How do I make horizontal lines for people to write on?

Hi! I am a Danish writer who is going to republish a self help book. Throughout the book there are several questions to encourage the reader to reflect. The book is supposed to come out in different formats:

  1. Printed book (size 15 cm x 22 cm).
  2. E-book.
  3. Workbook (size A4, contains only the questions, works as a supplement to the e-book).

Along with the questions I would like to add spaces in the book for the reader to reply. That is, horizontal lines. But how do I do this?

I have used the “edit/insert/horizontal line/page-spanning line,” but it doesn’t work. In the print edition (pdf-preview) it just leaves a small dot on the right side and not a full line.

I have also tried “edit/insert/horizontal line/centered line.” Must lines look OK in the printed book (size 15 cm x 22), although some lines for some reason are shorter than others. BUT - when I copy the “question files” and insert them into the workbook project and then preview the print, then the lines are all messed up.

What should I do?

How do I make nice writable lines with the same width as the text, in both the printbook, the ebook and the workbook?

If anyone could answer this, I would be so grateful!


First some theory on what you are seeing: full-width horizontal rule works by using tab stops and the various available underscoring options between the tab stops. So if a stop is positioned in your editor so far to the right that it exists outside of the printable area, it won’t draw a line off of the page, it will just move the termination point to the next line (which in turn breaks underscoring between two points on a line, seeing as how they are now on two visual lines). So the solution should be to move the tab point on the ruler back to a point where it fits on your paper and margin settings. The ruler is Cmd-R by the way, if you can’t see it.


Hmm, for that I’m not sure how to advise you on best practices. My guess would be that the usual way of going about this is to produce different layouts for the intended purpose, and that is probably done once everything is very much complete so that forking the design work into three differently shaped outcomes does not require too much three-way editing going forward. Whatever the case, that is all strategy for post-Scrivener anyway. I would just focus on getting things to that three-way fork point, as that is really more what the software is intended for (Scrivener has scant features for bookmaking, it’s more about writing the content, the text, as an ingredient in bookmaking but only one ingredient—important though it may be!).

As for this tool specifically, the reason why you wouldn’t be able to use it as you’re trying to use it is that it is based on fixed measurements—that’s the reason why setting the page narrower than the tab stop causes it to malfunction—because it’s trying to set a spot at 15cm or whatever fit on A4 is a spot that doesn’t exist as a valid location in the printed book which is itself 15cm wide not counting margins.

This kind of tool will be even less appropriate in an e-book, where the reader may well be looking at the book on a device that doesn’t even have a 15cm wide screen. But of course nobody is going to be using a ballpoint on their iPhone, so the concept is somewhat abstract anyway. :slight_smile:

There is one tactic I can think of that could work, but I think it would only be feasible if there are not many instances where the reader is provided with a writing area. You’d basically need to split sections into multiple files, so that you could have three files where the answer rules are to be printed, one file for each width you need. You’d then have to set up some search collections that built these three-way variants into lists of two types: i.e. one collection would contain both the printed book and e-book answer rules, but not the workbook. Thus, when you compile, in the Contents pane’s filter settings you would exclude all of the answer rule files in that collection when producing the workbook file. So if the workbook has, say, 80 questions that have answer spaces for the reader, you would need 240 documents in your Draft that are nothing but some lines—not to mention the 80 places where you would need to split one section into two sections so that the three answer line files can be inserted at that point. :slight_smile:

Of course another approach would be to use lines that fit on the smallest page for all outputs. That might work between the workbook and the paperback, but it definitely is a compromise.

Thank you, Amber!

You cleared up many things for me and I am overwhelmed by the great effort you have spent on my problem - thanks!

I am using Scrivener for the first time and did actually only buy it because of the easy-to-compile-to-ebook feature. My manuscript has been published by a traditional publisher before, so I have the complete file as a Word document and am just republishing it myself this time. I thought it would be a good idea to use Scrivener to make the files for print and ebook, but your words have opened my eyes for the fact that Scrivener is made for writing and not so much for making the final layout.

So I guess, my use of Scrivener was wrong - or at least my expectations. And although it will be time consuming (there are a lot of questions!), I will stick to your first advice: “The usual way of going about this is to produce different layouts for the intended purpose.”

Once again, thanks!


We have a pretty good e-book builder, but it’s tuned more toward simple works (in terms of formatting) like novels and general non-fiction. Those that need more, or that want to take things in a fancier direction than a general-purpose tool like this can, will find editing e-books in post-compile to be the all around answer to things you can’t do natively in Scrivener. Editors like Sigil and Calibre can be good for that phase of the project. They do require a working knowledge of e-book design in order to get the most out of them, but if one is making e-books that’s not a bad set of skills to pick up, I say.

You might find something that works in e-books, but tabs in general don’t work well if at all in e-book technology. It’s a bit of a peculiar quirk as they are all based upon HTML and CSS, the same technology used to display websites—and websites don’t really do tabs. So that method probably won’t work at all in an e-book. I can’t think of anything solid that has the overlap of being something you can do in Scrivener that is also good technology for an e-book, but some experimentation might reveal something. I’d experiment with images of lines, too.

Quite often you can do that in Scrivener no problem. For example we have people that compile their book to a standard submission format, then maybe use the “Paperback Novel” setting for personal proofing. You can even save those settings into the project as quick presets, so in the future you can just flip a switch and get the output you want. It’s not quite as easy when the content needs to be different sizes, or completely different (tab rules for print, images for e-books, for instance).

It all depends on the project though. A lot of people close up the Scrivener project shortly after the first draft, because they need a standard platform like Word once editing starts—they’ll pick Scrivener up again when it’s time to start on a new one. But there are many that use it from start to finish, too.

Sorry to ask a dumb question, but it’s bothering me a couple of days now: What use are lines for writing on in an ebook? I understand in a printed book. I understand in a PDF (provided permissions allow printing & or annotations). If you have a workbook with the questions, as an accompaniment to the ebook, does it matter if you don’t have the lines?

I’m genuinely curious.

Hi there!

Sorry, for the delay … I didn’t see your post until today. But you are right: No need for lines in an ebook. But I was (wrongly) using Scrivener to set up a printbook.