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Microsoft Word: use the proper bold for your fonts (using styles or a macro)

Advanced Level Tip!

This tip is for people like me who hate it a document uses a particular font family (e.g. Franklin Gothic, Roboto) that has its own bold font but people don't use them. Instead they use the default Bold command and that makes the text look look ugly. (This might be just me but 🤷🏾‍♀️).

Here are two ways you can "assist" other users to use the right font to make text bold.

OPTION 1: Force your document to apply the correct bold using styles

Each Word document has a built-in style called Strong. This effectively applies a bold style to selected text. It is a character style, so what you do is right-click the Strong style in the Styles Pane (which you access from the Home ribbon) and click Modify in the shortcut menu (Mac users: just click the black arrow next to the Strong style in the Styles pane). Change the font name to the one you want to use to embolden the text (e.g. Franklin Gothic Demi, Roboto Medium, etc.). When a user then applies the Strong style to the selected text, it will make the text bold using the correct style and the text will look as intended.

"But Natalie, our users like to use keyboard shortcuts!" That's fine, you can re-assign the CTRL/CMD + B keyboard shortcut to a style. In the same "Modify" dialog box (where you've just changed the font name), click on the Format dropdown menu in the bottom-left corner and click on "Shortcut key..."

Modify Style dialog box with "Shortcut key..." option circled.

The first thing you must do here is check the "Save changes in:" The default option here is "Normal.dotm". If you leave it as this, the Bold keyboard shortcut will be changed for all documents. If you do not want this, click on "Normal.dotm" to bring up the dropdown menu and choose the name of the document you're working on instead.

After that, click in the "Press new shortcut key:" field and hold the CTRL (CMD for Macs) and B keys together. You might see a message saying "Currently assigned to: Bold", which is fine. Click the Assign button to finish.

Customise Keyboard dialog box. The arrows point to the "Save changes in" menu and "Press new shortcut:" field. The image is from MS Word for Mac but the two fields mentioned are in MS Word for Windows.

Now, when a user of that specific file presses CTRL/CMD + B, the Strong style will be applied, instead of the B button in the Home ribbon being activated.


This does mean the default way of switching between making text bold and switching bold off by using the same tool is now redundant (pressing the B button or using CTRL/CMD + B repeatedly on the same selected text turns the bold on and off).

The keyboard shortcut will only make the text bold and if you select it again, it will not switch this off. You need to use the Default Paragraph Font character style (which might be hidden - turn it on in the Manage Styles dialog box) or create your own style that shows how non-bold characters should look. Give that style another keyboard shortcut. Users can now use Strong and CTRL/CMD + B to make text bold and Default Paragraph Font (or another style) and that keyboard shortcut to take bold off.

The other issue is that the B button in the Home ribbon is still active - a user can use that button and make text bold the "wrong" way.

Option 2: Use a macro

Let's say you don't want to change habits. You want to use the Bold button in the Home ribbon and the CTRL/CMD + B keyboard shortcut to turn bold on and off for selected text. For this, you'll need to use a macro and the file you're using should be saved as a macro-enabled file.

Click on the Macros button in the Developer ribbon or use the keyboard shortcut Alt + F8. Click on the dropdown menu next to "Macros in:" (towards the bottom of the dialog box) and change the option to Word commands.

Find the Bold macro (you can just start typing the word "Bold" in the Macro name field and it will show up) and then change the "Macros in:" field to the name of the document you're working on.

Getting the Bold macro. (1) points to the "Macros in" dropdown menu: click this to access the Word commands. Next, in (2), start typing in "Bold" to get the Bold macro. Go back to (1) to choose the document you want to add this to.

Lastly, click the Create button on the right (Windows) or press the + button (Mac) to open up the Bold macro in the VBE Editor.

You should see the Bold macro, some text in green and the following text in black:

Selection.Font.Bold = wdToggle

Under the text in black, add the following:

Select Case Selection.Font.Bold

Case True

Selection.Font.Bold = False

If Selection.Font.Name = "[font name unbold]" then

Selection.Font.Name = "[font name bold]"

ElseIf Selection.Font.Name = "[font name bold]" then

Selection.Font.Name = "[font name unbold]"

End If

If Selection.Font.Name = "" then

Selection.Font.Name = "[font name unbold]"

End If

If you haven't written a macro before, do not delete the the words "End Sub". They should be underneath the words "End If".

Make sure to save your document before closing the VB Editor window and returning to the document.

Look at the screenshot of my code below:

You can see the "[font name unbold]" has been replaced with "Roboto Light". That's the font I want to use when I want all the text not to be bold.

Where the highlighted text is over "Roboto Medium", that's in place of "[font name bold]; Roboto Medium is the font I want to use to make characters bold.

So for you, you just need to replace "Roboto Light" and "Roboto Medium" with whatever font names you want to use instead.

OK, but what's happening?

What's happening is you can still click the Bold button or use the shortcut as normal. But what is also happening is:

  1. the button/keyboard shortcut works normally by using the default bold.

  2. the macro then turns the bold off.

  3. It checks what font name is being used in the selected text. If it's not bold (e.g. Roboto Light, Franklin Gothic Book, etc) then it will change it to whatever font name you want to use as Bold instead (e.g. Roboto Medium, Franklin Gothic Demi).

  4. If the selected text uses the bold font names, it will change it back to the non-bold font name instead. For example, if it sees the selected text is using Roboto Medium, it will change it back to Roboto Light.

The last step

As a default, if a user selects text that is a mix of bold and non-bold characters, when they press the Bold key or use the keyboard shortcut, all of the selected text will have the bold turned off. The user has to press Bold again to make all the characters bold.

The last step recreates this. VBA can't identify a single font name if the selection contains more than one of them (hence there being nothing in the speech marks), so VBA says in this case, apply the non-bold font name and make ALL the characters non-bold ("Roboto Light", in this case). So just like normal, the whole selection stops being bold. When the user uses Bold again on the same selection, the macro starts again and this time, it CAN tell what the font name is and will make all the characters bold.

But what about Restrict Editing?

Yes, you can use Restrict Editing or the Restrict tab in the Manage Styles dialog tab, and limit the document so it only allows permitted text styles to be used. This will support Option 1, because it will switch off the B button and force users to use the Strong and Default Paragraph Font styles.

However, the Restrict methods not only lock off text formatting. It also disables the Column and Breaks buttons (so you can't add page or section breaks or format parts of a document into a different number of columns) and several Table formatting options will also be disabled.

I have no idea why Microsoft has done this, but for some users, these may count as far too much of an inconvenience.

Ultimately, the option is up to you and there are pros and cons to them all, but at least there are ways of making text bold correctly, if you're using font families that use specific fonts for emboldening text.

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