I'm tidying up a large Word 2007 document that has a lot direct formatting and inconsistently applied paragraph styles in it. I want to define a new style called "Section Heading", but am told that it's either a built-in style, or is already defined:

Style already exists prompt

I'm pretty sure it's not a built-in style, so I can only assume it's already defined in the document somewhere. Consequently, I want to find and delete the existing style so that I can create my new style. Looking through the full list of styles in the Manage Styles dialog box, I can't see it anywhere. I've sorted the list of styles alphabetically, but it doesn't appear:

Section heading style is not listed

How and where do I find it?


While I'm not sure how things got in the state they did, I've now found the "Section Heading" style and removed it, allowing me to add my own style with that name. Here's what I had to do:

From the Styles section of the ribbon, click the bottom-most of the 3 buttons at the right of the Quick Styles Gallery. From the menu that appears, select the Apply Styles option. The Apply Styles panel will appear; in that, type the name of the style you want to create (in my case, "Section Heading"):

Entering the name of the existing style

Once you've typed the full name of the style, the New button changes to Apply (because the style already exists) and the Modify button becomes enabled. Next, just click the Modify button. Here's what appeared for me:

The title style has multiple names

So, it looks like "Section Heading" was some kind of alias for the "Title" style. And that's why it wasn't appearing in the Manage Styles dialog - it was only listed as "Title".

As I said, I've no idea how it got in that state (I'm pretty sure the original author didn't intentionally use paragraph styles), but I hope this helps anyone else who might come across the same weirdness. :)


I'm unable to reproduce the behaviour you describe, so it looks like Word is confused about the styles in your document. As a test, try selecting the entire contents of the document and pasting it into a new, empty document. Close the original, then see if you can add Section Heading to the new document.

  • Hi, thanks for taking the time to help. I tried your suggestion, but it still didn't let me create a "Section Heading" style. However, I've since discovered what the problem was; I'll post an explanation soon. :)
    – Mal Ross
    Aug 23 '10 at 15:58

In a new document I can create a style named "Section Heading" fine, then creating it a second time gives the same error. It's not a built-in style, or unless it was defined within a template that you might have used? If that's the case then the style could be 'locked' from being removed. You need to save your style with another name in that case.

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this error can also be caused by using an unallowed character in the List Style's name. For exmaple semicolon ";" cannot be used in a List Style's name.

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