The Paragraph Formatting Tool

In today’s Journal

* The Bradbury Challenge Writers
* The Paragraph Formatting Tool
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

The Bradbury Challenge Writers

During the past week, in addition to whatever other fiction they’re writing, the following writers reported their progress:

  • George Kordonis “The hitman and the painter,” 3000 drama
  • Adam Kozak “Summer’s Discontent” 2900 Humor

The Paragraph Formatting Tool

First, let’s get this Tab and spacebar stuff out of the way right up front: the writer should never use the Tab key to indent the first line of a paragraph.

Instead, he should use the Paragraph Formatting tool. You set it once, and you’re done with paragraph formatting for that and all future manuscripts.

No need to hit the silly Tab key. When you come to the end of a paragraph, just hit Enter and the first line of the new paragraph is automatically indented. In this tool, you can also set

  • the first-line indent (I set mine at .015)
  • the line height (I set mine to 1.5 for ease of reading),
  • the spacing before and after paragraphs (I set mine to 0 for both)
  • and many other important settings.

For nonfiction manuscripts, block paragraphing with no first-line indent (like this post) is normal.

For fiction, there is typically no space between paragraphs and the first line of each paragraph is indented.

And while we’re on the topic of spacing, the writer should use the Spacebar key only to insert one space between words and sentences. I know, I know… you were taught to add two spaces at the end of a sentence. I understand.

I was there too, but that was with typewriters. If you use a typewriter to type your manuscript, feel free to hit the spacebar twice after a sentence. Otherwise, it’s just one space. Modern word processing programs adjust that space.

Figure 18a illustrates the Indents and Spacing for a typical standard manuscript that will be submitted to a publisher.

Notice that you can also use this dialogue to set the default for your future manuscripts.

18aFigure 18a

Figure 18b shows the Line and Page Breaks tab. Notice that all items are unchecked. You don’t need to manipulate this for ebooks. The reader can change ths size of text, the font, etc. So these settings simply don’t matter for ebooks.

18bFigure 18b

Oh, and that Tabs… button on the lower left? If you click that, you’ll see a dialogue box in which you can set the distance between your tabs, etc. However, as I’ve already said you should ignore the Tab button on your keyboard, the best use for the Tabs… dialogue box is to Clear all tabs.

(If there are any tabs in your document, you’ll see a little indicator on the Horizontal Ruler at the top of the page. If the ruler isn’t there, in your menu click View and then check the box next to Ruler.)

Overall Example

Here’s an overall example of Find & Replace used in conjunction with the Font and Paragraph formatting functions. Back when I first wrote this post, I was talking about this as a copyeditor, but you can use these functions in the same way as a writer to revise your work.

Say I receive a manuscript in which the main title is 24 point Arial, the chapter heads are 16 point Cambria, and the body text is 12 point Times New Roman. And the writer has used the Tab key to indent the first line of each paragraph by ½”.

Fortunately the writer has been considerate and numbered the chapters with digits instead of writing out each number (so Chapter 1 instead of Chapter One). Here are the steps I follow to prep that manuscript for my edit:

  1. Open the document and use Save As to save it as FilenameH (so the original file goes untouched). Everything else I do will be on the FilenameH file.
  2. Hit Ctrl/A to select the entire manuscript, then set the font as Times New Roman 12 point (or the writer’s preferred font). Then I open the Paragraph Format dialogue box, set it to match Figure 18a, and click OK. The entire manuscript is transformed with one click.
  3. Open Find & Replace. Type Chapter ^#^# (so that’s Chapter space any digit any digit) in Find What. Then I click Format > Font and click Not Bold. Then I click Format > Paragraph. Under Special I select First Line by 0.5”. Finally I select Match Case from the checklist below Search Options.
  4. I put my cursor in Replace With. I don’t enter anything in that area though. Instead I simply click Format > Font and click Bold. Then I click Format > Paragraph. This time under Special I select None. Then I click Replace All. In a flash, all chapter heads from 10 through 99 are moved to the left margin and in bold font attribute.
  5. I repeat 3 and 4 with Chapter ^# (only one digit this time). When I hit Replace All, chapters 1 through 9 are moved to the left margin and in bold font attribute.
  6. Ah, but remember those Tabs that I told you earlier not to use? Now I Select All again. In the Find & Replace dialogue, I put my cursor in the Find What area and click Special at the bottom of the dialogue (see Figure 17c in the Find & Replace post). I select Tab Character and a ^t appears in Find What. I put nothing in the Replace With area. (In fact, if there’s anything in the Replace With area, even a space, delete it.) Then I click Replace All. All the tabs are replaced with nothing.
  7. I also usually use Find What to look for paragraphs that have an extra space at the beginning. I put my cursor in the Find What area, click Special, and select Paragraph Mark. A ^p appears in the Find What area, and I put a space after it (using the space bar). In the Replace With area, I put only a ^p (no space following it) and hit Replace All. Done.
  8. Most writers still add an extra space after sentences or paragraphs for some reason. Again, Find and Replace to the rescue. I put my cursor in the Find What area and hit the spacebar twice; then I move the cursor to the Replace With area and hit the spacebar once. Replace All and I’m finished.

This seems a long and convoluted process, but it really isn’t. Once you practice a little, you’ll fly through it.

Once I’ve done these things, I can begin editing the document without it driving me nuts. Or, having done these things to my own writing, I can submit my story to a contest or a publisher without fear of embarrassment.

There are many more uses for Find & Replace. Just be careful to look for exactly what you want to find, and remember you can always use the Undo function.

Okay, there you go. Find & Replace and the Paragraph Formatting tool explained. To see the entire series (free) visit Microsoft Word for Writers.

Of Interest

At Confession This is a short film based on a flash fiction story I wrote. Thought you might enjoy it.

The Numbers

The Journal………………………………1170

Writing of Blackwell Ops 25: No Name Yet

Day 1…… 3243 words. To date…… 3243
Day 2…… 1354 words. To date…… 4597

Fiction for May…………………….….… 14331
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 318116
Fiction since October 1………………… 621174
Nonfiction for May……………………… 18150
Nonfiction for 2024…………………… 172490
2024 consumable words……………… 490606

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 8
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)……………… 90
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……… 239
Short story collections…………………… 29

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing are lies, and they will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

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