Style sheets in MS Word

Setting up ‘Style Sheets’ for your novel is well worth the initial effort as they will help you avoid introducing the wrong font or typeface into your text. Also you can amend the Style definition and it will correct the text throughout your entire book. (so if you have a last minute change of mind on the typeface or font it’s really easy to change everything)

In a novel there are only a handful of different paragraph layouts used in text. The basic three paragraph formats you will need are:

1 Indented paragraphs – An indent on the first line allows the reader to ‘see’ each paragraph separately. (usually about 4mm, but a matter of individual choice)

2 Full-out paragraphs – These are the paragraphs that have no indent. The first paragraph after a chapter head and any paragraph after a line space.

3 Chapter headings – Conventionally centred on the measure (a term for the width of a full line of type) and larger than the text font.

I number them so that they appear at the front of the list of styles in Word.

1 Setting the Indented Paragraph Style (the most frequently used)

The first thing to do is select the Home tab and click on the small arrow at the bottom right of the Styles panel.

Setting style sheets

This will bring up a drop down menu where you click on Create a Style

Creating style sheets

In the new dialogue box name your new style 3 Indented para and click Modify.

New style name

In the next panel you can set:
The typeface (I’d suggest Garamond)
The font, or size (11pt would be a good choice)
Click on the icon for justified text (straight left and right edges)
Then click finally click on Format and choose Paragraph from the pop up menu

set font and typeface

In the next panel, from the Special drop down menu, select First line and specify 0.4 cm (this will give your first line an indent of 0.4cm).

From the second drop down menu for Line spacing select Exactly and specify 13pt. This will add 2pt of leading (or extra space) between each line of text.

Check that the Spacing in the Before and After boxes are set to 0 (there might be a default of 10pts in either or both)

Before clicking OK you need to select the Line and Page Breaks tab at the top of the panel and uncheck the box named Widow/Orphan control. This will prevent Word from automatically moving lines of text from one page to another. You need to control this function yourself.

Line spacing and indents

Now click OK and OK again to get back to your document. Highlight all the text in your document (ctrl+A) and click on your new Style 3 Indented paragraph. Your whole document should now have the same style throughout – indented paragraphs.

2 Setting the Full-out Paragraph Style

It gets easier from here on as we can base the next Style on the previous one. You can see that I have deleted all unwanted styles in the Word default style panel. You can do this by right clicking each style and chosing Remove from style gallery. This is not for all, but I find it makes it neater and easier

First make sure that the first full paragraph is highlighted (treble click on it). Next thing is to click on that small arrow again.

setting full-out paragraph style

This will bring up a familiar dialogue box for a new style. Call this 2 Full out paragraph (you can of course choose your own name for any style) Then click Modify

create new style

Name should show 2 Full out paragraph (you just named it that)
Style based on should show 3 Indented paragraph (you selected that in the text)
Style for following paragraph should show 2 Full out paragraph
Now click on Format and Paragraph

format and paragraph settings

You only need to make one change here. From the Special menu select None. This will remove the indent from the first line.

remove indent panel

Click OK then OK again. You now have two Styles for your book and it’s beginning to look more like the real thing.

two paragraph styles set

3 Chapter heads

Highlight your chapter head. Click on the small arrow in the bottom right of the Styles pane and select Create a Style. (this is familiar territory by now)

setting chapter head style

Name it 1 Chapter heads and click on Modify.

naming chapter head style

First is to set the Style based on and the Style for following paragraph as shown by using the drop down menus. We base both on 2 Full out paragraph because a) we don’t want any indents and b) the chapter heading will usually be followed by a full-out paragraph (if you are having chapter subheads you may want to tweak this).

Next change the size (font) to 16pt (or however big you want the chapter heads to be – you may even want to make them bold or use another typeface)
Change to centred type by clicking the little icon below the typeface

Click Format and choose Paragraph next.

formatting style sheet

Because you chose to base this on the Style 2 Full out paragraph you should already have (none) in the Indentation Special box (if not, choose this from the drop-down menu).

The Spacing > After needs to be increased as you want a space between the chapter head and the first paragraph (I’ve used 65pt). This needs to be a multiple of the line spacing (13pt) so that the lines of type match across a double page spread.

Select the Line and Page Breaks tab and check Page break before as you will want each chapter to start on a new page.

Click OK and OK again. You now have your three main styles set up for your book.

space after chapter heading

That was the last hurdle – unless you want to go on to make a specific Styles for Chapter subheads, italic paragraphs or even indented paragraphs.

NB If you have added bold text or italics in some of your writing, applying a Style will probably remove those. You may need to go back through your work and manually adjust them again.

Your typical page should now look more like this, with your three Style sheets showing in the Styles pane.

completed formatted page

Now you can highlight any paragraph in your book (or multiple paragraphs) and click on a style sheet to change them.

Published by Bruce Aiken

A maths and physics student who ran away to art college and has worked as a freelance creative ever since.

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