Word and style corruption

I was typing in a Word document that was renamed and saved from another document. As I was typing a paragraph in a long-used formatted style, a curious thing happened. I could no longer add spaces using the spacebar at the end of the last sentence of a paragraph.

I could add spaces in the middle or end of a sentence in a paragraph, but not at the end of the last sentence, which is followed by a hard return.

Oddly enough, if I copied the exact sentence/paragraph and pasted it into, say, Stickies, the space bar had no problem adding spaces.

To skip over all my efforts at figuring this out (including cleaning the Mac keyboard of the iMac), I finally just clicked on “Select All” parts of the report that were formatted in the corrupted style, changed to the Normal style, thereby deleting the old style (the system asked me), and then reformatted and renamed to a new style. Everything now works fine.

Have anyone ever heard of such an odd corruption with a style format?

I’ve had similar strange behaviour in the past with Word, and it is definitely linked to how formatting has been applied to the document. One of the downsides of using Word is that it’s next to impossible to spot if the formatting has been changed at some point in the text, and such changes can have unintended effects when you’re editing within that text. Resetting the formatting appears to be the only realistic solution.

I don’t know exactly what you’re seeing, but I always find it useful to view the non-printing characters in a document.

Go to Preferences → View, and in the Show Non-Printing Characters section, check the boxes for Hidden text, Paragraph marks, Tab characters and Optional hyphens. I also make sure to show drawings, object anchors and diacritics.

The reason for this is that these characters (especially paragraph marks and tab characters) affect how other things are formatted, so you want to know where they are. For instance, if you have a tab character in the text and you’re trying to insert spaces to the left of it, you’ll see that none of text will move until the spaces get up to the next tab stop, then it will all jump.

Similarly, a block of text that ends with a newline (shift-return) will cause the next block to belong to the same paragraph, meaning it holds all of the same paragraph formatting. And if it is justified, the last line will be spread-out.

Another feature I never use is Preferences → AutoCorrect → AutoFormat As You Type → Define styles based on your formatting. This tells Word to automatically create styles as it thinks are appropriate, based on what you do when manually formatting text. I find it creates all kinds of confusion (possibly including what you’re observing). Instead, I manually create styles corresponding to logical concepts in my document (e.g. Body text, Code block, etc.) I select these styles when creating text and they only change when I explicitly change them.

As for what, specifically, got messed up in the paragraph you were working on, I don’t know. If the style in question still exists in the document, you could open the Styles Pane (from the Ribbon), then open the Modify Style window for the one in question and look to see if there’s anything unusual in it.


When editing, I always keep the Styles Pane open (modern wide monitors make this more convenient than in the past). As you edit, the pane’s highlight will change to show you the style in use by the text under the cursor. I have found this very useful when trying to solve/fix tricky formatting bugs.

It’s also the only comfortable way to quickly change between styles as you’re typing.


Thank you. Maybe I’m just not smart enough, but in any event, that is one of the first things I turn off. <reminisce on> Styles have never been as clear and easy to use as in Word 5. How I wish I could just run Word 5.1! <reminisce off>

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Thank you, Mr. Shamino, for the recommendations about Define Styles based on your formatting. To be honest I had not heard of this and don’t know if that preference choice is selected automatically. I will look.

I really didn’t like Word and still find it tiresome, especially when it comes to formatting. Every report is replete with formatting styles I didn’t create and don’t use in the text, yet when I delete some of these same formats, entire portions of my text change and I have to start all over with corrections.

This doesn’t include what happens when my clients comment on the reports and return them for correction. Apparently, most people can’t be bothered to choose a personal style and instead use the default Times New Roman, which for some reason is not available in my version of Word. Their version doesn’t recognize my Palatino and substitutes the Times New Roman. When this happened in the past, I received appeared to be a blank document. It was only when I blocked out the text that I found it. The text was there, but invisible, because my system refused to recognize Time New Roman fonts.

Thank you Mr. Ralph. Mr. Ralph, I appreciated your response because of the acknowledgement of strange behavior. Word drove me absolutely crazy when I had to change to using it because Pages documents (even translated to Word) fouled up some of my clients non-Mac computers (or so they told me). I still don’t like it, particularly when I format a title page with a particular look, save and close the file, open it back up and the title page is completely fouled up.

I did find one way to ensure some formatting didn’t change, and that was to select “Automatically update” in the style’s formatting window. The other useful technique I found was to turn on “Show style guides” in the Style window. Since Mac Word won’t alphabetize the styles names to make them easy to find (which is why I try to remove extraneous styles with sometimes disastrous results), displaying “Style Guides” numbers them in the guide and in the text. This makes it easy to find wrongly-applied styles in the text.

Microsoft commissioned the development of Times New Roman because they were too cheap to pay Linotype to license the beautifully designed, eminently readable Times font designed by Stanley Morison. MS is also too cheap to license Palatino.

Steve Jobs licensed Times and Palatino from Linotype for the very first Mac, along with other outstandingly designed classic and fonts he newly commissioned. In many respected places I have read and heard Steve Jobs compared to the Gutenberg. Here’s what Steve said about how and why he built the first desktop computers specifically to handle sophisticated typography and design in the commencement speech he gave at Stanford a few years before he died:

“I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to learn calligraphy. I learned about serif and sans-serif typefaces, about varying the space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful. Historical. Artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture. And I found it fascinating. None of this had any hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would never have multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”

Steve’s whole speech is truly remarkable and moving. It’s well worth hearing and reading. It always reminds me about why I love Macs:

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I’m not so sure about that. The original 12 Mac fonts were:

  • Athens (slab-serif)
  • Cairo (a dingbat-like font)
  • Chicago (the original system/menu font)
  • Geneva (a Helvetica-like font)
  • London (an old-English font)
  • Los Angeles (a handwriting-like font)
  • Mobile (a dingbat-like font)
  • Monaco (sans serif, monospaced)
  • New York (a Times-like font)
  • San Francisco (a novelty font)
  • Toronto (slab serif, removed from System 6 and later)
  • Venice (a handwriting-like font)

These were very well-designed bitmap fonts, designed to look good on 72 dpi screens, but they were all designed in-house by Apple (most by Susan Kare). They were not licensed from any third-party typography company.

