When it comes to writing Word docs, you’re probably doing it wrong. 

If you haven’t thought about how people with disabilities might read your Word documents, they’re definitely not accessible. 

gift with tablet inside it that reads: Siteimprove Academy. Text: Get FREE access to the new Accessibility for Microsoft Office course track. Get Started.gift with tablet inside it that reads: Siteimprove Academy. Text: Get FREE access to the new Accessibility for Microsoft Office course track. Get Started.

But this one valuable document formatting principle will help you:

Always. Use. Styles. For. Text.

How to Use Word Styles

To apply a Style...

A screenshot of the Word ribbon with the Styles section highlighted.

  1. Select the text you want to format
  2. Click a style to apply it to the selected text

Styles provide accessible structure and clarity. Screen reader and other assistive technology users often navigate documents by using Styles.

For example, with Styles, users can quickly scan the headings to find the topic they want to read about.

As a screen reader user moves through a document, the Styles allow them to more easily understand the structure and relationship of information.

Using formatting buttons to make text larger and bold to look like a heading won’t translate to screen readers.

How to Customize Word Styles

Customize your Styles to look however you want them to, just make sure you use them.

  1. Right-click the Style you want to customize
  2. Select Modify
  3. Modify the Style and click OK

Word Styles pane with Heading 1 right click menu displayedWord Styles pane with Heading 1 right click menu displayed

Word Modify Style dialog boxWord Modify Style dialog box

Creating your own style and calling it “Heading 1” won’t always work correctly with assistive technology, so it’s better to modify the default Styles that are already there.

Along the same lines, use the “Strong” or “Emphasis” Styles instead of the Bold and Italic buttons, otherwise the effect you’re trying to create with that formatting won’t be the same for screen reader users.

Learn more about Styles and other ways to make your Microsoft Office files accessible with the new Accessibility for Microsoft Office courses from Siteimprove Academy!

Get Started

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