8 Word Formatting Tips for Authors

Microsoft Word can be a law unto itself, but it is what most of us use for formatting our paperback manuscripts. So, here are eight things that might trip you up and make you feel like tearing your hair out, and the likely solution. I'm assuming here that you know what styles and section breaks are.

1. I've applied styles to my chapter titles for consistency, but they're still not all at the same level on the page.

Unfortunately, it's the styles that are likely to be causing your problem. Not the style that is set on your title, that's fine, it's the style that is set around your section break on the previous page. Go back and highlight those last few lines of text, including the paragraph marker/section break, and ensure it's all in your normal text style (the one you're using to format your indented paragraphs). This should solve the problem.

2. My page endings aren't at the same level, even though I've used styles to format my text.

These are a few things that could cause this:

  • You have your defaults set to automatically get rid of widows and orphans. If this is the case, Word will force single lines onto the next page, leaving you with uneven endings. Adjust your widows and orphans manually instead.
  • If the problem is between your chapter heading page and the rest of the chapter, it's possible the chapter heading spacing/font size, doesn't 'add up' to the same as the line spacing/font size of your body text. This is all about the numbers. Play around with the line spacing settings on your title, or your body text font, to get an even effect.
  • You have graphics/tables inserted into your document. These will always throw out page endings. Once again, it's a case of playing with the line spacing around the inserted element, or adjusting its size. I find that putting graphics into a table cell helps. That way you can define the cell size more easily and adjust the graphic within it.

3. My page numbers keep disappearing.

Page numbers are a minefield of problems. The above usually happens when you are trying to insert a blank page between chapters, which is best done by creating a new section with nothing in it between the chapters. Because you need to remove the numbers in this 'blank' section, you need to ensure, in the header and footer settings, that you don't have 'same as previous' highlighted. This you will need to do in the blank section and the following chapter until it is deselected on all pages. Then, and only then, remove the page numbers and headings from the blank section, as necessary.

Alternatively, check to see whether you might have used a page break to define your chapters/blank pages, rather than a section break. It's easily done.

4. I centred my text, but it looks off-centre

Check to see if you have an indent on the line, as well. Removing the indent will probably solve your problem, but you might want to check the margins, as well. It's also possible that you might have a space at the beginning, or end, of your title, which needs to be removed.

5. I have a chapter title that goes over two lines, but it leaves a huge space between them. It looks ridiculous.

The easiest way to resolve this is to enter a soft return where you want the title to break, rather than a hard return. This is done by holding down the return/enter key and the shift key at the same time.

6. I just inserted a graphic into my document, but it disappeared.

Don't panic. Go straight to the picture tools/settings and select the layout options. Try choosing different settings until it appears. In line, and top and bottom, are usually best, until you have your graphic properly in place. Then, you can play around with other formatting options.

7. There's a block of text in my Table of Contents.

No problem. All this means is that the text is saved as the title style that appears in your ToC. Just reassign the text style to your normal body text style and right click on the ToC to choose update.

8. My scene divider isn't centred between my scenes.

Not all symbols you might use as a scene divider are created equal. They can appear higher, or lower, than the centre line of a line of text. Try adjusting the line spacing before and after until it looks more central, but make sure to have it add up to a normal line space depth, or you'll end up with problem 2 above.

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March 2019