Tag Archives: styles

The benefit of styles

When typesetting for print or ebook, styles are important. But what are they, and how do they help?


Just imagine the structure of your book for a minute. It’s probably something like

  • chapter number
  • chapter title
  • first para flush left with a drop cap
  • main text indented
  • divider
  • para flush left
  • main text indented

And repeat for every chapter, as often as necessary.


Now imagine that you want to increase the size of the chapter title, or change the font of the main text. Without styles, you would need to go to each small chunk in turn and change the formatting on it. If you have two or three changes to make on each chunk, it could take some time. Even using format painter, it’s fiddly and there’s the danger of missing something.


Now consider using styles. Styles come in two stages – tell the text what style you want it to use, and tell the style how it needs to display the text. So you’ll set the Heading 1 style to the right font, point size and weight, and you’ll highlight the text and apply the Heading 1 style. You can do these two steps in either order.


Once you’ve been through the entire document, applying styles to everything, it’s just a matter of changing the settings for that particular style, and that will then be applied all the way through the document, wherever that style has been applied.


One additional benefit of using styles correctly is that an automatic Table of Contents can be generated, using the specified styles to pick out the links that are needed and automatically adding the correct page number. This can be updated as the layout of the book is altered.


It’s also possible to save a set of styles, so it’s easy to copy them over from one document to another, ensuring efficiency and consistency.




Formatting for ebook

The process of formatting for ebook starts in the same way as formatting for print; in fact, ideally I’d be working from the same Word file, and preparing it for both types of formatting by first ensuring all the formatting is done through styles, and not just ad-hoc. Once the Word file has styles applied throughout, importing it into Jutoh, the program I use for ebook formatting, is straightforward.


Within Jutoh, I’m prompted to fill out a form containing the metadata for the book, including author and publisher details, genre and information, and then choose which files to import for the main text and the cover. With styles applied, I can set the document to split at the chapter heading style, and then complete the import.


Now I need to go through the document, checking the formatting has imported properly, making sure the splits are at the right places – while the chapters should split automatically, the front matter and back matter often need attention – and ensuring that any blank lines at the end of chapters have been removed. While these can easily go unnoticed within a print book, there’s a risk that a single blank line at the end of a chapter, falling at the wrong place, will appear as a complete blank page in an ebook.


The options for variation of text in an ebook are very limited. While in a print version almost anything can be achieved (and one of my projects is exploring the possibilities in a fun way!), in an ebook there is only really relative font size as an option, as the reader can (and should be able to) override font and font size choices for their own reading comfort. Another trick that I’ve used to make text stand out is to block-indent rather than just indent the first line of the paragraph, but ebook readers vary in how they handle indents, so varying indent size or adding a right indent isn’t a viable option.


With most fiction ebooks, the table of contents can be handled automatically, while for others or for non-fiction, I often have to handle the table of contents separately, ensuring that links are provided for the parts that need links, that they are displayed consistently and that all links point to the right place.


Images need checking to ensure they are the right size. While Jutoh offers a facility for resizing images, this can be inconsistently handled across readers, and it is far better to ensure the images are correct before importing.


Once I’m happy with everything, it’s time to hit the export button. I can choose the export type (epub or mobi, usually) with the click of a button, and the file is created.


That’s not the end, of course! There’s still viewing on different screens, checking the front matter and back matter are displayed correctly, making sure the table of contents works if I’ve had to handle it separately, and skimming through to see whether any special formatting is handled right. I have a few different devices available, from ipad and iphone to kindle touch and kindle keyboard, and so I’m able to check how they each deal with any issues.





Using paragraph formatting in MS Word 2010

So you’ve applied your styles, using Heading 1 for your chapter headings and Normal for the main text. You can format the headings easily and then update the style to make the same change throughout the document. The last thing to do is to format your body text appropriately.


Standard layout for an ebook or printed book is to indicate new paragraphs by indenting the first line. You should also avoid adding extra blank lines anywhere by using the return key. For both of these you need to access paragraph formatting.


Paragraph formatting dialog box


paragraph formattingWithin the paragraph formatting dialog box there are several areas of interest. You can format the alignment here – left, right, centered or justified.


You can add indents to left or right – if you want to set in a paragraph from the margins – or set a special first line indent.


You can also add space before or after the paragraph. This is the best feature to use if you want your headings to appear lower down the page, or have a gap between the heading and the text.


You can set your linespacing at various depths, including single and fixed spacing.


line and page breaksOn the other tab for the paragraph dialog box is Line and Page breaks.


The most interesting of these is Widow/Orphan control – when ticked, this will stop the first line or last line of the paragraph appearing on a different page from the rest. You might decide you prefer this option turned on, or you might turn it off if you want exactly the same number of lines of text on each page. If you do turn it off, I suggest you look at the layout of your print design carefully to check for widows and orphans, as it’s possible the automatic system could give you a single word on its own at the end of a chapter.


Keep with next will ensure there is no page break between a paragraph of this style and the next paragraph – useful for ensuring headings don’t appear on their own at the bottom of the page.


Keep lines together will ensure the paragraph is not split between pages.


Page break before will automatically start a new page with this paragraph – again, useful for headings.


Accessing the Paragraph format box


paragraph section of home ribbon

  • Click on the right-hand bottom corner of the paragraph section of the Home ribbon.


  • Right-click the text and select Paragraph…


If you access it either of these two ways, once you have the paragraph the way you want it to look don’t forget to right-click the paragraph and select Styles/Modify Normal to match selection.


modify styleAlternatively, you can right-click on the style in the style panel, choose Modify… and click on the Format button in the bottom left-hand corner. Choose Paragraph from the list of options. This method modifies the style directly, so you should see the change applied throughout when you press OK.


The first paragraph in the chapter or underneath a divider should not be indented, so it’s best to set up another style to cover this. Add in a centered style for your dividers (and maybe any images you wish to include) and you’re ready to go!



Using Styles in Open Office Writer

Advantages of styles

Using styles is a handy way to help you ensure your formatting is consistent throughout your document. Styles can also help you to navigate through your file and see the structure easily, and if you intend to convert your Word file to ebook format, styles will enable you to generate an automatic table of contents.


I have covered styles in more detail in the Word version of this article, so here I will only give you where to find the various features in Open Office Writer:

Applying styles

formatting toolbarYou will access the styles option in Open Office Writer by selecting Format/Styles and Formatting, or by clicking the Styles and Formatting button on the toolbar (on the left). Apply the style by highlighting text in your document and double-clicking the style you want.


Use a page break to force a new chapter onto a new page – under Insert/Manual break… page break, or by typing CTRL+Enter.


Modifying styles

update styleTo modify a style, change one of the sections of text that uses it. Then, with that section highlighted, on the formatting window use the dropdown button to choose Update Style.

Using styles to navigate

navigatorUse the Navigator pane, under View/Navigator, to move around the document and see the structure. Expand the heading section if necessary by clicking on the plus sign to its left.

Table of contents

table of contentsUse Insert/Indexes and Tables/Indexes and Tables to insert a table of contents.