Any of the following elements could either interfere with a smooth conversion or cause problems and inconsistencies when your eBook is downloaded to different devices. The first step to eBook formatting is to get rid of them.
First, you need to make them visible. Some, like tabs and section breaks, might not be immediately apparent. To easily view them, click on the Show/Hide formatting icon (¶), in the Paragraph section of the Home tab:
Now, delete the following:
Tabs: These appear as little arrows:
You should already have deleted them when preparing your manuscript. If, for any reason, you still have tabs, remove them using the Replace function. Replace is found on the far right of the Home tab:
Clicking on it, opens up the Find and Replace dialogue box.
Under Find what, enter ^t
Leave the Replace with field blank
Press Replace All
This will remove all tabs. If any of them were vital to the layout of your text, you’ll need to find a simpler way of presenting the information. For example, you could use an en or an em dash to replace the tabs. Never use multiple spaces. These may look like they line up in Word but will just end up an uneven mess when the text is reflowed to suit different screen sizes.
Automated Bullet Points: If you’ve used automated bullet points, you need to delete them. Do this by highlighting the affected text and clicking on the same bullet point icon you used to insert them (in the Paragraph section of the Home tab). Do the same for numbered points. These latter may have been added automatically by Word when you simply typed 1. or 1). You’ll find the icon for numbered points is right next to the one for bullet points:
You can replace these using non-breaking spaces and inserting bullet dots manually:
- Start a new line
- Insert two non-breaking spaces. Non-breaking spaces are created by pressing the space bar whilst holding down ctrl and shift.
- Click on the Insert tab
- Select Symbol (far right of ribbon) -> More Symbols
- In the Symbol pop-up box, scroll down until you find the bullet point. If you have trouble locating it, simply enter 2022 into the Character code box:
- Click Insert
- Enter two further non-breaking spaces
- Type the text you wish to appear for that bullet point
It’s very important you use non-breaking spaces, here rather than normal ones. This will ensure the spaces are of even size and look neat.
Tables: These don’t work well on most black and white eReaders so find a simpler way to present the information. If you can’t, take a screenshot and add the table as a picture (click here for how to insert pictures). The quality of images taken via screen shots is always poor. To obtain the best possible picture, blow the table up so it covers the maximum amount of screen space possible. For this you’ll need Word’s zoom function:
- Select the View tab
- Click on Zoom
- Increase the number in the Percentage field
- Press OK
It may take some experimentation to zoom in just the right amount, so that the table is as big as possible whilst ensuring all of it is still visible.
Next take a screen shot:
- With your table on the screen before you, open a program called Snipping Tool (either by typing it into the Search Programs and Files field of your Start menu or locating it on a Programs’ list under Windows Accessories)
- In the Snipping Tools pop-up box, select New
- Starting at the top-left hand corner, drag your mouse to draw round your table. A red line will appear round it.
- On releasing the mouse button, a further pop-up box shows you exactly what you’ve captured. If you’re happy with the result, click on the Save Snip button and the picture will save as a jpeg image:
- If necessary, you can edit the image, using Paint or the photo editor of your choice. For instance, with the chart above, I’d erase the grey line on the left hand side and the cross in the top left hand corner.
- Once happy, insert the picture into your eBook. Full instructions on the correct way of doing this will be found in part six of this instructional.
Columns: Columns, however they’re created, aren’t a good idea for reflowable eBooks. Even if they make it through the conversion process intact, there’s no guarantee how they’re going to look on smaller screens which simply don’t have the width to hold the text in that format.
Ideally, you need to find a simpler way of presenting the information. If you can’t, follow the instructions above, take a screenshot and add the information to your eBook as a picture. This will only work if the column area is relatively small. Otherwise, the text will just be too difficult to decipher.
Text Boxes: If you don’t know what these are, the chances are you haven’t got them. If you do, delete them and display the text in a simpler way.
Section Breaks: I don’t mean page breaks here but section breaks. These are often used when you want to impose different formatting styles on different parts of a document. You’ll be familiar with these if you used this guide to insert headers and footers for your print version. Again, if you’ve no idea what these are and aren’t trying to create an eBook from a document previously prepared for your print copy, you probably haven’t got any. However, it’s just as well to have a check through your document for them. With formatting revealed (using the ¶ Show/Hide function) they look like this:
Simple highlight and press delete to remove them.
Multiple Enters: This refers to anywhere you’ve pressed the Enter key more than three or four times. You may have done this to create a gap between sections or a new page instead of using the Page Break function. It may look acceptable when viewed in Word. However, it’s likely to be anything from inconvenient to an unsightly mess in an eBook.
The formatting symbol for Enter is ¶ (known as a paragraph mark). Confusingly, this is the same as the symbol you press to activate the ¶ Show/Hide command, possibly because this function makes paragraph marks in your text visible.
Look through your book. Anything that looks like this needs to go:
These are best removed manually, using the delete button.
Additionally, it’s possible that you’ve created space between paragraphs by pressing Enter twice, such as in the example below:
If this is the case, you should remove the second paragraph mark (circled in red in the above example). This will bunch the paragraphs together but we’ll create the space again later, using a better method.
You can delete all the unwanted paragraph marks manually but for this scenario, I suggest using the Replace function (far-right of the Home tab). The keyboard shortcut for the paragraph mark is ^p so:
Under Find what, enter ^p^p
In the Replace with enter ^p
Press Replace All
Headers and Footers/Page Numbers: Remember the traditional concept of a page is irrelevant so, not only could headers and footers make a mess on conversion but they have no purpose in a reflowable eBook.
Symbols: It’s a good idea to remove as many of these as possible. If they don’t convert successfully, you’ll get an ugly ? in their place, which looks unprofessional and destroys the reader’s flow. Some seem to work all right, such as the bullet dot suggested above to replace automated bullet points. However, others are unpredictable.
If a symbol’s vital to the sense of your book, then you can try leaving it in. However, in this case, check it carefully, both on Kindle’s online previewer and by purchasing the completed eBook and viewing it to as many different devices as you can get hold of.
You should now have removed all problematic elements to eBook conversion. It’s time to turn to the next section of this instructional: Set Basic Formatting