How to format line spacing for an ebook

One of the common problems indie authors run into when formatting their ebook text is line spacing. This is the amount of space between lines and paragraphs.

Fortunately, adjusting the spacing between lines is easy enough in a word processing program; simply go to the line and paragraph spacing menu and adjust. Usually 1 or 1.15 is good enough; any more, and the lines will be difficult to read.

A bit more confusing to resolve is the spacing between paragraphs. Many writers like to automate the paragraph spacing so that an empty line automatically appears once the Enter key is hit. While this saves on key strokes up front, it becomes problematic later when formatting. In truth, the “add space after paragraph” function actually creates more keystrokes. It’s best to single space the text and if formatting a paper version first, use the tab key to create an indent.

Of course, this in turn creates issues when you want to convert the paperback into an ebook. Most ebooks don’t use indents but instead place a blank line between the paragraphs. This is the standard style used at Smashwords.

Converting your paperback to ebook is simple enough, though, and can be done in just a few keystrokes. To begin, you’ll need to eliminate the tabs. In Microsoft Word, you can do that by:
• Clicking on the arrow in the lower right corner of the Paragraph portion of the Command Ribbon at the top the screen.
• A pop-up window will appear; in the lower left-hand corner, hit the Tabs button.
• A new pop-up window will appear; in the lower right-hand corner, hit the Clear All button than the OK button.
All the indents used to mark the beginning of a paragraph will have disappeared.

Adding the extra line between paragraphs also is easy. In Microsoft Word, look at the Editing menu in the Command Ribbon, then:
• Click Replace.
• A pop-up window will appear. In the Find What box, type ^p (which represents a paragraph mark). You can find that by clicking the More>> button in the lower left corner then clicking on the Special button; on the drop-down menu that appears, hit “paragraph mark”.
• Do the same for the Replace With box, however place two paragraph marks in it so that you have ^p^p.
• Click “Replace All”
You now have an extra space between each paragraph, and the text of your paperback is formatted for an ebook.

There are a couple of items to keep in mind when making these conversions. First, don’t use a capital letter for your paragraph mark; ^P doesn’t work. Secondly, you still need to make a visual run-through of your text. Sometimes a new paragraph wasn’t started by hitting the Enter key, and in such cases paragraphs don’t enjoy a line space between them.

If formatting an ebook first rather than converting a paperback, follow these basic rules:
• Use single space with the “Add Space After Paragraph” and “Add Space Before Paragraph” (or their equivalents in word processing programs) turned off.
• Don’t use tabs or extra spacing to indent the beginning of a paragraph.
• Hit Enter twice at the end of each paragraph.