I have a document in Microsoft Word 2010 which has the heading levels set incorrectly. The headings are currently formatted as:

Heading 1:
        Heading 3:
        Heading 3:
        Heading 3:
            Heading 4:

When I right click a header in the Navigation Sidebar, the options to Promote or Demote a header are greyed out and unusable, which means "Indent" or "push down" headers one level in Word 2010 unfortunately does not apply here.

Greyed out options to Promote/Demote header

These headers aren't using Word's built in Style options, as the content was copy-pasted directly from my own Super User post. Using those style options changes the document's appearance and text formatting, so I'm looking for another possible option.

How can I change header levels in Microsoft Word 2010 without changing the document's font formatting?

2 Answers 2


Highlight a header in the text, then open the Paragraph dialog box (right click the paragraph and choose Paragraph from menu).

Opening Paragraph menu

In the Indents and Spacing tab, change Outline level to proper number.

Selecting outline level


The answer by @endrju shows how to change a single paragraph. If you have a number of paragraphs to correct, the following approach may be faster – it allows you to demote or promote many paragraphs at the same time without changing the formatting. This works on Word 2013, and I’d expect it to work on other versions. This technique doesn’t depend on the formatting being the standard Word header styles.

First, switch to Outline view:

enter image description here

Switch to avoid displaying the body text. Level 9 shows all the headings and not body text, but you might want to choose some other level depending on what headings you’re trying to correct.

enter image description here

Select the heading you want to change and then click on the left pointing arrow to promote the highlighted headings. This changes the levels down one and leaves formatting as it was. You can also demote selected headings.

enter image description here

  • 1
    Just tried this on Office 365 ProPlus and while most of the formatting is preserved, the tabs are removed. (Unfortunately that's exactly what I was looking to preserve that brought me to search for this answer in the first place) Feb 25, 2020 at 11:27
  • I never used outline view, but after reading your answer, it is now my favorite feature. Easiest way to deal with document structure in MS Word.
    – Programmer
    Apr 1 at 11:41

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