Life’s easier with breaks and indents

One of my biggest pet peeves of Microsoft Word misuse is flagrant overuse of the Enter key and the Tab key. Useful in their own right, but NOT to be used in place of indents and page breaks.

So today, I’m going to help you give your keyboards a rest. We’re going to talk indents and page breaks.

Let’s start with indents. Remember how we set paragraph styles last time? Right-click on your paragraph style and click Modify to open the dialog box again. At the bottom of the box, click Format, then Paragraph.


That will open up your paragraph formatting box. In the Indentation section, on the right, there are two drop-down menus for special indents. Select First line, then decide how big of an indent you want.

first-line indent

So here’s the thing. When you hit Tab, it gives you a 0.5″ indent, which is HUGE. You’ll never see that big of an indent in a book. As you can see above, I like to set my indent at 0.2″. If you want a little more of an indent, you can go up to 0.3″, but I wouldn’t go any bigger than that.

Voila! You now have an automatic indent that will appear every time you hit Enter while typing in this paragraph style.

Okay, next point. I see SO MANY people who, when beginning a new chapter, just press Enter until they get to the next page. But what happens if you change your font? What if you add a line? Or remove a line? You have to adjust your number of blank lines EVERY TIME.  Pain.

So be more efficient! Use page breaks! So easy, so effective. One step. Ready?

On the menu bar, click Insert, then Page Break. Aaaand you’re done.

page break

Seriously, isn’t that easier than hitting Enter a billion times? I just saved your pinky finger from overexertion. You’re welcome.

Next time, we’ll get into setting up the actual page–making it look like a book! Happy weekend, everybody!



  1. I always wondered why your indents were narrower than mine. I honestly never gave it a single thought. I’m just so used to academic writing, I guess, that it made sense to me to make the indent the same in anything I write. Now I don’t know if I’d be able to handle writing with the smaller indent. I like how the larger indent breaks it up. What do publishers say about this? I have a couple books about formatting a MS for submission, but I can’t remember anything about indents. What was your experience?
    And thank GOD for page breaks. It’s saved me a lot of trouble.

    • I left my indents at 0.2 inches when I submitted it for publication because no one had any guidelines about it on their submissions page, and no one said anything about it. I think it doesn’t matter how big they are, so long as there are indents, because the layout designer will change them anyway. But my design teacher made a big deal about making the indents smaller than 0.5″ when actually laying out the book, because if you think about how small a book page is compared to an 8.5×11″ page, it just looks ridiculous to take up a whole half inch of your limited space for every new paragraph. Too much white space!

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