Formatting your ebook – part II

In the last post, we managed to get rid of all the unnecessary formatting – the stuff that e-readers hate. And now, if you haven’t been using styles, you will have ended up with a whole mass of text without any apparent breaks. So we can fix that now SO easily.

I’ll give you a step by step breakdown with explanation, and then a summary that might be quicker and easier to follow. Just remember, this is only the first phase of editing for Word uploads only – there’s a lot more to come!

I suggested that you call all chapters something beginning with the word Chapter? I know that you may want to get rid of that later, but in a minute you’ll see why that was so important.

For the purposes of this phase of the formatting, we are going to assume that every paragraph in your book is going to be the same. There will be another section on special formatting later. I don’t know what version of Word you are using – which is a bit of a problem – but I’m using Word 2007. The principles will be the same, but you might need to hunt around for some of the options.

A quick recap first. You should by now have :

  • switched off all the auto correct features
  • got rid of all tabs
  • got rid of unnecessary spaces (leaving only spaces between words)
  • removed all but one paragraph marker at the end of each paragraph
  • removed all other paragraph markers – before and after chapter headings, for example.

If you haven’t done this, you need to go back to the previous post, and make sure that’s all done. You also need to make sure that you don’t have any headers or footers. e-readers don’t have any concept of pages, because each user can set different font sizes (and styles), so they don’t make any sense. If you haven’t already done it, delete them now.

Now you need to find the option in Word that lets you Select ALL – that is, the whole document. Try pressing CTRL A – which usually does the trick (not on my computer – but it’s Italian, so a bit different).

You now need to find the STYLES option on your version of Word. For me, it’s on the home page, but I know that not everybody works like that. Find Styles, and select NORMAL. This should change absolutely everything – all pages, chapter headings etc – to the NORMAL style. It will, however, preserve any italics and bold face, so you don’t need to worry about that.

Now we need to style the NORMAL style, so that it gives us what we want. If you go to the Styles selection box, you need to be able to choose Modify Style. Depending on your version, you may just be able to right click on the style selection box over the word NORMAL. Or you will see a drop down menu which offers the option of modifying the style.

Whether you like it or not, the sensible thing to do is to set your style to the font Times New Roman, and the font size to 12 points. This is the most adaptable option, and individual readers can decide how they want to see the book as they read it.

The next decision relates to the style of your book. Most fiction books are designed to have no gaps between paragraphs, but they have a first line indent. Have a look at a novel, if you want to see what I mean. Most novels also have the first paragraph in the chapter slightly different – but if you want that, you are going to have to move on to the advanced formatting in a future post. It’s not necessarily sufficient just to set your style for the first paragraph in Word and hope it works – because it may not. So for now, I am assuming you are just going to go for the easy option – all paragraphs the same.

Non-fiction books tend to have the whole paragraph left justified (ie no indent) but with a gap between the paragraphs.

So a paragraph in a novel might look like this one, indented on the first line, but then left justified from then onwards, with no spaces between lines.

And a paragraph in a non-fiction book would look be left justified – like this one, but there would be space between each paragraph – like this blog post.

To make the choice, you need to select Modify for the Normal style. Ensure that your font is set to Times New Roman, and to 12 point. The click on the Paragraph option to change the paragraph layout.

If you are publishing a novel, make sure that you select a first line indent. This is normally 0.5 cm by default, but you need to have a look at decide if this is too much for you. Personally, I don’t like large indents – and if you are going for the more advanced styling we can correct this later.  You also want to have single line spacing, and the space before and after the paragraph should be zero. Click OK, and the whole document (including the Chapter headings) will change to this format.

If you are going for the fully left justified option, open the paragraph formatting, and select NO indent for the first line. Then select a number of points between your lines. I would normally go for between 6 points and 8 points – but try things out, and see what you think.

Again, this will have formatted everything – including your chapter headings. So now, we’ll fix those.

Go to the top of your document, and select the first Chapter heading. How do you want these to look? Centred, left justified, indented to match the first paragraph? You can decide this for yourself – but for now we are going to go with a centred chapter heading.

With your first Chapter highlighted, select the Heading 2 style from your styles. This should be a standard style – but if not, you can create a new one. I’m not using Heading 1, because I will want to use that later for your title page. By using the standard heading styles, some of the tools that we want to use later for the more advanced formatting will be much simpler to use.

We are now going to format this heading style. Click to modify the style. It should say that the style is BASED ON normal. If not, change it so that it IS based on normal.

This means that it should be in Times New Roman, and will be set to 12 point. Increase the point size to 18 points. Then click on paragraph. In the paragraph definitions box, we first of all want to get rid of any indent (otherwise the centering will be offset by the indent amount). Select to align in the centre.

Towards the bottom of the box is an option for space above, and space below. Select 40 points above, and 20 points below. You can change this later if you don’t like it.

There should be a second tab on your paragraph specification box. Click the second tab, and tick the box to insert a page break before. Click ok, and go back to the general modify screen. Click OK.

Your first heading should now have been changed to a larger font, in the centre of the page, with space before and after.

Now we are going to change ALL the chapter titles – using the power of the word processor. Go to your find and replace box. Type the word Chapter into the find box. Select the Other options and make sure that your search is not case sensitive. Put your cursor in the Replace box (making sure there are no spaces there) and from the Format box, choose Styles. Select Heading 2, and click Replace All.

Your entire book will now have all chapter headings reformatted, with a page break before. If you don’t want to call them Chapter plus something else – you can now remove the word Chapter either manually (by using the Find method, and then removing the word) or using Find and Replace, finding the word, and replacing it with an empty (or null) space from the special characters menu.

One thing to note – if your text contains the word CHAPTER anywhere within it – “she entered a new chapter of her life” – you will find that this has also become a chapter heading! So scroll through your novel and check that Chapters really are Chapters. If there are any surprises, simply highlight the affected words, and set them back to a Normal style.


  • check that you have removed all incorrect formatting, as per the previous post
  • select the whole document
  • set everything to the Normal style (this won’t replace italics and bold)
  • format the Normal style to Times New Roman, 12 pt
  • modify the Normal style according to the paragraph style that you want
  • select the first Chapter heading, and set to style Heading 2
  • modify the Heading 2 style to include a page break before, plus spacing and positioning as required by your book style
  • Find and replace – enter the word Chapter in the Find box, and the style Heading 2 in the replace box (no words in the box). Replace all.
  • Check that the word Chapter didn’t appear anywhere else in the document, and reformat to Normal if it did
  • Done.