You may be thinking of the fonts that were available to those who purcased LaserWriter Printers. Adobe licensed many of these great fonts from Linotype to include in the core PostScript fonts. Level 1 (part of the original LaserWriter) includes Courier, Helvetica, Times and Symbol. Level 2 (used in later Laser Writers) adds ITC Avante Garde Gothic, ITC Bookman, New Century Schoolbook, Palatino, Zapf Chancery and Zapf Dingbats.

Additionally, desktop publishers purchasing apps like PageMaker would get robust sets of licensed fonts as a part of the apps.

The desktop publishing resolution was the result of many companies, including Apple, Adobe, Aldus and Canon. They all contributed key technologies that came together to produce what is (incorrectly) often credited to Apple alone.

See also Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011): Fonts and desktop publishing – MULTIMEDIAMAN


This is true…my husband bought a LaserWriter along with our SE30, our very first Mac. We also both used Macs and LaserWriters at work. We both worked in publishing, so just about everyone we worked with used Pagemaker and PostScript fonts as well.

And thanks for the link about Steve Jobs. I forgot that Palatino was his teacher and typography mentor. And I do miss Susan Kare’s Dogcow.

I feel the same way formatting in Word. I can imagine what the engineer was thinking when he or she thought it would be a good idea to make styles depend on others: “Just change the font in one style, and the whole document is reformatted consistently that way!” The problem is that when I want to change the font of some text, I usually only want to change it in that one style, not in that style and every other one that was derived from it.

The style system in Word is pretty well-designed and logical, but it does require a bit of training to understand it.

Many years ago, Office included tutorial software which did a good job of providing this training. Today, that material is on Microsoft’s web site and most people don’t know it exists.

And Microsoft’s default settings - to automatically create and modify styles as text is edited - are tragically wrong. It makes a mess of the entire system, creating the confusing mess you have experienced.

There’s nothing wrong with styles being defined in terms of other styles. For instance, I want my “bullet list” style to be my “body text” style plus a specific bullet style and indentation. So if I change “body text”, my bulleted lists will also change.

But, and this is the critical issues, I am explicitly defining my styles based on document context. So I know what depends on what and how they affect each other. If Word itself goes and creates styles based on manual formatting of some text (which is often a case one-off edits that have no contextual relationship to similar edits elsewhere in the document).

A good set of styles might be “body text”, “abstract”, “block quote”, “sidebar”, “code fragment”, “screen transcript”, “table heading” and “table content”. Most of these are based on the text’s high-level meaning, not the actual formatting.

A poor set of styles (like those that Word auto-defines) have things like “Normal + font:Courier 9”, “Normal + Italic”, “Normal + bullet”, “normal + indent + boxed”, etc. These describe the formatting, not the context of the content. You absolutely don’t want to use these as styles, because it links together blocks of text that have no logical connection to each other.


I much prefer Word to Pages and Excel to Numbers; editing and formatting in the Apple stuff are a big PITA to me. But this could be because that is what I initially learned on and always had to use at work. I’ve used them so much and so long that they are ingrained in my sense memory. But I will give Pages and Numbers another try when I get a new MBP, which should be soon.

Boy, do I agree! (Although, as the discussion above indicates, Word has its own problems.) I will be interested to hear your reaction after you get your new MBP.

I do wonder if Pages and Numbers are as bad as they feel to me, or if (like you) I’m simply so accustomed to Word and Excel that the problem is my experience and expectations.

I suspect it’s the latter. I know I largely find Word and Excel annoying because I’m unfamiliar with them, and because I find them annoying to use, I avoid them so they remain unfamiliar. Pages, on the other hand, worked the way I expected it to right from the start, so I’ve always preferred it to Word.


I haven’t had the time or inclination to field test the new pivot tables feature in Numbers to see if it works as easily and speedily as Excel. But if it could equal out, it will be a great feature.

I haven’t checked out Numbers for years, but charting was a mega PITA and there weren’t as many built in charting features available. Jeez Louise, you would expect that the leader in computer graphics would realize that accurate visual communications involving numbers is important. In another thread a few days ago I lamented the fact that Venn Diagrams are still not available in Numbers, and I linked to a query on Apple forums from a high school teacher asking about how to create Venn diagrams in Numbers from scratch. There was no easy solution, or one that would definitely be 100% accurate.

The financial departments in companies I worked for all said that Excel had many more and better features and formulas than Numbers. It could be just me being used to Excel, but I thought it was speedier, though it’s not like I was using an M chip Mac years ago.

What is another plus for me is that I much prefer PowerPoint to Keynote, and it was easier to import and arrange stuff from Excel. But again, it’s been years since I used Keynote.

I hope so, on two levels. One, I’d like to think that Apple writes better programs than Microsoft. Two, I hope I can become comfortable with Pages and Numbers.

Excel does have a rich function set. Although I cannot recall an example right now, I know that I have spent too much time in the past searching in Numbers for some functions that I used in Excel worksheets. And I don’t think of myself as a power user; I’m just a someone who wants to crunch some numbers.

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