Dead easy WP formatting question (Nisus styles) - help!

I’m posting here as this forum is full of nice, like-minded writing types, who’ll take pity on my complete lack of savvy on the following issue:

I want to set up Nisus Writer Express, through its Style Sheets, so that I can write in the BBC Radio Drama house-style. (Example here (downloadable PDF) - … hive.shtml - “Killing Maestros”, under Radio 4 - Afternoon Play). Very simple formatting, I know.

However, I’ve never really delved into the world of WP Styles before. I’ve been doing it all ‘longhand’ , so to speak, up to now. Playing around with the various Script Settings in Scrivener has made me realise how useful it would be to have this format automated. I’ve read the Nisus Help Manual, and been everywhere on the net I can think of to get a simple explanation of how to make this work for me, all to no avail. Trial and error has yielded an approximation but when I move from the Character field (left indented) to Dialogue (centered) it pops down to the next line and I don’t know how to fix it.

I’m sure someone is reading this now, shaking their head at my ignorance… if you could point me in the direction of an Idiot Guide for this kind of problem, I’d be incredibly grateful. The fact that it’s such a simple thing is what’s making me persist!

Hi Michael,

I’ve moved this post into the “Software by Other Folk” forum (the Tips & Tricks area is really intended for Scrivener-related tips & tricks only), and I’ve also clarified in the title that it is about Nisus, as I think (hope) this will give you a better chance of receiving a reply by someone who knows how to do what you want.

I’m not sure you’ll be able to do exactly what you want - that is, have it so that hitting return from the character element takes you to the dialogue element. Programs such as Final Draft, Montage and - to a lesser degree - Scrivener have been designed to do this. So I think you will have to apply the style manually each time.

All the best,

Here’s the problem, I think, with your method. Nisus doesn’t allow tabbing or centering information in character styles, and paragraph styles are only applied, well, on a paragraph level. But here’s what you CAN do: Set up a character style for the character names (all caps) and then be creative with the tabbing in the larger paragraph style: for example, first tab stop is inset two inches, so after typing in the character name you hit tab to get to the dialogue box, and then you have hanging indents also set to two inches, so the following lines are moved over properly. Then you can just set up an overriding character style for the names on the left (based on: main paragraph style, plus all caps). Then you can set up another paragraph style (based on main paragraph style plus underline) for sound effects and the like.

Let me know if this helps,

Brian (who, for some reason, is becoming the Nisus guy around here)

P.S. It’s not about idiocy, so don’t be so down on yourself. It’s about wrapping your brain around the differences between character and paragraph styles, learning the advantages and limitations of each. The only way to get this into your nervous system properly is to play with it A LOT – in fact, it’s a tribute to Scrivener that it does such amazing formatting without needing the to delve too deep into the world of style-y madness!

Thanks, Brian. Your tabbing tips help a lot. However, I can’t get my head round Styles at all. Do I have to keep manually selecting each style as I want to use it? If I’m typing lots of short lines of dialogue then it’s no quicker than manually selecting the Caps Lock, for example.

I wasn’t so much being down on myself as getting in some pre-emptive self-deprecation! I realise that this is all lesson 2 stuff in a WP teaching module - and I’ve been on forums before where people make their disdain of such questions pretty clear! Trouble is, I’ve always formatted the long and laborious way - manually, as I go along - and never explored WP formatting options; Scrivener has woken me up to a world of labour-saving, and I want to jump on board! In the meantime, however, I feel like these simple lessons are taken so much for granted that I couldn’t find any guidance on them, and the Nisus Help didn’t really live up to its name.


Michael -

Not so much help as meta-help. There’s a good nisus discussion/help email list which I’m still subscribed. I don’t actually use Nisus - I just tried out Pro for a while before deciding to stick to Mellel. However the list is full of helpful types so I’ve never quite got round to unsubscribing.

