Word 2016 Basic Cleanup Bug (we mean ‘feature’)

December 3, 2018 by Christy Reaves

If you’ve been using Microsoft Word for any length of time, you know that it continually surprises – sometimes a delightful surprise, sometimes a disappointing one. Before you get tripped up by this bug… I mean, feature, of Word 2016, read on and be ready!


Have you ever wanted to do some basic clean up of your document without losing the character formatting such as bold, underline or italics? Perhaps you need to restyle the document in a new container and, to avoid propagating unnecessary user created styles in the new document, you first want to apply the Normal style to the entire document, leaving just the direct character formatting.

Usually, this is not difficult. In many cases, you can just select the entire document and apply Normal. (CTRL+Shift+N is a nice shortcut to apply the Normal style.) All paragraphs take on the paragraph level characteristics of the Normal style while leaving the direct character formatting intact.

Notice, I said “usually.” In a bizarre twist (the type of twist for which Word is famous,) there is a particular situation in which, when you apply Normal to the document, the character formatting will also be stripped out. This situation is based on the character formatting on the very first paragraph of the document.

Let’s say the first paragraph of the document is in the Body Text style and has bold and underline directly applied to it. If more than 60% of the paragraph has those character elements applied and if it is selected along with the rest of the document, then the Normal style is applied to all paragraphs, all bold and underline character formatting will be stripped out of the rest of the paragraphs in the document! If italics are applied to the first paragraph, then italic character formatting will be stripped out of the rest of the document. Whatever the character formatting of the first paragraph is, those elements will be removed from the rest of the document.

See problem as it appears in Word 2016:

How can you work around this weirdness?

There are two sound ways.

Option #1:  Apply Normal to the beginning paragraph FIRST. This will remove the direct formatting from that paragraph, which you can easily reapply. THEN, select the rest of the document and apply the Normal style.

Option #2:  Add a paragraph mark ABOVE the beginning paragraph, making sure there is no character formatting on it, and then select the entire document and apply the Normal style.

That’s it! If you have any questions or would like to learn how to further automate Microsoft Word using LegalBar or Assemble-It, please let us know.

Christy ReavesChristy Reaves
Project Manager and Application Specialist, BEC Legal Systems

Published: December 3, 2018