Ebook Formatting: Two Common Errors

A reader is enjoying your ebook, all the sudden there is a line jump. Is that a scene break? A change in point of view? It doesn’t read like that, but there’s a space in the text. It must mean something, right?

Reader reaches the end of a chapter or the end of a short story, turns the page and there’s nothing. A blank screen. Hoping she didn’t get a defective copy or that the author hasn’t pulled a dirty trick, she turns the page again. Whew. The text continues.

In both cases, a simple formatting error occurred. It’s no big deal. The text is fine, the story continues. The real problem is that, in both cases, the reader is momentarily jerked out of the story. Maybe they were booted for only a second or two. Do that often enough and mild annoyance can turn into major annoyance. Instead of the four or five star review your story merited, the reader instead leaves a two or three star review, or none at all. Instead of remembering how wonderful your prose was, the reader thinks, Amateur, and puts you from mind. Maybe the reader feels he’s done enough by getting through the strange jumps and blank pages and doesn’t bother looking for more of your work.

Here is what causes line jumps and blank pages:

You don’t even notice them in a word processing document, but extra spaces and extra hard returns can wreck your formatting in an ebook.

If you use MS Word, you can use Find and Replace to get rid of all the extra spaces.

  • Turn on the Show/Hide feature. It looks like ¶ in the tool bar. Hard returns will be shown as ¶ and spaces will show as dots.
  • To eliminate extra spaces between sentences: In the Find box hit the space bar twice and in the Replace box hit the space bar once. Do a Replace All and the double spaces will be turned into single spaces. Run the exact process again. If the message box says no items were found, you’ve eliminated the extra spaces.
  • To eliminate extra spaces at the ends of paragraphs: In the Find box type space bar^p and the Replace box ^p. Do a Replace All. Run the process again until the message box says no items were found.
  • To eliminate extra hard returns: In the Find box type ^p^p and then do a manual search (You might have necessary extra hard returns and don’t want to eliminate them). Make sure there are no extra paragraph returns before any page break.
  • To make sure your document is extra pretty, eliminate extra spaces at the beginnings of paragraphs: In the Find box type ^p space bar and in the Replace box type ^p. Do a Replace All.

Take these simple steps, and you’ll minimize the chances of jumped lines and blank pages in your ebooks.