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Word Paragraph Styles

A considerable amount of production time can be saved by the book designer if the imported Word manuscript has had styles assigned to headings, sub-heads, bullets, indented text, etc. This time-saving function applies particularly to books that have several heading levels and many body text categories. Novels generally have very few different paragraph styles (chapter title, first paragraph, normal), whereas self-help books and manuals may have many.

Text Attributes

Text attributes define the look of text (font style, size, color, alignment, bold, italics, underline, etc.) MS Word allows you to assign text attributes two ways:

- Direct character formatting, and
- Formatting using styles

Direct Character Formatting

Word provides several ways for you to produce a unique look to various text elements. For example, to format headings, you can select the text, apply bold formatting, and then apply a slightly larger font size than the size that you use for the body text. But wait.

Applying formatting in this manner is known as direct formatting. The process of applying direct formatting can be tedious. It's easy to make mistakes, and you might not get a good looking document. You must repeat the direct formatting process for each heading, and you must be careful to select the same font size every time. (Headings, sub-heads and any other bit of text with a paragraph return after it is considered to be a paragraph)

If you want subheadings, you must decide how to differentiate the subheadings from the headings (smaller size? italicize?) and repeat the direct formatting process for each subheading. If you don't have expertise in design or typography, it may take some time before you create a look that you like.

If you have quotes or special blocks of text that should look different from the main body of text, you may want it italicized and indented left and right.

Furthermore, paragraphs that are formatted by direct formatting are difficult to update. If you want to change the look of the document, you must select each element and apply the new formatting choices.

Most importantly, your book designer will have to undo all the direct formatting in your manuscript before applying his/her own styles for your book.

So, do not assign direct character attributes to whole paragraphs that will stand alone as a style, and that will be found throughout the document (e.g. chapter number, chapter heading, sub-heading, sub-sub-heading, and any other paragraphs that will have a look of their own that is different from normal body text). These paragraphs will be assigned a Paragraph Style (explained below).

If you did assign direct character attributes to these paragraphs, they would all have to be undone by the designer in order to assign those that will become part of the final book design. Although it does take some extra time for the designer, it's not a big job, so don't worry about it. It's no big deal if you send your manuscript with direct character attributes.

Acceptable Direct Character Formatting

The exceptions are the assignment of bold and italic to those bits of normal body text that you want to emphasize (e.g. italics for the name of a movie mentioned in a sentence; bold for a word or words that you particularly want emphasized). Underlining is another exception, but one which is seldom used.

Using styles

By contrast, when you use styles to format your document, you can quickly and easily apply a set of formatting choices consistently throughout your document.

A style is a set of formatting characteristics (attributes), such as font name, size, color, paragraph alignment and spacing. Some styles even include borders and shading.

For example, instead of taking three separate steps to format your heading as 16-point, bold, Times New Roman, you can achieve the same result in one step by applying the built-in Heading 1 style. You do not need to remember the characteristics of the Heading 1 style. For each heading in your document, you just click in the heading (you don't even need to select all the text), and then click Heading 1 in the gallery of styles.

It is not important what attributes are assigned to Heading 1 in your Word document, or if the Heading 1 paragraph doesn't look the way you would like it in the finished book;  what is important is that the Heading 1 style is applied consistently. Your book designer will assign attributes to the paragraph.

See below for instructions on how to assign styles.

Style Transfer

Most book design applications (like InDesign) have the ability to recognize style tags in imported Word manuscripts. For example, if chapter titles were assigned "Heading 1" in Word, InDesign will see them the same way. The designer will then be able to make changes to the style attributes to suit the book design (font, size, tracking, spacing, etc) and see those changes take place throughout the book, to every occurrence of a chapter title that was assigned the style "Heading 1".

You can see how this can save time (and $$). It is important that the style assignment in Word be consistent. It is not important for you to assign all the style attributes as you think they should be in the final book; that will be done by the designer. Assignment of style attributes may, however, also be useful for you so you can easily see that your headings, sub-heads, lists, etc are properly assigned.

Word provides several pre-assigned styles (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc) which can be used just as they are. You also have the ability to change the name given to the style and the style attributes by right-clicking on the style name and selecting Modify.
For example, Heading 1 could be saved as "Chapter Title" with whatever new attributes you have assigned to it. Or you may want to identify all your styles with a prefix ("Sue-Heading 1") Designers usually have their own system of style naming, so it may be a good idea to discuss this in order to further make the job easier.

How to Apply Word Paragraph Styles

1. Select the paragraph

  • To apply a paragraph style to one paragraph, click your cursor in the paragraph (you don't need to highlight the text, just drop the cursor into the paragraph).

  • To apply a paragraph style to more than one paragraph, select and highlight all the paragraphs you want to apply the style to.

2. Apply the style using Word's styles

  • With the Home menu tab selected, click on the name of a style in the  Styles gallery. (Heading 1 in this example) To show the Styles along the right, select the More arrow (circled in red).

Word Menu1

  • The supplied Word files (Heading1, etc) will work well with most books. As mentioned earlier, don't worry about the way the style looks. It will be changed. The important thing now is to be consistant in assigning style throughout the book.

3. Modifying and adding styles

  • If you want save a style to a different name (this adds a new style) or change the attributes of your Word style, right click on the style name in the style window and select Modify.

Word Menu2

For more information on MS Word styles, do a web search for "MS Word styles".

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