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Q. When I create a new document in Microsoft Word 2003, there's a problem: If I try to make a hanging indent on just one paragraph, the entire document changes to hanging indents for every paragraph. Other documents do not have this problem, including files transferred from my old computer and some other new documents recently created. Is there a solution?

A. I've covered this topic before, but it's so frustrating when it happens, it's time to shine the light on it again. Here is what happened: You made a change to some text that uses the Normal style, and Word interpreted your action as a request to change the Normal style itself. So it applied that same change to all the other text in the document that uses the Normal style or a style that's based on the Normal style. Microsoft built this disaster into Word as an option. I've never heard from anyone who found it useful, only from those who needed rescuing. For what it's worth, Word 2007 makes it nearly impossible to change the default Normal style by accident, popping up a clearly worded warning if you try.

Here's how to stop the madness. Select Format | Styles and Formatting from the menu; the Styles and Formatting bar will appear at right. Find the Normal style in the list. Click it and click the down arrow that appears to its right. Choose Modify from the menu. In the Modify Style box, there is a check box at bottom right titled Automatically update. Uncheck this box, check the Add to template box and click OK. By checking Add to template you've chosen to correct as well—that's the template that defines formatting for all new documents. You may have to repeat this operation if you run into another old document that has that erroneous setting.

Let me know if you need anything else.

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