Saturday, June 28, 2014

3 Simple Steps to Implement Before You Write to Make Formatting Easier

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     So, for those of you who plan on self-publishing, formatting is a huge issue. Now, there are many good books on this, many of them free on Kindle, that can tell you how to format you book, but generally you look for those after you've written your book, right? Well, today we'll be looking at a few steps that you take before and during the writing of your book that will make formatting much easier when you get to it. Also, if you're paying someone to format it for you, and they are paid by the hour, then these will severely decrease the cost, as your formatter will have much less to do.

     Step 1: CTRL+Enter

     If you use a computer, then you know that CTRL+Z is "Undo", and lots of people know CTRL+Y means "Redo", but few people know that CTRL+Enter (Or Command+Enter in Macs) means "Page Break". So, instead of simply pressing enter until you reach the next page when you finished a chapter, you just hold CTRL and click Enter, and it will jump to the next page.
     This is especially helpful for ebooks, which normally can be flipped on their side and are rarely in the same proportions as they appear on your computer, which means that pressing enter won't take it to the next page, but rather to somewhere in the middle of the next page, or possibly the same page, or two pages forward. But ebooks understand page breaks, so if you put one in, no matter the proportions or rotation, your next page will actually be the next page. They also making things neater for print books, so if you later on decide to add or subtract something, all the subsequent chapters won't need to be re-positioned. Same for if you change font type or size.

     Step 2: Do not use headings in ebooks

     Or footers, for that matter. Ebooks don't understand them, and they'll either end up as text or something else, maybe have code attached. The best-case scenario is that they won't appear at all. Remember, because ebooks can flip, they don't have page numbers, and does your reader really need the title of the book up there every page? Like Brian Reagan said, have you ever been half-way through a book and gone, "What the heck am I reading?"
     Obviously you can use them in print books (depending on your provider, but if yours doesn't, you may want to find a different company) and when the pages stay the same, it's really nice to have page numbers.

     Step 3: Do not use Tab

     Tab is evil. Neither print books or electronic ones deal with it well. Ebooks generally put the line to about the middle of the page, which does not look good. Instead, before you've even started, set the indent of the first line to .5, or whatever your preference is.

     On a modern Word program (it may be a bit different with Mac or older Word versions, or as new versions come) press CTRL+A to select the whole document. Then look at the top ribbon and make sure you are on the "Home" tab, which is where it starts. One of the sections (e.g., clipboard, font, etc.) should be called "Paragraph". Find the expand button, which is normally in the bottom right corner. Click on it, and a window should open up.
     Go down to "Indentation". There you can choose the right and left indentation, but leave those alone. To the right of them will be a drop-down menu that says "Special". Select "First line" from the list, and then go to the "By" option to the right and set it to .5, or as I said, your preference.

     Now, every time you hit "Enter", your computer will make the indentation for you! Now, if you have anything that is going to be centered, like poetry, you'll have to select that section and undo this, otherwise it will be a half inch to the right, rather than completely centered.

     I hope these have helped, and I know it'll save whoever's doing your formatting in the future, especially if you're doing ebooks!

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK.

We have a poetry contest open, the theme is "patriotism". Come see the guidelines here!


  1. Great tips! Thanks! :)

    1. You're welcome. :) I'm glad I've helped. You know, I've found step three to be convenient anyway, once you get used to it.