The website for it is here

There are two ways to speed up style usage. First, you can set the “followed by” style – such that, for example, title style is followed by subheading style is followed by plain text style. The second way is that Nisus lets you define hotkeys for styles on the fly. so, ctrl-cmd-1 is one style, ctrl-cmd-2 is another, etc. etc. Oh! And don’t forget to have a “normal” character style as well, or you’ll be spending half your time shutting off the changes manually.

On a slightly more meta level, here’s something to consider. Styles are less about speed than they are about consistency. Sure, it’s faster if there are a lot of little changes to make, but the real point is to have a consistent, fixed dividing line between your formatting and your content. For example, say you decide to have all your actor names bolded, and underlined, instead of just all-caps’d. Rather than going through and doing it manually, you just make one change to the character style, and you’re done. Want a little more spacing between blocks of text? Just change the paragraph style. This is also why using relative styles is a good time – in your example, there are the plain text paragraphs, and the underlined, action-y paragraphs. You’d want to make the underlined, action-y paragraphs basically plain + underlined, so that any changes you make are carried through.

A word of warning, though: it IS possible to go styles crazy. Styles are incredibly helpful and powerful, but if the final form is fixed, and if you’re just producing the document to look decent, then sometimes it is faster just to whack the caps lock key, or hit cmd-I for italics. But if you’re going to be producing a lot of documents with fundamentally the same formatting, then go nuts.


Bugger … just lost a long answer that I was posting!

The one thing about character styles, for your dialogue lines, if you want your names in CAPS without using the caps lock, then you need to set the style using the format menu “Display as UPPERCASE”, and the trouble with that is that is exactly what it says … in Nisus you see uppercase, but the underlying text code is still the unicode lower case character, so whether the other people would see the U/C is less than clear to me.

Actually what I would do, is set up a glossary with the character names, so that say Ruth would be @r … when you typed that followed by a space, it would be expanded to RUTH:

If you did that, your dialogue style would only need to have a hanging indent with the left margin set at 7.5 cm.

I have set up a very quick template file, which uses character styles to do it … I can send it to you if you wish. If you use it with the style palette open, you will see the key-codes I have set for the different styles.


Ooh, that would be brilliant, please, Mark.

And thank you all for your help and advice with this. What a great forum! :slight_smile:

OK … but do bear in mind it’s very basic, and doesn’t include styles for the title page, but I’m sure you’ll be able to set up those for yourself … basically set a paragraph as you want it using Page View, and then click on the + sign below the style list on the Style palette … choose Paragraph Style from the drop down and it’ll take you to the definition … just give it an appropriate name, then go back to the document. Then in the save dialog, choose “Document Template” and save the document.

I’ve put a bit of junky writing in so that you can see how the styles come out.

In terms of glossary entries, I’m using NWPro, I can’t remember if you are, nor can I remember if Express has a glossary facility, or if that’s a Pro only feature.

Think of this as a starting point for your setting things up exactly how you want, not as the end-point.

Mark (19.4 KB)

Mark, that is terrific. Thanks so much for that. I’ve only had a quick play, but it looks like the help I was after - just getting my head around making styles and tab stops work for me. That’s going to help me a lot, so thanks very much.

There is now a link to xiamenese’s template here: … php?t=1915


Thank you LL. Since you’ve posted a link on the templates thread, I’d better polish it up a bit when I have a moment, and add the styles that are not there in the current version … for the title page, etc.




I can’t tell you how much of a help this has been. One more question - I’ve set up a glossary to help out with the character names, as you suggested. I’ve edited the line spacings in the glossary to match those from your template, however I can’t figure out how to set the tab stop (when I change them it moves the Character name itself). I’ve also noticed that, when invoking the glossary, the style reverts to Normal, rather than Dialogue. If you can suggest the solution to this then I think my life is complete!


Michael, I’ll have a look at it tomorrow afternoon when I have a moment … it’s 00:30 here now and I’ll have to be up at 05:30. I’ll get back to you when I’ve had a look.



Blimey, yes, there’s no especial rush, Mark! I don’t want you losing sleep on my account!