If using MS Word, don’t place tabs in your ebooks

When formatting your manuscript for conversion to ebook, don’t use the tab key to indent paragraphs. Doing so usually results in your manuscript being declined for publication…or worse, being accepted for publication while looking like a mess.

When formatting a paperback in MS Word, using the tab key for indentation is perfectly all right. Conversion programs that switch MS Word documents to ebook files such as .epub and .mobi, however, tend to have difficulty reading the tab. The result is that some indentations turn out fine, others are too long, and some are too short.

Instead, indicate paragraphs in your ebook with an extra return (or enter) between the last line of a paragraph and the first line of the next one paragraph. Don’t indent the first line at all. This is known as block style.

Getting rid of the tab indents and then adding the extra return is easy to do in MS Word. There’s no need to repetitively go through the manuscript line by line hitting “Delete” and “Enter” over and over.

Get rid of the tabs by clicking the “Home” tab in the ribbon at the top of your MS Word document. Then click the arrow in the lower right corner of the Paragraph section. Click “Tabs…” in the lower left corner. Then click “Clear All” in the lower right corner and finally “OK”.

To add the space between each paragraph, hit Ctrl+H. This brings up the Find and Replace box. Type ^p for “Find what:” and then ^p ^p for “Replace with”. Hit “Replace All”.

Always be sure to quick sample different page of the manuscript to ensure the tabs are gone and the space between paragraphs is there.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.