Can you advise how to distinguish heading styles in a document?

I write informal (i.e. for internal use, not published) technical specifications, and they're structured (e.g. with chapters, sections, subsections). I want that structure to be visible when the document is being read (so that the user knows whether they're about to read a subsection or whether they're about to start a new chapter).

Ideally I'd like a scheme which:

  • Supports three, and preferably four of more, levels of heading
  • Looks fine on paper
  • Doesn't use section numbering (e.g. prepending a title with a number like 2.3.2 to show that this is the 2nd subsection of the 3rd section of the 2nd chapter)

As an example of the problem, here's a screenshot of a document produced with default Libre Office style:

enter image description here

Here the "Introduction" is a "Heading 1" style which is 18.2 pt font, and "CAP-related protocols" is a "Heading 2" style which is 16.1 pt font (Heading 3 is 14.1 pt font, Heading 4 is italic and 13.3 pt font).

My problem is that I can barely see the difference between the two illustrated headings: I wouldn't know that the second is a sub-heading of the first, not a new peer at the same level as the first.

  • I constantly had this problem and resorted to using prefixes in a decimal format ( ie like this 2.2.1) to headings, partly as it emphasises the structure, and partly so I could refer to things I'd already mentioned.
    – PhillipW
    May 13, 2017 at 21:23

1 Answer 1


This LibreOffice Writer Guide uses heading styles which appear to work for three levels of heading:

  • Heading 1: an underline (or bottom border) across the whole page -- visually separates it from any previous part of the document
  • Heading 2: slightly smaller and without that kind of border
  • Heading 3: slightly smaller and italic

This one collects several books into one; on page 173 you can see an example of another level:

  • Heading 0: occupies a whole page, like a book's cover page

Maybe that styling is good enough to distinguish the heading levels, and 3 or 4 levels of heading is enough levels. Any further detail, instead of requiring "Heading 5" and so on, can be formatted without headings ... using lists, definition lists, tables, maybe an index.

Also the headings are a different color (not black), so Heading 3 stands out from the text even though its font is not much bigger.

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