In my last article, I promised you I would teach you about using styles in MS Word for headings and subheadings in your brief. It’s been a tough two months to wait, I know. But now that patience will be rewarded.

You should know from the outset that setting up headings to work perfectly is the most technical process of anything I’ve discussed so far or anticipate discussing in the future. This is not for the technologically faint of heart. For that reason, I am going to avoid the in-the-weeds detailed description of every action you need to take and, instead, giving general guidelines on how to set everything up. But for those who are not up to the task, I have a solution. At the bottom of this article, I have included a link for an appellate brief template I have created that has all the necessary styles set up. If you plan on using it, I still encourage you to read through this article so you can understand how to tweak the formatting.

The benefits of setting up your brief’s headings and subheadings as styles have all the same benefits that using styles for any other portion of your brief. And yes, I really am going to make you read the last article to see what those are. But in addition to all of those, setting up your headings properly has some additional advantages. Once you set up your headings properly, then you have done all of the legwork to create an automated table of contents. This way, once you are done writing your brief, then you are pretty much also done creating your table of contents. And if you make any edits to your document after creating the table of contents, then updating the table of contents is as simple as pressing one key (F9).

There is one more advantage to using style headings that is greatly beneficial for electronic filing. If you convert your Word document into a PDF (more detail on the precise method below), then the PDF’s table of contents will be hyper-linked to each identified portion of the brief. That is, if someone viewing the PDF clicks on the portion of table of contents for your Statement of Facts, the PDF jumps to the page where the Statement of Facts begins. And you thought you had to hire an outside company to make your PDF do that…

I’ll get into the specifics of creating the table of contents below. For now, though, we need to go through the basics of setting up the heading styles. Just as a precaution, let me begin with some disambiguation. In word processing documents, there are headings and there are headers. For our purposes, headings are a specific set of styles that identify the various portions of your brief (such as Statement of the Case, Statment of the Facts, Analysis, and each specifically identified point and subpoint within the Analysis). Headers, in contrast, are the portions of each page above the margins of the main text of the page. (Footers are the analogous portions at the bottom of the page.) We are focused on headings. For what it’s worth, you can do some pretty cool stuff with headers, but nothing really appropriate for appellate briefs, in my opinion.

And now we begin. This is another learn-by-doing post. So go ahead and open up an old brief or a blank document that you can use to experiment on. If you created a file to work with for the last article, use that one. Now you need to access the styles menu. In case you’ve forgotten how to do that from the last post, here’s a quick refresher.

On the Home ribbon at the top of Word, locate the Styles section.

On the bottom right of the Styles section, there is a tiny box with an arrow in it. Click on it. You should see something like this (except yours won’t have the same styles listed):

Notice mine has Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, and Heading 4. Unless you have worked with Headings before, yours will only have Heading 1. Once you apply the Heading 1 format to a paragraph, Heading 2 should appear. Applying Heading 2 will cause Heading 3 to appear, and so on. That means you will always have one more heading listed in your Style pane than you actually use. These styles are created by Word and have features that other styles don’t have. So you want to use these styles specifically or ones based upon these styles. (More on basing another style on the heading styles below.)

In order to help you understand what items should be formatted as Heading 1 as opposed to Heading 2 or any other heading, it is useful to first look at the Table of Contents you will be creating.

See how there are multiple levels of indentation? Everything that is left-most is formatted as Heading 1. Everything that is indented one level in is formatted as Heading 2. Indented two levels is Heading 3, and so on. Based on this, anything you want to appear in your table of contents should be formatted as a heading. What level of heading it should be marked as depends on how you want it to appear in your table of contents. If you don’t want it in your table of contents, it probably shouldn’t be formatted as a heading.

Now let’s start setting up the heading styles in your document. If you’re using an old brief, go to some text that you want to label as Heading 1. (That is, go to some text that you want to appear left-most in your table of contents.) One good example is the text “Statement of the Facts.” Select the text you will be using as your sample.

If you move your mouse over the Heading 1 option in the Style pane, you will see a drop-down button on the right.

Click on that button and select “Update Heading 1 to Match Selection.”

Congratulations! You have formatted the Heading 1 style. Now find all the other text that you want to be formatted as Heading 1. Place your cursor anywhere in the text, and click on Heading 1. Do this for each item you want formatted as Heading 1.The process for formatting and then applying the formatting for each of the other headings.

Done this way, all of the text that is formatted as Heading 1 will look the same. All of the text formatted as Heading 2 will look the same. Etcetera. There may be occassions, however, where you want two differently-formatted texts to appear in the table of contents at the same indentation level. For example, in my old briefs, my main argument headings would look like this:

My issues presented—the actual statement of the issues, not the heading for that section—would look like this:

I want them both to appear in the table of contents at the same level of indentation, but I don’t want them to look the same. There’s a way to accomplish this. First, choose which text you want to be identified as Heading 2, and format Heading 2 to look like that text. (For me, it was most logical to format Heading 2 based on my main argument headings.)

Next, go to the other text, and put your cursor anywhere in the text. At the bottom left of the Style pane, there is a button that looks like this:

This is the “New Style” button. Click on it. You will see this pop-up:

Click on the drop-down button for the “Style based on” option. Find “Heading 2” and select it. Then give the new style a name, such as “Issue Presented.” While you’re at it, go ahead and set “Style for following paragraph” for whatever you want it to be, such as “Body Text.” Then click “OK.”

The formatting is going to look like whatever Heading 2 is currently set at. Make the necessary changes to make it look how you want it to look. Then click on the drop-down for your newly created style and select “Update ___ to Match Selection.”

