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For example, in a DATE field, you might see something like \@ "MMMM d, yyyy".
In many Word fields you will also see \* MERGEFORMAT.
Many of the dialogs that make it easy to insert fields in Word (not just the Cross-reference dialog but also others that insert index entry fields, date fields, page numbers, and so on, as well as the Insert | Field dialog itself) often have dropdown lists or check boxes that allow you to choose certain formatting options, but sometimes the only way to achieve the effect you want is to edit the field directly by displaying the field code and typing in text manually.
The text that follows backslashes in a field is a switch.
Words Help doesnt define a field switch, but perhaps it will help to think of it as analogous to a railroad switch, which directs a train to one track or another.
For example, the DATE field inserts the current date.
The field inserted by the Cross-reference dialog may be a REF field or a PAGEREF field (if Page number has been selected under Insert reference to) or a NOTEREF field (if the cross-reference is to the number of a footnote or endnote).