Helpful Formatting Tips

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that formatting is essential in the world of self publishing. Today I’m going to give a few pointers to help with formatting using Microsoft Word.

Number One: Do NOT use tab or space bar to create paragraph indents. This is a major issue with some writers. Using either of these methods for indentions causes issues with the conversion process and should be avoided at all cost.

Number Two: Always turn off Word’s “Auto Correct” and “Auto Format” features.

Number Three: Pick a paragraph style. Use first line paragraph indents or the block paragraph method, not both. An indented paragraph is most commonly used for fiction writing, while block paragraphs are generally used for non-fiction. It’s your book pick either one, but don’t switch between the two. This will result in conversion errors, which on some platforms may cause your e-book to be rejected.

Number Four: Using fancy non–standard fonts, colored fonts or font sizes will also cause issues when converting. They won’t translate the way you intended and will in most cases end up looking ugly. Try to keep your largest font size at 16pt. I’ve found 10pt–12pt works the best for the text body, while 14pt–16pt works best for Chapter titles.

Number Five: If you feel quotes add to your story and you just have to have them try to differentiate them from your own work. Italicize the text to help it stand out. Using block quotes and italics is the best option in this author’s opinion.


Being in love is a mutual exchange of energy.


Nuclear Method:

If your document originated in PDF or a program such as InDesign or WordPerfect it can be corrupted when converted to a Microsoft Word file. It may also become corrupted if it’s been touched by multiple word processors during any part of the writing process.

To clear out any hidden anomalies you may want to consider using what is commonly called the Nuclear Method.

Step 1: Make a backup of your manuscript. Never make changes without first backing up your work.

Step 2: Copy and paste your entire manuscript into Notepad. This will strip out any previous formatting and remove errors, anomalies and corruption.

Step 3: Close Microsoft Word and reopen showing an empty document.

Step 4: In Notepad you’re going to “select all” by pressing the Ctrl and A keys at same time (Ctrl A) then “copy” Ctrl and C keys (Ctrl C)

Step 5: Paste it all into the empty Word document either using right click then paste or Ctrl and V keys (Ctrl V)

Step 6: Format according to specifications found in the guides I mentioned in my previous posts here.


10 Helpful Shortcuts:

1. En Dash: Alt 0150 – When using an en dash in your writing use the short cut alt 0150.

· March–June

· The Iowa–Illinois State Line

2. Em Dash: Alt 0151 – When using an em dash use short cut alt 0151.

· I work hard—she spends all the money.

· If only we could—oh, forget I said anything.

3. Ellipsis: Alt 0133 – The famous dot, dot, dot used to leave a reader hanging in suspense. This typographical punctuation’s short cut is alt 0133.

Original Sentence:

· “All employers must offer full time employees insurance benefits or risk being fined high penalties.”


· “All employers must offer full time employees insurance benefits…”

4. Paste: Ctrl V – Allows you to paste (place) text any where you want after you copy or cut it.

5. Undo: Ctrl Z – Will undo last action performed.

6. Select All: Ctrl A – Highlights the entire document.

7. Copy: Ctrl C – Copies any highlighted text into memory.

8. Cut: Ctrl X – Similar to copy this shortcut removes any highlighted text from the screen and places it in memory.

9. Save: Ctrl S – Saves changes to current document.

10. Find and Replace: Ctrl H – Pops up a window that allows you to search for designated words or codes to replace them as needed. Very handy to use in formatting.