Word provides default font formatting and paragraph formatting that is applied to content entered into new documents. However, you can change the paragraph formatting in the default Normal template for new documents as well as in existing documents. We’ll show how to do both.

Change Paragraph Formatting in the Default Normal Template

To change paragraph formatting for the current document and all new documents based on the default Normal template, create a new Word file or open an existing Word file. If you create a new file, the Normal style is selected by default for any content initially entered. If you want to change the formatting for a different paragraph style, apply that style to the paragraph at the current cursor position. If you open an existing document, put the cursor in the paragraph you want to format differently, or select it. Make sure the “Home” tab is active and click the “Paragraph Settings” button in the lower-right corner of the “Paragraph” section.

On the “Paragraph” dialog box, select the settings you want to change (for “Indents and Spacing” and “Line and Page Breaks”, as desired). When you’ve made your changes, click “Set As Default”. This sets the default for the style currently applied to the paragraph containing the cursor.

The following dialog box displays asking if you want to change the default formatting for the current document only or all documents based on the Normal template. If you want this new paragraph formatting to be available for all new documents you create from now on, select the “All documents based on the Normal.dotm template” option and click “OK”.

All paragraphs using the same style as the paragraph you selected are changed to the new formatting.

Change Paragraph Formatting for an Existing Document

You can also quickly change the formatting for all paragraphs with the same style in an existing document. Open the document and click the “Styles” button in the “Styles” section of the “Home” tab.


The “Styles” pane displays. Find the style you want to change in the list and move your mouse over it. Click down arrow and select “Modify” from the drop-down list.

Select options on the “Modify Style” dialog box to change the formatting to what you want. Click the “Format” button for access to additional formatting options.

To apply the formatting changes to all new documents based on the current template, select the “New documents based on this template” radio button. This saves the formatting changes to the current template so that the next time you create a document based on this template, the new formatting will be used.

Click “OK” to accept your changes and close the “Modify Style” dialog box.

All the paragraphs in the current document based on this style are changed to reflect the new formatting.

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Lori Kaufman is a technology expert with 25 years of experience. She's been a senior technical writer, worked as a programmer, and has even run her own multi-location business.
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