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Monday, September 6, 2010

MS Word for Authors--Making Space without the Enter Key

In previous posts, I talked about how to space text horizontally, such as centering chapter titles, without hammering on the space bar or the Tab key. Now for the Enter key!

First, for ordinary fiction, you don't need a line between paragraphs. Indent the first word of each paragraph and skip the second tap on the Enter key. The indent is enough to set off a new paragraph. (Blog posts are different, so don't copy the formatting you see here and now.) To set up the indent, see the August 16 post "We're Stylin' Now" for instructions on modifying styles. Change Normal style, using Modify/ Paragraph/ Indents and Spacing. Find Indentation/ Special. Choose First Line. Word puts in .5 inch. All paragraphs in Normal style will now be indented automatically.

Second--and I know this will arouse fiery passions in some of you--don't double-space after each sentence. One space is enough and will save some poor person the effort to strip out that extra space before publishing.

Third, if you need vertical space, avoid the Enter key. Perhaps you want to drop the title of each chapter so that it is a third or half the way down the page, which some editors prefer (as do I). I repeat: you don't need the Enter key to do this. Instead, put all that space into the paragraph formatting. You are already assigning Heading 1 style to your chapter titles, right? Modify Heading 1 to put that space in automatically. See the August 16 post "We're Stylin' Now" for instructions on modifying styles. When you get to Format/ Paragraph, check that you are on the Indents and Spacing tab of the dialog box. Find the section labeled Spacing. Throw a big number in there, maybe 120 Before and perhaps 24 After. Click OK, click New documents based on this template, click OK. Test this with a new document. If you don't like it, go back and use a bigger or smaller number. For a short story title, this can be a one-time fix instead of changing Heading 1. Right-click and choose Paragraph, then add the space before as described above.

Really, it's better not to have long strings of hard returns (paragraph symbols). They will give you a headache whenever you need to make changes. Let Word do the work instead!

Oh, come on! It's not THAT hard.

1 comment:

Diane A.S. Stuckart said...

LOL, every week I have new "homework" to do after reading the blog. But I suspect my editor will appreciate all this effort once I turn in my WIP. FYI, I've already used some of your hints to help my husband format his resume. Thanks again!

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