Formatting Your Book in MS Word


Are your formatting your book in MS Word or other word processors? Here are some tips that would ensure that you book looks professional and is printed well with

  • Use a supported page size:
    The list of supported page sizes is available here. Please select one of the page sizes available, according to the nature of your book. Most fiction or non-fiction would look good on 5"x8" or 5.5"x8.5" size. 7"x9" is a good size for technical and academic books.
    To see the current page size of the document in which you are writing your book, and to alter it to suit one of the supported ones follow these steps:
    • Go to File->Page Setup
    • Click on the tab named "Paper"
    • Choose the desired size from the "Paper Size" drop down. You can specify the size using "Custom Size", if it is not already available.
    If you are using MS Word 2007, "Paper Size" option would be available in the "Page Layout" tab.
  • Use "Page Break" feature to start a new page:
    One of the most common things you would need to do is to start something (usually a new chapter) on a new page. Do not press Enter multiple times to start the new page. This will lead to constant formatting headaches, when you modify the content. Instead use a feature called "Page Break". Follow these steps to introduce a Page Break:
    • Click where you would want the new page to be started
    • Go to Insert->Break->Page Break
    • Click OK
    If you are using MS Word 2007, Page Break option can be found in "Insert Tab".
  • Use Automatic Page Numbers:
    A book would not look good without page numbers. But if you have to insert them manually, it would be a book-writing nightmare. Instead use the "Page Number" feature of word. To insert Page numbers, go to Insert->Page Numbers. Page numbers inserted like this would be updated automatically, if you insert or delete pages from the document. More sophisticated things can be done with pager numbers, using sections and section breaks. But we will discuss them in "Advanced" article.
  • Use Automatic Table of Content:
    Now that you have page numbers and chapters/content, it is important to tell the readers upfront, what they would find in the book and where. The way to do this is to create a "Table of Content". Again, creating it manually is not a good idea. Firstly you'd have to type out all the headings and respective page numbers manually. And then, every little change that adds pages or headings to the document, would require you to manually change all the page numbers. "Indexes and Tables" features comes to our rescue here. To insert an automatic Table of content, follow these steps:
    • Format the "Chapter Titles" and whatever else you would want in the Table of Content with pre-defined Styles. In general you can use "Heading 1", "Heading 2", "Heading 3" etc. for the titles at different levels. It is possible to define custom styles and include other things in Table of Content too. But let's keep that for "Advanced" article.
    • After the chapters are written, click where you want to insert the Table of Content.
    • Go to Insert->Reference->Index and Table
    • Click on "Table of Contents" tab. Select the desired options there. Playing around with options a bit would give you an idea of how the table looks the best.
    • Sometimes you would have formatted some things with the heading styles, which you would not want in the "Table of Content". You can manually delete those lines.
    • If you change things is the document, before finalizing it, update the Table of Content. For doing this, right click on the Table of Content and click on "Update Field". There would be two options, namely
      • Update page numbers only:Use if no new headings would come, but page numbers might have changed.
      • Update Entire Table: Use if you have added new chapter headings etc.
    If you are using MS Word 2007, Table of Content feature can be found on "Reference" tab.