Some Handy Formatting Tricks

Ruth Ann Nordin recently did a four part series called Publishing 101. In post four she touched on formatting and I thought, since I’ve done formatting for both myself and other authors, I would take a moment to explain some of it.

I’ll start by saying that I know very little about PDF formatting; I do all of my work in Word and then make the document into a PDF as is. So, if you’re looking for PDF tips, I am not your girl. Except that on shades of Gray the margin was too big, so I saved it as a 6 x 9.25 page size in word, and then cropped it to 6×9 in the PDF program. End my PDF tips.

(All screen caps are in Word 2007)


If your manuscript has little or no italics or bold, then a really easy way to remove all the unwanted formatting (such as stray tabs, odd tables, page breaks, etc) is to copy the document and paste it into Notepad. Yes, I said Notepad, that archaic little document program. If you’re unfamiliar with it, you will probably find it under Programs>Accessories>Notepad.


Use the shortcut keys Ctrl+A to select all of the original document, then just copy and paste.

Yes, that removed ALL formatting.


Now save it as a .txt file (Notepad’s default) and then open in word.

(You may get a pop up similar to this, just hit Okay)


Your new document will have no formatting at all – no centering, no tabs, no bold, and no italics.


The first thing I do after that is set the tabs.


East definitions: Tabs are something you put in manually by hitting the tab key, and an indent is something the program puts in. AKA Indent = good. Tabs = Bad.

Highlight all of your document (Or the section you want to have tabs, for instance the copyright info and title page shouldn’t have tabs on them) and then make sure that you have rulers visible (This will be in a different menu in earlier versions of Word, but it works the same after that):


On the left side of the ruler you’ll see two little arrow like things. The BOTTOM one determines your left margin and the TOP one sets your indent, which is what we want.


Grab that top “arrow” and drag it to the right. When you let go, you’ll see the text “magically” indent itself:



You can go back and “undo” this for parts of the manuscript you want perfectly centered, or that you don’t want an indent in. You do this by first highlighting the text to be “un-indented”, then grab the TOP arrow and move it back to the starting position:


Again, make sure to highlight any text that you want to adjust, or else nothing will happen.


you can go through your stripped document and manually add in any centering, bolding, italics, etc that you want. One way to do that is have the original document open (You can use side by side view if you like), and then go to find/replace and choose the More button:


Now go to the format button and choose font:


You’ll get a pop up box. Choose what you want; in this case we want to find italics:


Hit okay and use the Find Next to find the instances of italics In your original document. When you do, you can then use the find feature to find it on the unformatted version (after first using the format to choose regular text again because there are no italics in the new document). Then, highlight any word that should be italicized and italicize them:


Alternately, if you don’t like having to flip back and forth you can keep a running list in notepad and then italicize all at once, like so:


You will see that I copied more than just the words that needed italicized so that I could insure that I found the correct instance of those words. Also, I out *’s around the portion that is meant to be italicized. You don’t have to use notepad, of course. You can use word, or you can write it in a notebook or even on the back of an envelope.

This also works for bold, and any other kind of formatting.

If you have a lot of formatting, then you may find this method tedious, but for a document that has a lot of weirdness going on, it can still be a time saver.


If, for instance, you use the title Jumping beans do America by Jillian Bilford several times in your document, but might not have italicized it every time, there’s an easy way to do this.

Open the find dialog box and go to the replace tab. Paste in, or type in, the text you want replaced, and then fill the same into the replace box (As I have no mention of that title, I’ll go with my character’s name for the example). Make sure the cursor is in the Replace With box, and choose the More button:


As in the above example, go down to the format button and choose font, then italics. Hit okay, and then you can either use “replace” to see each instance before it’s replaced, or, if you feel lucky, “Replace all”.



Different authors do different things. However, I just use a couple of enters and a few twinklies, like so:


An easy way to make these uniform is to use the replace technique. When you initially format your document, use only 2 twinklies at each “break” and then use the replace all to replace with a row of them like so:


Now, every “page break” will have the exact same number of twinklies, and look more uniform and professional. Or, as professional as rows of twinklies can look. You can also use the format button to center your twinklies the same way that we applied italics to everything. Only, you need to choose the Paragraph selection instead:


Then choose center:


Make sure that the new formatting is under the Replace With box, or it won’t work!!



If you’re sure you have no weird formatting, (excessive tabs, tables, sty;es, weird spacing, etc)then there’s no need to use the notepad method. I’d suggest that you double check to make sure that there are no tabs hiding in your document, though, by going to Find and typing in


(the ^ is the symbol on the 6 key)



If there are, of course, just backspace them out.


You can go to bar at the top and hit that little P looking thing. This will make all your formatting show up:


As you can see by the row of dots after “One”, I have a bunch of extra spaces there. Smashwords can reject books for too many of those, so delete the bad boys.

This will also show you where your page breaks are, so you can see if you’re using too many, and make sure that you’ve used the same number between your chapters.


And, if you find that you have a lot of extra spaces – maybe you have several instances of five or more – the use the find/replace box. Type in the number of spaces in the Find what box and then leave the replace with box empty. Yes, this will look like a blank search, but it works.

And that’s about all that I can think of. Do you know of a better way to do this? If so, please share it in the comment below. Conversely, do you have any questions about these steps, or about something I didn’t feature here? If so, please put it in the comments too, and I will do my best to answer it.