Are you ready to dive into the actual nuts and bolts of formatting your Kindle book in Word? Excellent. That’s what this section is all about.


You will format most of your book in Microsoft Word using styles. What are styles? They’re pre-set formats that you can apply to paragraphs or words. So if, for example, you want all of your headings to be a certain font, style, color, and size, you create a style that contains all of those elements, and then it takes just one click or a keyboard shortcut to apply all of that formatting to a heading. And if you decide later that you want to make all of the headings a little bit bigger, you don’t need to go through and manually select and change each one. Instead, you just change the formatting of the style template itself, and the changes are automatically applied to all of the headings in your book that have that style applied to them.

In other words, styles will make formatting your book a whole lot easier.

The short video below (1:03 in length) shows the power of styles. It’s not meant to show you how to do anything as much as it is to show you how styles work and behave. The how-to will come later.

Above: The power of styles [1:03]

Paragraph styles vs. Character styles

There are two types of styles: paragraph styles and character styles.

  1. Paragraph styles are applied to a whole paragraph. If you try to apply a paragraph style to some selected text in a paragraph, every word in that paragraph (and not just the portion you selected) will take on the properties of that style.
  2. Character styles, on the other hand, can be applied to individual words or even letters within a paragraph.

Character styles aren’t too important when it comes to formatting Kindle books in Word, but we’ll be working a lot with paragraph styles. If you know how to use paragraph styles, you’ll know how to use character styles, since they are created and applied in exactly the same way as paragraph styles.

Applying styles and using keyboard shortcuts

Word has a number of pre-existing styles. As they are, they’re not ideal for Kindle ebook formatting. We’ll need to edit them for our purposes, but first let’s just get a rough idea of how styles are applied. Again, it’s important to understand that paragraph styles—the kind of style we’re going to be using—are applied to entire paragraphs (as opposed to character styles, which can be applied to individual words within paragraphs). A paragraph can just be a single word by itself on its own line, or it can be made up of several lines of text. In other words, it can be defined as section or block of text that is started on a new line.

The short video below shows how to apply styles to text.

Above: How to apply styles [0:57]

If you want to apply one style to a number of different paragraphs, it can be easier to create a keyboard shortcut for that style. The video below shows how to do that.

Above: Creating and using keyboard shortcuts for styles [2:13]

Editing existing styles

So now you know how to apply one of Word’s default styles, but what if you don’t quite like Word’s default styles and want to change them? That’s what we’ll be doing for our Kindle formatting. Luckily, that’s easy enough to do, and when the time comes for you to format your own book, I do recommend editing and then using Word’s preexisting styles instead of creating your own from scratch.

Above: Editing existing styles [1:26] 

If you edit a style that has already been applied to some paragraphs in your document, those paragraphs will be automatically updated to reflect the changes you made to that style.

There is another way to edit or modify existing styles, and this method is useful when you’ve manually formatted your text and want to save that formatting as a style. The video below shows how to do that.

Above: Saving formatted text as a style [1:16]

Creating styles from scratch

If you need more styles for your book than Word offers, or if you just want to get rid of Word’s default styles and start from scratch on your own, creating brand new styles is for you.

To create a new style from scratch, click the little arrow in the bottom-right corner of the Styles section of the Home tab. A Styles box appears and at the very bottom you’ll see three square icons. The far left icon is the New Style icon, and that’s what you want to click on.

This will open up the New Style box, where you can specify the details of your new style. You can change the font, the font size, and the name of the style all on the main New Style page. You’ll also want to make sure that the Add to the Styles Gallery list box is checked. To specify the style’s line spacing, paragraph spacing, and indentation, select Paragraph from the menu in the bottom-left corner and you can adjust the settings as you like.

Note: For elements in the book that you will be linking to from the table of contents—like chapter titles—it’s easiest to modify and use Word’s existing Heading or Title styles. This will make creation of the table of contents easier.

