Use a screen reader to create a heading in Word 2016

Headings are very important for document accessibility and usability. To make sure that your headings work correctly for accessibility, It's essential to create them by using the built-in heading styles in Word. When you use headings that have heading styles, you make it possible for your screen reader and Word to exchange the right information.

Note: The procedures in this topic are documented using Narrator and JAWS. For information about how to work with a specific screen reader, contact your assistive technology (AT) manufacturer.

In this topic

Important reasons to use heading styles

Here are some of the advantages that you get when you apply built-in heading styles from Word to the headings in your document:

  • Screen readers recognize the headings. Many can list the headings for the person, so the person can browse the headings and use them for navigation.

  • Conversion tools that convert Word documents to different formats such as Braille, HTML, or PDF recognize the heading styles, and apply the correct conversion tags to them. This means that headings in your Word document will also be correctly tagged as headings in the converted document.

  • Word adds the headings to the Navigation pane, where you can navigate quickly to different parts of the document. You can also use the headings from the Navigation pane to analyze the document structure and design. To open the Navigation pane, press Alt+W, then K.

  • Word can create a table of contents for your document that lists the headings as navigable chapters.

  • Document-wide actions, such as theme fonts, recognize heading styles. To learn how use theme fonts to format headings, see Use a screen reader to change the font in Word 2016.

Apply heading styles with a keyboard shortcut

If you already know the heading style that you want to apply, you can just use a keyboard shortcut. This table shows keyboard shortcuts for some of the most frequently used heading styles.

To do this


Apply Heading 1 style


Apply Heading 2 style


Apply Heading 3 style


Apply Normal style


Apply heading styles from the Styles gallery

Heading give readers helpful information about content. They separate different types of content in your document and help readers find information. When you use heading styles to create headings, Word can quickly build a table of contents, reorganize your document, and reformat its design without having to manually change the format of each heading throughout the document.

Note: This topic assumes that JAWS users have turned off the Virtual Ribbon Menu feature.

  1. In your document, select the text you want to become a heading.

  2. To move to the Styles group box, press Alt+H, L.

  3. To move through the styles in the Styles group box, press the Tab key. Word says the name of each style.

  4. When Word says the name of the style you want to apply, press Enter.

More information

Get help for using a screen reader with Word 2016

Keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Word 2016 for Windows

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