Format the remaining texts for both headings, and everything will appear at the same indentation on the table of contents.

Now comes the trick part. It’s also the part that, if you decide that it’s took tricky for you, you can skip without much risk of bad things happening. I like each of my argument headings and subheadings to be numbered (or lettered). I also like that to happen automatically so that if I add or remove a heading mid-way through editing, all the other headings automatically fall into line. It’s nice. But set up can be a bit of a hassle. I’ll give you the basics, and you can experiment to fill in the rest.

Find on your Home ribbon at the top of Word three buttons that look like this:

The right-most button is for creating what is called a multi-level list. Click on it, and you will see this:

Select “Define New List Style…” You will get this pop-up:

Give the list style a name, such as “Heading List Style.” The click on “Format” and then “Numbering.”

You will get this pop-up:

Click on the “More” button. You will get this:

This is where the magic happens. It would take me too long to describe everything that can be done here. But I can give you the basic idea. Select the first level, and under “Link Level to style:” select “Heading 1.” You probably don’t want a number style for that level, so select “(none)”, remove any extraneous text, and for “Follow number with:” select “Nothing.” For the other levels, associate it with the appropriate heading, choose the number style, number alignment, any other text that should appear after the number, and so on. Once you have everything set up the way you think you want it, click “OK” on this pop-up and “OK” on the underlying pop-up.

There are a couple of things worth noting. First, the list style you created does not appear in the Styles pane if you set it up the way I recommended in the last article. To make further edits, you will have to set it up to view all styles under “Options…” at the bottom of the styles pane. Second, I have found that linking my headings to a list style causes unintended changes to my headings. You may have to tweak back and forth among the headings and the list style to get everything perfect. In my opinion, it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

At this point, you should have all your heading styles properly formatted and applied to all the text you want to appear in your table of contents. Now you’re ready to make your table of contents. For those of you already feeling mentally taxed, the good news is that this is one of the simpler processes in this longer-than-intended instructional. Put your cursor wherever you want your table of contents to begin. Now click on the “References” ribbon at the top of Word. Find the “Table of Contents” button and click on it.

If you see an option you like, just click on it. Otherwise, click on “Insert Table of Contents.”

You’re free to make any changes you want. The main thing is to note “Show levels” at the bottom. If you want more than three headings to appear on your table of contents, this is where you make that adjustment. After that, just click on “OK.”

If you’ve truly gone this far, you really should take a moment to sit back and appreciate what you’ve created. From now on, the only thing you will need to do to update your table of contents is click anywhere in it and press F9. That’s it. No more rushing at the last minute to put your table of contents together or worrying if you really got the page numbers right.

Now that you’ve created your table of contents, you should see some new styles have appeared in your Styles pane.

As you might have guessed, these are the styles for each level in the table of contents. If you don’t like the formatting for your table of contents, make the formatting changes with these. If you make the changes with the styles, then the formatting will remain each time you update the table. If you just make changes to the text in the table, you will lose those changes every time you update the table.

There are two additional features that using the heading styles and creating a table of contents gets you in Word. First, go to the table of contents. Let’s say we want to go right now to the summary of the argument section of the brief. Hold down the Control key on your keyboard. Now click on the text in the table of contents that says “Summary of the Argument.” Voila! You’re there.

Second, there’s an even better way to do that. Press Control+F on your keyboard. That will bring up the Navigation pane.

Now click on the left-most button (or tab) just beneath the search field.

Look at that! All your major headings. Click on any one of them and you are instantly transported to the referenced section. Admit it. That’s pretty awesome.

One final trick. In order to perform this trick, however, you need Adobe Acrobat. Not Adobe Reader. You need the full blown Acrobat program. It’s not cheap. But if you have it, you’re going to love this.

Click on File in Word, and then select “Save As”.

You will get this pop up:

For “Save as type:”, select “PDF (*.pdf)”

Give it whatever name is appropriate and click save. If it doesn’t open automatically, open the PDF. Now go to the table of contents. Click on “Summary of the Argument.” Bam! You’re there. Now the PDF of your brief that you serve to the court will be hyper-linked for the court. Well, the table of contents will be. Hyperlinking everything else will have to wait for another article. (After I learn more about it.)

There is one more incredibly useful advantage. On the left of the Acrobat screen, there should be four icons.

The second one down is for bookmarks. Click on it. You will see this:

Your brief is now fully bookmarked! The courts receive your brief in this format. So the bookmarks are retained when the judges and staff review your brief. Bookmarking is an efficient way for the judges to move around through your brief as they work with it. To me, this is one of the greatest benefits of using heading styles. After some initial effort of setting up your styles the way you want them, a simple conversion to PDF will give your briefs a more professional look and aid the courts in reviewing the briefs.

I have, for the time being at least, reached the end of my attempts to teach you some of the more technical side of MS Word. I hope you have found it useful. Before moving on to other topics, I’m going to leave you with a gift of sorts. If you’d like to use styles and have your table of contents be automatically updated but don’t have the time, interest, or aptitude to set up everything yourself, I present to you, a brief template with all of the basics already set up. Feel free to fiddle around with it. If you mess it up, just download a new version. I lay no proprietary claim to any of its contents.Use it. Share it. Enjoy it.

If you have any questions about the template or anything else I’ve discussed, please feel free to contact me at the email address below. Good luck.

Derek Bauman
Staff attorney, First Court of Appeals

Comments, questions, and useful information are always welcome (and desperately sought). Please send them to: