Sunday, 26 February 2012

Using Style Sheets

When you are formatting books for either eBook or printed book publication, you should be sure to set up style sheets. A style sheet contains named font and paragraph formatting options that can be selectively applied to your text. Here I am assuming you are using Microsoft Word for writing your documents but style sheets can also be used with other word processors and Desktop Publishing packages. If you are not familiar with Word style sheets, you may want to follow Microsoft’s tutorial.

If you haven’t already got a style sheet, you need to create one – just load a blank document and save it as a Word template. Then set up styles by right-clicking text with the format you want and, from the mouse menu, select Styles, Save as New Quick Style. Make sure the full styles palette is visible. From Word’s Home ribbon page, click the little arrow-box at the bottom right of the style palette (the thing showing all the character styles) to dock it at the side of your screen.

Now, when you want to modify a style, click the arrow to its right in the docked palette and select Modify.

Make changes in the dialog box and click the Format button to select other categories of style attribute that you may want to change. I don’t plan on explaining all the options here so if you aren’t already familiar with styles, you may want to spend some time experimenting with the possibilities.

Important: when you make a change, be sure that the option ‘New documents based on this template’ is selected. If not, the style changes will not be persisted for use in other documents. You want at least one template for use in multiple documents so this is really important.

Once you’ve got a template, you can apply it to new documents by loading it in this way. Select File, Options. Click Add-ins. In the drop-down list at the bottom-left, pick Templates. Then click Go, click Attach, browse to your template and select it. Make sure ‘automatically update documents styles’ is checked. Click Open. The template will now be applied to your document and the text will be reformatted if the template styles match the existing formatting. If not, you will need to select your text, then select the various style names from the palette to apply them.

For basic Kindle formatting, most style options are ignored so you shouldn’t need to spend too long setting them up. The Kindle Formatting web site also has lots of useful information:

For a printed book (for example, via CreateSpace or Lulu), you need to devote a lot more care to formatting. Every formatting change you make will be reproduced exactly on the printed page so don’t skip the details. Just to give you some guidance on how to create your body text, you should either make changes to the Normal style or (which is, I think, better), create a new style based on the Normal style. I use a style called BodyCopy. For most books, a Serif font (a ‘curly’ variety) is the best choice and either Palatino and Garamond are two favourites.

The font I’ve used in my novels is Garamond, full justified, with a line spacing of exactly 14 points and a first-line indent of 0.5 inches (set these options from the Modify Styles dialog – you’ll need to click the Format button and the bottom and choose Paragraph). I’ll discuss this more fully in another article.

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