Fonts and font sizes

Different generations of Kindles have different font reading capabilities. Some can read more fonts than others. To be safe, I always go with Times New Roman as the font I use for all text in my Kindle books. If the Kindle can’t read your font, the font will usually be converted into the default Kindle font, which is a serifed font along the lines of Times New Roman. If you use a really weird font, though, it may not convert well at all and some or all of your text may be illegible.

As far as font sizes go, 12 point is a good standard for regular text, but you can go as large or small as you want. Heading and chapter title sizes are also a matter of personal preference. I think that 22 is a nice size for larger headings, though anything a bit bigger or smaller than that will also work just fine.

You can have your text or headings be any color, though anything other than a grayscale color will obviously not show up in color on a a black-and-white Kindle.

Page breaks

Page breaks are a simple but important part of formatting a Kindle book in Word. They’re how you tell the Kindle to start that new chapter at the top of the screen, for example, instead of right below the preceding paragraph. Generally speaking, you’ll want to insert a page break at the start of every new chapter in your book. Additional use of page breaks beyond that is up to your discretion and the formatting requirements of your book.

To add a page break, first position the blinking cursor at the beginning of the line of the thing that you want to be at the top of the page. If this is a chapter heading, you’ll put the cursor right at the start of the name of the chapter. Then go to Insert > Break, and then select Page Break. This breaks up your content and places your chapter heading or other item at the top of the page, which will correspond to that item being at the top of the screen on a Kindle.

Web links

Your book might have links to websites, social media profiles, or other things online. The video below shows how to create those kinds of links.

Above: Creating links to things online [1:07]

If someone taps on or opens up that link while reading on a Kindle or device with the Kindle app, the page linked to will open up in the device’s browser.

In-document links

You may want to link from one spot in your book to another. The table of contents is an obvious case for this and will be discussed in more detail later on because it’s a bit unique, but you might also want to do it for footnotes or endnotes. If you want to further clarify something you said but don’t want to distract the reader right there where you said it, you could create an endnote for that item and link to it. A common way of doing this is to insert a number in brackets after the word or phrase that you want to elaborate on [1]. Like that. This bracketed number is then hyperlinked to another spot within your book (usually either at the end of the chapter or the end of the book, depending on your material). The readers tap or click on the link, are taken to the appropriate spot for the endnote in your book, and read the note. When they’re done reading, they tap the back button on their Kindle (or the back arrow icon in the Kindle reading app) and are taken back to the spot in the book that they were at before.

Before you can create a link to the endnote, you’re obviously going to need an endnote to link to. Again, these notes can be at the end of a chapter or the end of the book, whichever you feel is more appropriate in your situation. The video below shows how to create clickable endnotes.

Above: Creating clickable endnotes and other in-document links [1:44]

If you don’t like the look of the endnote number in brackets, you can go with the more traditional superscript number2. Like that. To do that, type in the number of the end note like you would any other number, highlight it, and click the Superscript button located below the font size box in the Home tab. It looks like this:

The Superscript formatting button

Above: The Superscript formatting button

You would then link from it to the explanatory endnote as explained in the video above.

Formatting you shouldn’t have

There is some formatting that your Kindle book should not have. These things do not transfer neatly to the Kindle format and will not look right in your Kindle book. These include tables (using an image of the table is your best bet), most bulleted lists, tabs (use first line indents in paragraph styles instead), headers, footers, and page numbers.

When I say that bulleted lists are to be avoided, I’m talking about the ones that Word automatically formats when you click the Bulleted List button in the Home tab. While you don’t want to use these bulleted lists, there is a way to create bulleted lists that will still look good on any device: just copy and paste in the bullet points. Like this: • This way, bullet points are characters just like the letters you are reading now, and they can be read by any Kindle. What I do whenever I want to make a bulleted list is go to the bullet point page on Wikipedia, highlight and copy a bullet point, and then paste it into my Word document  at the beginning of a line. It seems a bit silly, but it actually does work, and it causes no formatting issues.


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