Indenting question

I don’t know if there is any way to set up the export to do this, but I thought I’d ask anyway.

Is it possible to have the first line of the first paragraph sitting on the left margin, but the first line of subsequent paragraphs indented?

There’s no way of doing this at the moment. 1.5 has a “preserve style” feature, though, which allows you select some text and apply “Preserve Style” so that the text gets outlined in blue to indicate it has this set. Upon Compile Draft, that area of text does not get the override attributes applied to it - in other words, it’s like “Preserve Formatting”, except that the “Preserve Formatting” checkbox applies to the whole document whereas “Preserve Style” applies to specific selections of text. I’m intending on adding some options to Compile Draft that will allow you to define whether “Preserve Style” only applies to specific attributes, too - so you could have it just preserve the tabs and indents, for instance, which is what you would require. So you would just need to select that first paragraph and apply “Preserve Style” from the Format menu, then in Compile Draft set up Preserve Style to affect only tabs and indents… All will become a bit more clear when 1.5 finally makes it into beta, I hope. :slight_smile:
All the best,

Hmm … I was going to suggest you could use the style set-up drop-down in the ruler bar to set up two paragraph styles, one for first paragraphs fully left flush, and one for other paragraphs with the indent and then set the export dialogue to change the font(s) only.

But maybe that wouldn’t work. I haven’t tried. :confused:


Thanks for bringing this up, Rayz.

For those who don’t know what we’re on about: this is part of the standard UK layout of a novel. Since I switched to the Mac last year I’ve failed to find a combination of Scrivener+word processor that does this with any ease. Oh, and I like to start a chapter 20 lines down the page, and I find I have to do that manually, too, when I finally export my Draft from Scrivener. Then there’s the title page layout, not to mention the header . . .

It’s not impossible to change these to standard layout, just tedious, especially when I want to email my MS off now, this minute.

I’d be interested to hear any work-arounds. I’ve tried most of the popular Mac word processors but haven’t mastered the formatting/template-making well enough to solve any of the above.


Mark posted his reply while I was writing this and yes, I’ve tried doing what he suggests. I do still find Mac formatting quite primitive, though.

The next update also has a “New Page Spacing” option per document type so that you can set up pages following a page break to start halfway down the page and so forth… The novel template in the next update is much more flexible and should be able to do all of this, basically.

I wasn’t aware that the no-indent on the first page was part of standard layout for a UK novel, though… From the template on the BBC website, this didn’t seem to be the case (obviously you know what you are talking about though!)… I know novels are formatted like this when printed, but I didn’t think it was part of the manuscript formatting.


A helpful reply, as always, Keith! And I’m looking forward to 1.5.

As to the ‘first para of chapter and section’ thing: in the days when I taught ‘how to write a novel’ for the WEA and CEA I checked with my editor that I was giving my students up-to-date information on formatting a MS, and she confirmed that this was the case. A copy-editor goes through the typescript, marking it up with the house style, but if there are too many changes (including editorial ones) it gets increasingly difficult for the typesetter to do a good job. This is why I like to get mine as clean as possible before submitting it. I’m sure that in the US everything’s done on disk, but the publishing houses I’ve dealt with in the UK still mark all changes on the original printout. This is also the reason you should leave a one-third to one-half blank page at the beginning of the chapter, as well as generous margins on all sides.

I write reports on ten or so unpublished manuscripts every year and I don’t think I’ve met more than one or two which were laid out conventionally. The most important points (because they make for easy reading) are:

  1. Double-spacing
  2. 12-point, standard font like Times New Roman
  3. Indent first line of paragraph, and dialogue, half an inch (use Tab, not space-bar)
  4. Don’t put white lines between paragraphs unless you’re starting a new section

You should have a header on every page with your name or pseudonym and the title of the book on the left, and the page number on the right. The first page of the manuscript is page 1; title page, acknowlegements, etc. are either unnumbered or numbered in lower-case Latin numerals.

Sorry, I’ve gone off-topic there!


Crimewriter is absolutely correct, and the BBC has got it slightly wrong. What he’s described is the standard UK manuscript submission layout.

The new page spacing is certainly useful, but on the UK format, it only applies to the first page.

