Q&A Styles in Word 2007

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Note: This article is for Word 2007 and above. For Word versions 2003 and earlier, see Q&A Styles.

How to create styles for questions and answers

Q:  Can Word automatically format questions and answers so that I don’t have to type Q and A?

A:  Yes, it can!

Word users who want Word to have the simplicity of a typewriter often complain about its AutoFormat features. They don’t want Word to “think” for them. But users who have learned to control Word’s “IntelliSense” often assume that there must be a way to make Word automatically do what they want it to do. In the case of automating question-and-answer formatting, they are right.

The users who have most need for this type of format are court reporters, the power typists who produce verbatim transcripts of depositions and trials. But Q&A formatting can also be used in reporting celebrity interviews for a magazine, for example, or any other situation where questions alternate with answers. While Q and A are the examples used in this article, such prefixes do not have to be single letters. They can be initials, or even full names, if you are a scriptwriter writing dialog.

Note: Q&A formatting should not be confused with multiple-choice question formatting, which involves numbered questions followed by a choice of possible answers. Usually the questions are numbered 1, 2, 3… and the answers a, b, c…, with the answer numbering restarting after each question. This type of formatting requires an outline-numbered list; you can find instructions for setting up such a list in Shauna Kelly’s article “How to create numbered headings or outline numbering in your Word document.”

There are several ways Q&A styles can be set up, depending on the format required, but all involve styles and numbering.

Note: The following procedure is broken down into several steps. Once you have figured out what you're doing, however, you can perform all of these steps in one operation: creating and naming the style, modifying its formatting, and applying its numbering.

Step 1: Start with the styles

Assuming that you will want to use your Q&A styles in more than one document, the first thing you should do is create a template. You will create your styles in this template so they can be used in all documents based on the template.

You will need to define at least two paragraph styles. For convenience, we’ll name them Question and Answer. If your answers will sometimes run to more than one paragraph, you will also need a third style we’ll call Answer Continue.

Example of Question, Answer, and Answer Continue styles

Figure 1. Example of Question, Answer, and Answer Continue styles

  1. Place the insertion point in a paragraph in Normal style.

  2. Right-click and choose Styles | Save Selection as a New Quick Style. Word will display the dialog shown in Figure 2.

  3. In the Create New Style from Formatting dialog, type the name for your style (Question) and click OK.

  4. Reapply the Normal style, and then repeat the process to create a new style called Answer.

  5. Repeat to create the Answer Continue style if needed.

  6. Since all these styles are by default created as Quick Styles, they will be in the Quick Styles gallery on the Home tab, which makes them easy to apply (though later we'll see how to make them even easier to use).

The Create New Style from Formatting dialog

Figure 2. The Create New Style from Formatting dialog

Refine the styles

So far each of your two or three new styles will be identical to Normal except for the name. You will apply “number” formatting to them according to one of the methods that follow, but at this point you can apply any other formatting you need. As mentioned in the Note above, this second step is not strictly necessary: as the name of the Create New Style from Formatting dialog implies, you can apply formatting to your paragraph before creating the style. Or, since there is a Modify... button in the dialog, you can modify the formatting as soon as you have created the style. The process is broken down here for simplicity.

  1. At this point your three new styles should be listed in the Styles list (if you have added it to the Quick Access Toolbar) and the Styles window. (Open the Styles window by clicking the "dialog launcher" arrow in the bottom right corner of the Styles group on the Home tab as shown in Figure 3 or by using the keyboard shortcut Alt+Ctrl+Shift+S.)

Dialog launcher to open the Styles window

Figure 3. Dialog launcher to open the Styles window

  1. Select one of the styles in the Styles window to apply it, then click the arrow beside the style name and choose Modify…

  2. In the Modify Style dialog, click Format and then Font, Paragraph, or whatever other formatting you wish to modify (as you can see, you can make some formatting choices in the Modify Style dialog itself). If you want to change the font or make the paragraph justified or double-spaced or add Spacing Before or After, this is the time to do it. Right indents may also be added, but do not add a left, first-line, or hanging indent; these indents must be applied from the Numbering dialog.

