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Tip #7 Introducing styles
Styles are a means to define a set of formatting instructions, that you can then apply to parts of the document that you select. Suppose you decide you want your chapter headings to be Arial, 14 point, bold, small caps, spaced 12 points above, 6 below, and centered. You don’t have to use styles at all. You could simply select each chapter heading paragraph, and repeat the set of formatting instructions.
What, though, if you have ninety chapters? Do you really want to repeat those instructions ninety times? Are you sure you could do that without making a mistake? Picture yourself banging your head against the fridge door because you forgot to apply small caps to chapter sixty-one.
Here’s what I would do. Create a style — perhaps call it ‘ChapterHeading’ or maybe ‘Heading 2’ — and define the style as Arial, 14 point, bold, and all the other things we said earlier. Instead of applying the formatting to each chapter heading directly, apply the style instead. All the formatting comes with it for free.
And here’s the real kicker… Perhaps when you get to upload your manuscript to Createspace, there’s a problem embedding the font, or you realize you need a larger paragraph spacing for the chapter headings of the hardback edition, or you decide the font size should be larger… or any one of dozens of formatting instructions you want to change. With styles you change the style definition once; instantly, your change is applied to every paragraph set to follow that style. Without styles you have to find every location and change that paragraph individually; and you have to get it right every time. Using styles isn’t just about saving you time: it’s about producing books that are formatted consistently. And in this context, consistent and professional are synonyms.
Tip #8 Don’t start from here! Start formatting as you write your book
You can save yourself a lot of grief later by picking the styles you will use and applying them as you write. If you don’t use styles in your writing then now’s the time to start. Also dividing the book into sections as you go, and setting headers and footers will save a little time too. By the way, this is even more true for eBooks, which have a habit of revealing subtly inconsistent formatting that is difficult or impossible to spot.
Don’t worry about locking yourself down to a particular font or size, because you can modify the style definition at a later stage. Concentrate on becoming familiar with a set of styles, and apply them as you go. Microsoft Word has the Style Set concept, which is perfect for this.
The most important thing to know about styles is that it is worth investing your time to learn how to use them well.
It’s a little like keeping your paperwork tidy and up to date as the year progresses, so that filing your tax return is no big deal. If you don’t, and your records are scattered, lost, or plain wrong, then not only will you take far longer to do your tax return, but it will be more painful, and — crucially — you are far more likely to make mistakes.
Don’t risk making mistakes with your printed book. Do yourself a favor and learn to use styles properly. After all, as I’m sure you’ll agree, the biggest difference between your book layout and your tax return is that your book is far more important.
And if you’re formatting eBooks as well as printed ones, that’s doubly true.
Tip #9 Defining Styles
Don’t worry, I am going to explain how to define styles. But whatever I write here will become out of date, because every time Microsoft release a new version of Word, they fiddle with the user experience for styles (because Microsoft realize how vital styles are). And if you’re using InDesign or Open Office then the concept of styles remains the same, but the implementation will be slightly different.
In other words, read these sections I’m giving you about styles, and then look at the detailed guidance in the help for your product. For Word 2007, Microsoft give their introductory guidance here.
Let’s take a look around Word 2007 styles with a screenshot.
What I’ve done here is click on the little arrow at the bottom-right of the Styles area of the ribbon. That launches the Styles window (which you see on the right, listing styles). I’ve then clicked on Options… at bottom-right of the Styles window, which has brought up the dialog box called Style Pane Options.
By default, Select styles to show (which tells Word what to show in the Styles Pane on the right) gives you every style defined in the current document. Most of the time, that’s not what you want. So in the screenshot I’m about to change that to all styles In use in the current document.
I’m going to pause before going further. I’ve just blasted through a whole list of dialogs, windows, buttons, and options. If you aren’t comfortable with styles, then yes, this will take a little while to get the hang of. Read my tips, but if you feel you only sort-of understand after the first read, open up your online help and browse through the topics I’m covering. Then have a play with a real (backed-up) Word document. It doesn’t matter if it takes a few goes to get the hang of styles. The time you’re investing will pay you back well.
So, back to our example we’re running through. As you can see, I’m examining styles for the document you’re reading. In the Style Pane Options dialog I chose to select styles to show in use, and I also de-selected Font formatting to leave only Paragraph level formatting. Once I’ve made these changes, the Style Pane looks like this…
My style pane now looks a lot less messy, and that’s where you need to be. I would feel happier if all the styles in the Styles Pane were ones I created and I knew I was using. Right now I’m bothered by the one that labeled: Left: 0.01”, First Line: 0”. When you see a style with a name like that, you can be sure it is direct formatting and not formatting from a style. Here I’ve clicked on the little button on the right of the style name in the Styles Pane and selected: ‘Select All n Instance(s)’.
This shows me where this style is appearing. In this case, as with almost every example, this strange formatting is a mistake. I changed the style to Body (by clicking on Body in the Styles Pane), which gets rid of this Left: 0.01”, First Line: 0” forever.
Tip #10 Defining Styles#1 — direct formatting into styles
If you’ve already started formatting your document, you can use it to generate styles automatically. You select a paragraph of text with formatting you want to reuse, and define a new style that will automatically copy across the formatting from your selected paragraph.
In the screenshot below, I’ve selected a paragraph (make sure you select the entire line) and then
Right-click | Styles… | Save Selection as a New Quick Style…
Quick Styles, by the way, are the style buttons on the ribbon that I’ve ringed in red.
You can do something similar with earlier versions of Word, but you’ll need to look up Creating Styles in the online help. In fact, here’s an online course to help you.
That’s it for the current run of posts on book formatting. If you want to find out more, drop me a comment, or try my book Format YOUR Print Book with Createspace, which has plenty more guidance on styles and many other topics.