Chapter Headings: What Formatting Should I Use?
Again, the secret here is to keep it simple. Assuming you used Times New Roman 12pt for the main body of text, my recommendations for headings are:
- Times New Roman
- Colour: Automatic
- 15pt space between heading and start of chapter
If it’s particularly important to you that headings stand out, you can use capitals for greater emphasis but this is by no means necessary.
You may prefer a slightly smaller or larger gap between heading and chapter text. That’s fine. If you don’t like what you see on the Kindle previewer, you can always come back and change it later on. Personally, though, I would avoid anything above 18pt.
How to Set Formatting for Headings
Return to Styles in the Home tab. Right click on Heading 1 and select Modify from the drop down menu:
In the Modify Style pop-up box, set your desired formatting. If you’re following my recommendations, it should look like this:
- Font and size
- Ensure font colour is set to Automatic, not Black
- Centre text
- Select single line spacing
Next, click on Format (bottom-left of box) and select Paragraph from the drop down menu:
Make sure the Special box, under Indentation, reads (none) and under Spacing, type 15pt into the After field:
This returns you to the Modify Style box. Either press OK again here or, if you wanted your chapter headings in capitals, click Format but this time, select Font instead of Paragraph. In the Effects section of the Font pop-up box, tick All caps:
Press OK, then OK again in the Modify Style box.
You’ve now set Heading 1 to reflect the formatting you want to appear for your chapter headings. To implement this, click anywhere in the first heading of your book. Then, left click Heading 1 (in the Styles section of the Home tab) in order to select it:
Your first heading will change to reflect the formatting you set. Now, go through your book, clicking on each heading in turn and selecting Heading 1. If your headings are called Chapter One, Chapter Two etc, just type Chapter in the Find box to locate each one speedily.
Formatting using Styles ensures accuracy and consistency compared with manually entering the settings you want for each heading individually.
If you’ve written a nonfiction book, it’s possible you have a plethora of section and even subsection headings within your chapters. How you format these is entirely up to you. Just don’t do anything elaborate or complicated. For example, for section headings, I’d suggest:
- Times New Roman
- Colour: Automatic
- Left Align
- 10pt space between section heading and the main body of text
To set this, right click on Heading 2, select Modify and follow the instructions above.
Don’t Like The Position of Chapter Headings?
In print books, chapter headings don’t usually start at the very top of a page but are found about a third of the way down. You may well wish to create a similar effect in your eBook.
Below, I provide step-by-step instructions showing exactly how to do this. However, it’s a rather fiddly process. If you don’t feel confident about it, it’s not compulsory. It’s perfectly acceptable to have eBook chapters that start at the top of a page. It looks neat and has the advantage that people reading on small screens won’t have to scroll down half a page to reach the beginning of a chapter. Whichever formatting style you choose, simply ensure that it’s consistent throughout your book.
How to Add Space Before a Chapter Heading
The first problem, here, is that your book could be read on any number of devices, with different sized screens. In this environment, it’s best to be economical with any space you add above chapter headings. Remember, a 50pt gap will look very different on a smartphone to how it does on your computer monitor.
The second problem is a technical one. Any space before a heading will only show up on older style Kindles. With newer devices, after a page break, Amazon overrides formatting instructions and places the next text or picture it finds (in this case the chapter heading) right at the top of the page.
To get round this, you need to insert something between your chapter heading and the page break. This could be a graphic, an asterisk or a simple full stop. Kindle will then count this, not your chapter heading, as the first element after the page break. It will be placed right at the top of the page and act as a buffer, allowing you to add space before the chapter heading.
If you opt for a graphic, it needs to be well designed. Better to have your headings right at the top of the page than an amateur-looking doodle. An asterisk can just look like an intentional break between chapters whereas a full stop has the advantage of being relatively inconspicuous.
The neatest solution, however, is to use a small transparent GIF. This is a tiny, see-through picture which won’t show up at all on your final eBook. You can create it using either Photoshop or Gimp. I’d recommend Gimp which you can download for free here.
Once downloaded, open Gimp and select File -> New:
This opens the Create a New Image box. The GIF shouldn’t show in your final eBook but just in case, I like to make them fairly small. Six by six pixels (about 2mm squared) should be fine. Ensure that the unit box is set to px and not cm, in or any other measurement and type 6 into the Width and Height boxes:
Next, select Layer -> New Layer:
Check that the Layer Fill Type is set to Transparency and press OK:
Finally, locate the Layers window. This consists of a list of layers and should be visible in a panel to the right of the main window. If it’s not there, open it by holding down ctrl and pressing L.
The layers list should consist of two items: Layer and Background. Right click on Background and select Delete Layer:
You’ve now created your GIF. To save it to your computer, select File -> Export
In the Export Image box:
- Enter a recognisable title for your file. By default it will be Untitled
- Choose where you want to save it
- Click on the tiny + sign to the left of Select File Type (by Extension)
Clicking on this will open up new options for your file type. Scroll down until you find GIF Image. Select it and press Export:
Gimp will then open one final box (Export Image as GIF). Here, untick the box to the left of GIF comment and delete the text Created with GIMP in box to its right.
Your transparent GIF will now be saved to whichever folder you selected.
To use it in your eBook, left click your mouse immediately before your first chapter heading:
It’s tempting just to insert the GIF here but if you put it on the same line as your title, both will be counted as the first text after a page break. Consequently, your title will still be placed at the very top of the screen, just with a small invisible GIF attached to it: a rather pointless exercise, I think you’ll agree.
Instead, create a separate line to place the GIF on by pressing Enter. Ensure your cursor is flashing to the left of the paragraph mark:
Then, simply left click on No Spacing in the Styles section of the Home tab:
The paragraph mark will jump to the left side of the screen and the space between it and Chapter One will disappear.
Now, again ensuring that your cursor is still flashing to left of that paragraph mark click Insert -> Pictures:
Select your transparent GIF from wherever you saved it on your computer and it will appear in your document. You’ll need to zoom in to see it. Its exact appearance may vary but up close, it should look something like this:
If you click anywhere else in your document, the GIF will disappear. To make it visible again, just click your mouse to the left of that paragraph mark.
You need to insert this transparent GIF at the beginning of every chapter. It’s best to use copy and paste for this, rather than inserting it anew each time. Place your cursor to the left of Chapter One and then drag backwards and upwards until the paragraph mark and GIF are highlighted:
You won’t be able to see the GIF but you can see the area where it lies, to the left of the paragraph mark, is selected. Hover your mouse over the paragraph mark and right click. Select Copy from the drop-down menu.
Next, scroll down to Chapter Two. Ensure it’s right at the top of the page, immediately after the Page Break. Place the cursor so that it’s flashing just to the left of the first letter:
Right click your mouse and select Paste. If there are different paste options with your version of Word, choose Keep Source Formatting. The space before your heading should now look the same as that for your first chapter. Again, the GIF won’t be visible unless you click to the left of the top paragraph mark.
Go through each chapter in turn pasting the GIF before its heading.
You’ll now, finally, be able to add space before your chapter headings since the GIF, although invisible, is between them and the Page Breaks. To do this, right click on Heading 1 and select Modify:
In the bottom-left hand corner of the Modify Style pop-up box, click Format and select Paragraph. Add the required space in the Before box of the Spacing section. I’d suggest no more than 30pt:
Press OK and then OK again in the Modify Style box. The formatting should automatically update across all your headings.
Now, let’s take a look at Inserting Special Features