About this blog...

Here you will find information, musings, and pictures about life, the natural world and writing.

Monday, August 16, 2010

MS Word for Authors: We're stylin' now

Monday Blog for Fiction Writers #3

MS Word, in its ceaseless efforts to be helpful, offers a variety of "styles," each with a name. Styles are handy and worth getting to know. It takes a little trouble to understand them, but they can save you a lot of effort forevermore (or until you move to a new computer). Adjusting Normal style to suit your needs saves work every time you start a new document. Applying the style named Heading 1 to your chapter titles opens up many useful features.

Hang in with me, experiment a little with these two styles, and see if the effort pays off.

A "style" in Word is a bundle of formatting applied to a paragraph. We will keep this simple by discussing only Normal style and Heading 1 style. (Note: Heading 1 style and Header style are totally distinct.)

"Style" applies to a paragraph. It's a paragraph if it ends in a paragraph mark, even if it's only one word or a period or nothing but a hard return. And now would be a good time to turn on Show/Hide so you can see those hard returns/paragraph marks. You create one every time you hit the Enter key. Those little puppies carry a lot of information and it's best to know where they are and what they are up to.

First, Normal style. This is the default, what you get unless you choose something else. Word tells you which style applies to the paragraph your cursor is in. Open a new document and look at the top tool bars until you find the word Normal. Remember where that box, the style indicator, is. "Normal style" determines the font, font size, and line spacing, among other things, of each new document. The tool bar shows you some of the style's characteristics--the font, size, etc.--but not all of them.

If you are tired of fixing the font and indent and line spacing for every new document, I have good news for you. Change Normal style and every new document will start out the way you want it. Usually authors want double spacing, Times New Roman, 12 point, indent the first line. All that information can be adjusted in Normal style. Here's how.

Word 2003 for XP: Go to Format/Styles and select Formatting. This opens up a side panel. Click on Normal. Pull down the little menu. Select Modify. Either make changes there or click on Format in the lower left corner. To make the changes "stick" for all new documents, find the Add to template box and click it before clicking OK. Do not click Automatically update. This is devil-spawn that will drive you to an early grave.

Word 2007 for Vista: Right-click on Normal and select Modify. Proceed as for Word 2003.

Word 2004 for Mac: Select Format/Style and click the Modify button. Proceed as for Word 2003.

Explore the options. It's not that hard to set up what you want. Save it and open a new document. Is it all good? If you hit problems, try again and/or add a comment below and tell me the problem.

Now for Heading 1. Apply it to every chapter title (but not the novel title). Click on "Chapter 1," then go to the box that says Normal and instead select Heading 1. That's all there is to it. If you don't like looks of Heading 1, change it the same way you changed Normal style.

Having your chapter titles in Heading 1 style opens up a lot of possibilities. For openers, find Document View and turn it on. Now you can jump around in your document at will. Document View is in the View menu. On the Mac, it's called Navigation Pane. I love Document View and I bet you will, too.

Next time: More on chapter titles.

I wasn't born yesterday. I backed up my files.


Evan Lewis said...

That "style" box has been giving me fits of late, switching willy-nilly between Normal and Heading 1. But I'll be brave. I'll try applying your methods. Be ready for whining if they fail.

Ann Littlewood said...

Hummm.... Sounds like the hijinks of new software. Be sure you have Show turned on.

T. Lee Harris said...

I've been formatting for Smashwords and Amazon's DTP lately. The Style settings are a curse in blessing clothing. lol It really helped finding out how to get in and turn off a lot of the more annoying features. I was amazed how much better styles worked when I refused to let Word automatically apply as I typed.

Eloise Hill said...

Ann, I've heard the term "hard return" used before and I don't understand what it means—as opposed to any other kind of return. I suspect, however, that it has something to do with the willy-nilly formatting I sometimes see on Kindle?

Eloise Hill said...

Ann, could you define hard returns?

Ann Littlewood said...

Yes indeed. You create a hard return every time you hit the Enter key. When you do so, you are creating "a paragraph" in Word terminology, even if there is no text. If Show is turned on, you will see a backwards P. If Show is turned off, you will see only more space, your blinking cursor traveling down the page a bit every time you press Enter. Strings of hard returns, perhaps to force a page break, cause grief, especially if Show is turned off and you can't see them.

Ann Littlewood said...

Lee, I'll have more on styles later. I'm hearing from ebook creaters and publishers that consistent use of a few styles works best for them. I haven't seen Word automatically apply styles except for Normal. Are you referring to bullet and number lists? Send me an email if you wish. (It's on my website.)

Post a Comment