more detailed information, see the section on Styles in Creating a Template (Part II), and also see Typographical Tips from Microsoft Publisher.

This article copyright © 2001, 2016 by Suzanne S. Barnhill.