  3. Repeat for each of the styles.

The Modify Style dialog showing formatting options

Figure 4. The Modify Style dialog showing formatting options

Make Word apply the styles automatically

Creating prefix styles is no improvement over typing Q or A and pressing Tab unless Word really applies these styles automatically. That’s why you have to do one more thing.

  1. With your Question style selected, open the Modify Style dialog one more time. For the “Style for following paragraph,” select your Answer style.

  2. Repeat for the Answer style, choosing the Question style as the following style.

Figure 5. Modify Style dialog showing style for following paragraph

This formatting will ensure that every time you press Enter at the end of a question, you will get the Answer style, and when you press Enter at the end of an answer, you will get the Question style. The styles will alternate.

But what if your answers often run on for several paragraphs? If so, select your Answer Continue style as the following style for your Answer style and assign a keyboard shortcut (such as Ctrl+Shift+Q or Atl+Ctrl+Q) to your Question style so you can return to it when needed. When you are in the Modify Style dialog, note that one of the options under Format is Shortcut key… (see Figure 4). This opens the Customize Keyboard dialog, in which you can enter your desired shortcut key combination. Alternatively (or additionally), the Outline List method offers an even slicker implementation that scriptwriters might especially appreciate.

Step 2. Create the prefixes

Now that your styles are established, you can decide how to add the Q and A prefixes. You have a choice of two methods.

  • Simple bullets are good for single-letter prefixes with no punctuation.

  • If you want punctuation after the letter (for example, Q:), then you need to use  an outline-numbered list, which allows you to use more than one letter, plus punctuation, and also take advantage of other Word features. Unfortunately, Word 2007, unlike previous versions, doesn't allow you to create a simple "numbered" list with no numbering.

Method 1: Bulleted list

If you do not need any punctuation after your “Q” and “A,” you can use a simple bulleted list.

With your Question style selected, open the Modify Style dialog following the instructions above.

  1. Click Format and choose Numbering.

  2. In the Numbering and Bullets dialog, select the Bulleted tab and click Define New Bullet…

The Define New Bullet dialog

Figure 6. The Define New Bullet dialog

  1. In the Define New Bullet dialog, click Symbol.

  2. By default, Word will display the Symbol font. Change this to “(normal text)” at the top of the dropdown list, select the Q, and click OK.

  3. If you want your Q to be bold, click Font and choose Bold, OK. (Do not change the font unless you want the "bullet" to use a different font from the rest of your Question paragraph.)

  4. Click OK to close the Numbering and Bullets dialog and again to close the Modify Style dialog.

  5. Bulleted lists in Word 2007 do not offer any indent formatting choices aside from the position of the bullet (Left, Center, or Right). Quite possibly you will not care for Word's default formatting of your paragraph, which will be indented from the left by 0.25". To change this, right-click in the paragraph and choose Adjust List Indents (see Figure 7). Set the desired indents and click OK. You will be warned that the style will be updated; this is what you want, so click Yes.

The Adjust List Indents dialog

Figure 7. The Adjust List Indents dialog

  1. Repeat steps 1–7 for the Answer style, using A for the bullet.

  2. If you created an Answer Continue style, it does not need a bullet, but if your Question and Answer styles have a first-line or hanging indent, you will want to apply the same indent to your Answer Continue style. This can be done in the Modify Style... dialog through the ordinary Format: Paragraph dialog.

Method 2: Outline-numbered list

If you have ever used several levels of headings in Word, perhaps you have had occasion to create an outline-numbered list. Ordinarily we think of outline numbering as creating a hierarchy of some sort: Level 1 numbering for Heading 1, Level 2 for Heading 2, Level 3 for Heading 3, and so on, but it is possible to create an “outline-numbered” list for styles that are of equal “importance.”

Formatting the styles

Setting up outline “numbering” for your Question, Answer, and Answer Continue styles is a little different from using a Bulleted list because you will format them all in one go (this is essential so that they will be part of the same list) and because you cannot approach this from the Modify Style dialog.

