The case of the shrunken comment balloon

And now for a dispatch from the “Well, I’ve never seen this before” Department … Just when I thought I had seen it all, my boss threw me a curve ball, courtesy of his new-found affection for Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature.

He’s been using Track Changes a lot lately, and it’s turned out to be a pretty handy feature for him, since he’s been doing a lot of contract work. Marked-up documents have been flying back and forth via e-mail, and the Microsoft Word Track Changes feature has made life a lot easier for him.

Until last week, that is. He was getting ready to send out another reviewed document, when he opened it up from his outgoing e-mail and saw something like this:

Yikes! Who could possibly read that? That comment balloon is way too small!

He was completely mystified, as was I, about what possibly could have happened to make his comment text so small and unreadable. All he knew was that his fingers had been flying over the keyboard one moment and the next moment his comment balloon had seemingly deflated.

I knew it had something to do with the Styles feature, but I had to do a little research to figure out exactly which Style would control the text within the balloon. Fortunately, a quick Google search led me to a forum post that told me exactly what I needed to know. And within minutes, a much more readable form of the document was winging its way to the client.

It turns out that there are three possible Styles that would control the size of text in a comment balloon: Comment Text, Comment Subject, and Balloon Text. It was simply a matter of getting to the proper Style and then correcting it.

The Manage Styles pane isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to find in Microsoft Word. The launcher for it is a small grey downward facing arrow on the Styles portion of the Home tab:

Clicking the arrow will bring you to this:

Clicking on the button circled in red above will take you to the Manage Styles dialog:

By default, Microsoft Word will not actually show you all of the Styles available within this window, so I chose the Alphabetical view in the Sort Order drop-down above and un-checked the “Show recommended styles only” box to make sure that I could see all of the Styles, including the three I needed to check. That, not coincidentally, also made it much easier to find the Styles I was looking for because they were in Alphabetical order rather than the Recommended order, which is the default (and not very helpful in moments like this).

Sure enough, I found the culprit pretty quickly. It was the Balloon Text style. Somehow, my boss had inadvertently changed the Style so that its text was 1 point size rather than its usual 8 point. (That’s a mystery we may never solve.) Now, all I had to do was click the Modify button in the middle of the window and change the text size back to 8 point.

See the section under the word Formatting in the middle of the window above? To change the text size back to its original setting, all that’s needed is to click the down arrow of the text size drop down (the one that now says “1”) and pick 8 instead. Once that’s done, click OK to exit the window, and then click OK again in the Manage Styles dialog to complete the change.

Now, doesn’t this comment look much more readable?

At least I think so!

(photo credit:[email protected]/2579573442/)

About the Author

I spend an inordinate amount of my time playing with computers and attempting to explain technology to lawyers and law office staff. It's not always easy, but someone's got to do it.


Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I’m in the panic your boss was in, but feel much better now. Virtual high-five!


Thank you very much! It was so helpful

Sheila Hyatt

This was very helpful. Thank you


This is exactly the solution i was looking for.
Now the question is, how to set that 8 as default? It goes back to 1 if you open a new file.

    Deborah Savadra

    Look above at the Manage Styles dialog box. See that button that says “New documents based on this template”? Be sure to choose that before clicking OK.


      Many thanks for the prompt reply.
      I tried with the method suggested but no luck. The ballon text size still goes back to 1 when you open up a new or another existing docx file.
      I also tried playing with “Import/Export” button shown in “Manage Style”, though still no luck.

        Deborah Savadra

        If you’re working in Word in an office, it may be that your IT administrator has blocked any user-level changes to the Normal template. Talk to your IT department about this problem.


Thank you – I thought I had a major virus! I tried everything I could think of to make my balloons fatter – you have saved my career!


Thank you so much! It was very helpful! 🙂

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