Spacing vs Tabs for First Line Indent

You've probably seen, in most fiction books, that the first line of each paragraph is indented. It gives a nice, professional look to the story. So you merrily hit the space bar a few times before you begin each paragraph. Maybe, if you're an advanced user, you even hit the tab bar to indent there. You feel this is a great way to format your story.

The answer in both cases is NO. You definitely don't want to use spaces. The problem is that with proportional fonts spaces have variable widths. Spaces will never line up perfectly. The result is a ragged look that is far from professional.

To see the spaces or tabs in your document, press the backwards-P mark at the top ribbon bar of Word. If it's not there, track down where it is in your copy of the software. That backwards-P mark is called a pilcrow. That turns on all your formatting symbols in your document so you can see them.

So here's an example of a document that is set up with the space-space-space-space-space style of indenting the first paragraph.

Spacing vs Tabs for First Line Indent

Here's how to fix this.

First, eliminate all those spaces! Search for space-space-space-space-space and replace that with nothing. Heck, while you're at it, search for space-space and replace that with a single space. There should never be more than one space in a row in a modern document. Space-space, again for proportional font reasons, just doesn't work well. You should only have one space after periods. Any alignment work should be done with styles.

If you used tabs in those spots, search for all occurrences of tab (by looking for ^t) and replace that with nothing. You really shouldn't have tabs in your document.

OK, your document is ready to set up properly.

Formatting for First Line Indent
Here we go.

First, select your block of body text. If I was doing this for an entire document I'd select the entire document and then go back and fix the chapter headings to be correct afterwards. You might do better selecting each chapter's text one at a time if you have more detailed work to do with multiple style sheets. In either case, select the text you want to change.

In the top menu bar (or wherever it is in your version of Word) select the NORMAL style. In general you want your main body text to be the Normal style.

OK, this block of text is now "normal" - so it's time to make sure that looks the way you want it to. Click somewhere in that block of text. RIGHT (not left) click on the normal button and click on MODIFY. Make sure the font face and size is what you want. Now click on Format - Paragraph. In the Indentation section, for special, choose First Line. Set it to 0.5".

Save. Voila! Now anything you tag as "normal" will have the proper indentation. This now works perfectly for both print books and ebooks.

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