Overlapping Styles

Character Style Attribute

Lets assume we have a document that contains titles formatted using the default Heading 1 paragraph style.
For whatever reason we want some of these headings to appear in a reduced font and also to appear in italics.
We could manually format each heading to have a reduced font size and to include italics but using this approach is messy.
Manual formatting is superimposed on both paragraph and character styles.
If we wanted to change the format of these headings at a later date it would have to be done manually.
A much better approach is to create a "Italics" character style with the necessary formatting and then superimpose this on the headings.
Character styles are always superimposed over paragraph styles when the attributes conflict.
Paragraph Style - Arial, 16, Bold
Character Style - 12, Italics
Result - Arial, 12, Bold, Italics

microsoft excel docs

In this example the font attribute of the paragraph style is overwritten and the italics attribute is an addition.

Paragraph Style Attribute

When a character style does not specify an attribute that the paragraph style does, the paragraph style attribute remains.
Paragraph Style - Arial, 16, Italic
Character Style - 14, Bold
Result = Arial, 14, Bold, Italic

microsoft excel docs

In this example you will get the italics from the paragraph style since the character style does not specify a preference

Paragraph and Character Attribute

When a character styles specifies the same attribute as the paragraph style Word automatically tries to maintain a contrast and will therefore ignore the attribute.
Paragraph Style - Arial, 16, Underline, Italic
Character Style - 14, Bold, Italic
Result = Arial, 14, Bold

microsoft excel docs

In this case you will not get italic because Word always tries to preserve some contrast between different styles.
If you are ever unsure what formatting has been applied to a selection of text you can use the Reveal Formatting Task Pane.


Manual formatting is superimposed on both paragraph and character styles.
Word always tries to maintain contrast so if you apply italics to a paragraph style which uses italics, the italics will be removed.

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