  1. In the Paragraph group on the Home tab, click the arrow beside the Multilevel List button and choose Define New Multilevel List.

  2. On the left, under Level, 1 should be selected.

  3. Change the “Number style” to “(none).” The number will disappear, and any associated punctuation will remain.

  4. Click to the left of the punctuation and type Q (or any other short text). Select the punctuation and substitute your desired punctuation (if any).

  5. If you want your Q to be bold, click Font and choose Bold, then click OK.

  6. Change any of the indent settings as needed. By default, the “number” will be flush left, with a tab stop and hanging indent at 0.25″. If you want your bullet indented and the left margin unindented, set the appropriate indent for the bullet and “Text indent at” to 0″.

  7. Click More, which will open the right side of the dialog. You have a choice of character following the bullet or number; if you select “Tab character” (it is selected by default), a tab stop is set by default at the "text indent" position, but if you check the box for “Add tab stop at,” you can set a different location. For example, if your paragraph has a first-line indent (that is, "Text indent at" is 0" and "Aligned at" is, say, 0.25"), you could set a tab stop at 0.5", so the text following your Q or A would align there.

  8. Very important: In the box for “Link level to style,” select “Question.”

  9. You may also want to assign a name for your outline list (such as Q&A).

The Define New Multilevel List dialog showing Level 1 linked to Question style

Figure 8. The Define New Multilevel List dialog showing Level 1 linked to Question style

  1. Now select Level 2 and repeat the above steps for your Answer style, making sure that you link the level to the style.

  2. If you are using an Answer Continue style, link it to Level 3. It will have no numbering, no text, no punctuation, but apply the appropriate indents.

  3. When you have set up all the styles, click OK to exit the Define New Multilevel List dialog.

Applying the styles

Here’s where the magic comes in. Apply the Question style to a paragraph (you may want to assign a keyboard shortcut to that style as described above). Type your question. Press Enter. If you have selected Answer as the following style, as described above, you will get an Answer paragraph. You can use keyboard shortcuts and following styles just as you could with “bulleted” or “numbered” styles, but because your styles are part of an outline list, you also have three other ways to switch styles.

  1. Using Tab (demote) and Shift+Tab (promote). For these shortcuts to work, you must have the appropriate option enabled. Check the box for “Set left- and first-indent with tabs and backspaces” on the AutoFormat As You Type tab of Office Button | Word Options | Proofing | AutoCorrect Options (Word 2007) or File | Options | Proofing | AutoCorrect Options (Word 2010 and 2013).

  2. Using Alt+Shift+Right Arrow (demote) and Alt+Shift+Left Arrow (promote).

  3. Using the Demote and Promote buttons on the Outlining tab that is displayed if you are in Outline view (you can also add them to the Quick Access Toolbar if desired).

Even if you don’t intend to apply the styles by promoting and demoting, there are advantages to creating your format using an outline-numbered list. The most important one is that it gives you the opportunity to link the numbering (prefix) format to the style, which can be helpful if you copy and paste text into another document.

Another useful trick

When you create an outline-numbered list, you link your styles to list levels. Confusingly, there is another set of outline levels that is used for building a table of contents. Word’s built-in heading styles by default (and unchangeably) have TOC outline levels assigned to match (Level 1 for Heading 1, Level 2 for Heading 2, and so on). The styles you have created will by default have an outline level of Body Text, but you can change this. When you choose Format: Paragraph in the Modify Style dialog, you can change the TOC outline level (top right corner of the Paragraph dialog) to match your outline-numbered list level.

The Paragraph dialog showing TOC outline levels

Figure 9. The Paragraph dialog showing TOC outline levels

Applying TOC levels allows you to manipulate the styles in Word’s Outline view. For example, if you want to see just the questions (without the answers), you can opt to display just Level 1. Better still, if you want to rearrange the order of the questions and have the answers move with them, display just Level 1; moving a question will also move all the lower-level text below it. And if you actually want to create a list of just the questions, you could do this by generating a table of contents based on just Level 1.

This article copyright © 2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014 by Suzanne S. Barnhill.