Character Formatting Basics


In this lesson, we turn our attention to the basics of formatting characters: fonts; bold, italic and underline; subscript, superscript, strikethrough, small caps and other specialized formatting; and how to change the case (uppercase, lowercase, etc.) of already-typed text.

An introduction to fonts

I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record here, but once again, depending on your preference, you've got more than one way to change the fonts in your document. Here are your choices:

1) Use the Ribbon (click on the Home tab, then choose the font from the drop-down); OR

2) Click the launcher arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the Font section of the Home tab on the Ribbon and use the full Font dialog box (allows you to change the font plus bold/italic/underline in one place) or click CTRL-SHIFT-F.

To change the size of the font, you can:

1) Use the drop-down just to the right of the font name in the Home tab on the Ribbon and pick a size from the list (or type in a number yourself):

2) Use the Font dialog box above (pick a font size under Size on the right).

3) Use keyboard shortcuts to increase or decrease the font size by set increments.

If you want to ...

... then press:

Increase font size

CTRL-SHIFT-. (Control and Shift and Period)



Decrease font size

CTRL-SHIFT-, (Control and Shift and Comma)



Open the Font dialog box with the Font Size field selected


Bold, italics and underline

To make characters boldface, italics, or underline, you can:

  • 1
    Use the B/I/U buttons on the Home tab of the Ribbon to toggle the font formatting on and or OR format a block of text.
  • 2
    Use the keyboard (CTRL-B for boldface, CTRL-I for italics, CTRL-U for underline) to toggle the font formatting on and off as you type OR format a block of text you've selected.
  • 3
    Use the Font dialog box shown above.

Take your pick — use whichever method is easiest for you!

Beyond bold, italics and underline

While boldface, italic and underline will get you through most character formatting challenges, Microsoft Word has more in its arsenal for formatting text (as opposed to inserting special characters or formatting with styles) via the Format Font dialog box (accessible via the Ribbon by clicking the launcher arrow in the bottom right-hand corner of the Font section of the Home tab):

Let's go through what's available here:

  • Font/Font Style/Size — While it’s easier to change fonts directly on the Ribbon via the Font dropdown, this method allows you to visually “test” several fonts before committing with the OK button (see the preview screen at the bottom of the box?).
  • Font Color — Again, this is also accessible via the Ribbon:
  • Underline Style/Color — Unlike the Underline button (or CNTRL-U on the keyboard), these dropdowns will enable you to choose several underline styles, such as double underline, underline words only (not spaces), dashed, dotted, or wavy underlines, as well as choose another color for the underlining.
  • Effects — Some of these special character effects are available via keyboard commands (such as CTRL-= [the control key plus the equal sign] for subscript or CTRL-SHIFT-= for superscript), but this tends to be the preferred way to make formatting changes such as strikethrough and small caps.
  • Default – Notice the “Set As Default” button in the lower left-hand corner? That button enables you to change the default font type/size/style for the document template being used. If you have a specific font that you want to use for most of your documents, you can change that here.

Changing text case (even after it's typed)

If you've ever decided (or been told) <em>after</em> you've already typed something that what's in lowercase letters now needs to be UPPERCASE, or vice versa, you don't have to retype a single letter.  No, no, no.  You just need to use Microsoft Word's Change Case feature.

Select the text you want to change the case of, using your mouse or keyboard.

On the Home ribbon, go to the Fonts section and click the arrow next to the Change Case button.

Choose the appropriate option.

As an example, here's what various types of text look like before changing case:

Before ...

And this is what it looks like after each type of change:

... and After

Want a keyboard shortcut instead? Done! Just click SHIFT+F3 repeatedly to cycle through the four choices above.

Let's Review

Here's what we've covered in this tutorial:

  • check
    Changing fonts and sizes using the Ribbon, the Font dialog box, and keyboard shortcuts
  • check
    Styling text with bold, italic and underline using the mouse and keyboard
  • check
    Adjusting other font attributes such as colors, underline styles, and effects like superscript and strikethrough
  • check
    Changing text case

The next tutorial in this series will cover ...

We're going to start covering paragraph formatting next with a discussion of justification and line spacing. See you then!

Sorry, but you're not allowed to access this unit.
Done with this lesson? Then mark it complete. (Don't worry, this won't lock you out of this lesson - it's just a placeholder so you can track your progress!)
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}