Help needed - Tab indents messed up when 'Compiling' a manuscript

Hi all, new member here. I’ve been using Scrivener for several years, and am now only in position to print out a draft of a completed novel manuscript. However, I’m having formatting issues when I ‘compile’ my manuscript, namely with tab indents.

When I ‘compile’ my manuscript (say into Courier or Times), it standardises all the font and line spacing, which is great. However, my tab indents all over the place. Some are single idents, some are doubles, and some are halfway across the page. Is there a simple way of standardising that without having to go through the entire Word doc and manually correct them? I’ve literally spent about 2 hours doing that. I tried standardising it on Word, but that changed all the font and spacing.

And is there a way of standardising them on the original Scrivener file before ‘compiling’ as well, so that the indents, font, line spacing etc are consistent throughout the file already, rather than having to set them for each individual chapter? I’ve had a quick look through the manuals and forums, but was getting a bit lost.

I’m also wondering whether the issue is because some of my chapters in Scrivener were copied over from Word originally, so they all have MS Word coding weirdness in the back-end of the text.

Any help, advice or links to answers would be duly appreciated!


Simple answer, go to Edit > Text Tidying > Strip Leading Tabs.

What you’ve got is some paragraphs with leading tabs and some without, and the ruler setting in Compile is applying first-line indents.



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And for future reference, it may be good to realize that typeset text in general does not use tab characters for first-line indents at all. Using tabs also makes what Compile can do for you less flexible. For these reasons I recommend you lose the tab habit.

If you like to see first-line indents when you are writing, set your Default Paragraph format in Scrivener to one that has first-line indent (and no space between paragraphs). Then when you write your paragraphs already have the shape you like to see. No muss, no fuss. Compile can later, if you want, either respect or overrule that shape as you please.

My own preferred route is to set my default paragraph to no first-line indent, but with one line’s worth of Space After. Because that is how I like to see my draft text — I want to really see how things are falling into paragraphs. But upon compile these paragraphs all get set with first-line indent and no space between paragraphs and in some bookish font — like you see in a book.


Thanks Mark and gr - I’ll have a look.

Much appreciated! :grinning: :raised_hands:


Thanks once Mark and gr.

Mark - I’ve just gone through my doc and done ‘Strip Leading Tab’ for each ‘page’. I couldn’t see if there was a way to do that for the full doc in one go?

Weirdly, it removed ‘tabs’ for some paras but not for others. Should it have removed all ‘tabs’ for the entire page?

I think there must be some weirdness in my text caused by copying back and forth between MS Word.

Gr - thanks for your advice.

So basically, don’t use ‘tab’ at all when writing a new paragraph?

Is there a way of setting default formatting for the FULL manuscript (eg font, line spacing, indents) rather than having to do it for each page individually?


Basically, correct. Using tabs for indenting paragraphs a holder from typewriters.

Many thanks rms. :slight_smile:

I think that will throw me because it’s standard English to have an indent at start of every new para, so I’m just so used to adding them when working in Word. But from what I understand from gr’s post above, you can set the default formatting to have para indents automatically display? Have I understood that correctly?

And can be those default settings be set for the entire manuscript, or do you have to set each for each individual ‘Text’ doc/page?


I’ve just found this video tutorial on default formatting, so that should answer most of my questions

I still need to get my head around indents and what I need to do when starting a new para though…

Right - I think I’m getting it sussed out now RE the paragraph indents. I think my issue is that I’ve often been copying text into Scrivener from Word, and then seems to overwrite the current formatting settings. Therefore, if I do that, I need to manually revert the text to the ‘default settings’.

I think it’s as simple as that…

Will see how I get on :slight_smile:
Thanks all

If you’re doing a lot of copy-and-pasting from Word, don’t use Paste, use Paste and Match Style from the Edit menu (it’ll give you the shortcut).

Alternatively, once you have set up your default, if there are italics and/or bold face words that you want to preserve, just paste, then use Documents → Convert → Text to Default Formatting…

You may still need to strip leading tabs.




great, that’s a helpful tip, thanks Mark

When the text is published perhaps — it depends on the publisher’s style sheet. However when typing our manuscripts we have no need to typing the tab characters at all much like there is no longer the necessity to put two spaces after a fullstop.

If you want to see an indent while typing then fiddle with the ruler. On macOS Preferences > Editing and then change the default ruler the way you want it. Unfortunately that only affectss new material.

Personally indents are not my favourite much prefer to increase the inter-paragraph spacing. (It is also what I do with Compile.) Basically the way our posts here are formatted is the way I want my text to appear in Scrivener — expect I use Gill Sans as the font. The publishers can have it how they like through Compile.

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