Never Use Tabs in Manuscripts for Kindle

When submitting manuscripts to traditional publishers, you are generally required to number your pages—apart from the title page—and to indent first lines of paragraphs, as well as various other specific to guidelines formatting related things. With this knowledge instilled, a lot of writers will set these things in place when they start writing a new book to save time later. If they’ve never formatted books for Amazon and CreateSpace before, they’re not going to be aware of how tricky it can be to remove these things. Even if you’re planning on outsourcing your formatting, it’s a much better idea to avoid any possible mistakes.

Tabs anywhere on a manuscript for Kindle can cause all sorts of really terrible issues with your published book. It’s a much better idea to stick with only the basic formatting required when you type your book on your computer. For a newbie at formatting for CreateSpace, you could end up pulling out large clumps of your hair trying to get your already numbered pages to start in the right spot, so rather than fight with all these things later, when you’re already at explosion level in the excitement of imminently getting your finished masterpiece to the eyeballs of readers, don’t use any bells and whistles at all.


Rather than tabbing your paragraph indents, set up your Word document to do that automatically. Either do this before you begin typing, or Select the whole document first. Go to your Page Layout tab, and then click on the arrow to the right of the Paragraph box. Under Special, select First Line, and then choose how many spaces you want to leave on the first line of each paragraph. Under Line Spacing, select Single, and click OK.

As well as first line indenting, don’t use tabs anywhere else in your manuscript either. Tabs are totally out for Kindle. Only your paper book gets page numbers, so don’t bother about that at all until just before you’re ready to publish. If you’ve already got a manuscript with these things in place, make very sure to remove every single one of them before trying to load your book up to Amazon, either by using the Show/Hide (pilcrow) feature in Word, or going for the blitz method by clicking on the arrow in the Change Styles box and selecting Clear All. This will take out every little bit of hidden formatting, and you’ll have to start from scratch, but at least it’s one way you can be sure to get rid of anything that could make a mess of your published book.

If you’re planning on submitting to publishers, rather make a copy of your manuscript when it’s complete, and add all of the agent/publisher required formatting to that, keeping your original totally clean, in case you decide to go Indie with it at any point.


Author: jorobinson176

South African writer.

21 thoughts on “Never Use Tabs in Manuscripts for Kindle”

  1. I started on Smashwords and found Mark Coker’s instructions really helpful. He emphasizes the need to remove tabs. I like using the paragraph dialogue box as you recommend here—seems like a great, quick way to set a style. I’ve used Styles in Word successfully as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. Mark Coker’s formatting guide (available free from Smashwords) is excellent. I used it when I published my ebooks on Smashwords, and found that those documents were fine for KDP as well (after removing any references to Smashwords, of course). Now, formatting a Word document for print publication is a whole other project, because for that you need headers, footers and page numbers — but not on every page! Hair-tearing and swearing indeed; formatting for ebooks is much easier. And no tabs, ever.


  2. Word processors eliminated typewriter formatting altogether. Typing classes in schools pretty much should be scrapped if they’re still around. Tabs are only used for alignment purposes, page numbers, decimal points in numbers columns, etc.

    Writers should get used to word processor rules and forget that they aren’t using typewriters anymore, which means that tabs aren’t used for paragraph indents, spaces aren’t used for alignment, typefaces aren’t all monospaced, which means characters don’t align one-on-one, and we don’t use two spaces after periods.

    All formatting is controlled from a formatting menu.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent pointers Jo. I was taught when I began self publishing to never put page numbers, so that’s a good thing. I have to admit, I send my Ms to a formatter, because it’s too overwhelming for me. 🙂 I’m sharing around town! 🙂


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