Do you perhaps need settings for:

Manuscript title page (but then you would need to be able to mark a page as the title page in the binder)
First page
Subsequent pages

But it sounds as if you’re already on top of it … :smiley:

I’ve added a setting to “Remove first paragraph indent on new pages”. If this is checked in Compile Draft, the first paragraph of new pages doesn’t get indented. (It’s not perfect, as it just goes through the draft looking for new pages, and then flattens the first paragraph that is not centred and has a first line indent, but it will work for most basic scenarios where further formatting wouldn’t be required anyway.) So with the next update, it should be straightforward to set it up so that each new chapter will start halfway down the page and with the first paragraph having no indent.
All the best,



Thanks! … :smiley:

I used to obsess about this for a while too and really, as far as I understand it, if you are going to follow this convention you also need to unindent the first paragraph of scenes/section breaks within a chapter too, since that is how they will appear in the book. This first came to my attention when an editor in New York screamed about the fact I wasn’t doing this. So perhaps it isn’t just a UK thing.

But to be honest I think that the move from typewriter to word processor has broken down a lot of these conventions and they aren’t so important any more. So long as page breaks are obvious and section breaks are divided properly (as they are in Scriv) by # marks I suspect you’d be better off worrying about the words rather than the format. Though I will, naturally, turn this one when it arrives because I’m like that.

Yes, Bodsham, I do unindent the first line of sections, too. And I mark the section break by an asterisk (or three) because otherwise it gets missed by the typesetter if it falls at the end of the page.

The thing is that formatiing becomes a habit and I don’t even think about it any more, so I can obsess about the words (and the order in which I place them) instead. It’s when I read a manuscript sent in by an unpublished author that I notice the discrepancies. But I don’t want to be forced to see the format, I just want to read the words. And I’ve never seen a manuscript where the author’s talent is so outstanding that I don’t notice minor faults, though I’m still hoping. I’d encourage a new writer to get the formatting and layout right from start because, once it becomes a habit, you can just forget about it. It’s like touch-typing. Once you’ve mastered it, the words just flow from your head into your fingers as fast as you can think, and all you have to do is watch the pictures in your imagination. Or something like that.


What I actually did in Word was have three styles - a chapter number, an opening paragraph (set to follow it) then a body paragraph set to follow the opening. You can set the styles easily enough in Scrivener but not have the automatic formatting I guess.
Scriv automatically puts in the correct hash marks between sections/scenes when I export to Word, which I have to do for delivery anyway.

Yes, I did exactly the same in Word. I haven’t spent the time and attention on a Mac program yet to achieve the same thing, though. Now I know it can be done, I’ll set it up, just as soon as I’ve finished the chapter I’m working on, and updated my website, and sent a newsletter to the mailing list, and answered a couple of tricky emails . . .

Back to work!.


Okay… And another modification to allow for flatting the first paragraph indent of scenes too… So now there are two checkboxes under the text override options that look like this:

[ ] Remove first paragraph indents
[ ] On new pages only

Checking only the first one does this: for every document being compiled (provided “Override text format” is turned on), Scrivener looks through the document looking for paragraphs that contain text. The first one that is not centred and has an indent has its indent removed.

Checking both does the same thing except it doesn’t do it by document. Instead it looks for new pages and then checks the first paragraph on that new page, then looks for another new page.

The first one on its own should therefore do what you wish.

In fact, to demonstrate… Here is a screenshot of my text project:

And here is the PDF generated via Compile Draft with the above option turned on:

Novel with parts and flattened indents PDF

(The astute will also note from the screenshot and PDF and that all of the part and chapter titles have been generated from the titles in the binder - in 1.5 there is no longer any need to have titles and subtitles stored away in the text of folders.)

All the best,

Wow… you make it look so easy Keith. That looks absolutely perfect - and just two check boxes??? You realise I am now utterly incapable of using Word any more, don’t you?

The idea is that in 1.5, if you use a template such as the novel template and follow a binder structure such as the one in the screenshot, it should be fairly easy… Actually, in generating that PDF document, I realised there was still one case that Scrivener couldn’t handle gracefully in 1.5 - a novel which had parts with titles but chapters without titles (it could have both having titles or none). So I just fixed that, too. Hopefully it should now be flexible enough to format a novel well enough for printing… Still no widows and orphans, though, I’m afraid!
All the best,

I’m not bothered about widows and orphans any more - that gets fixed when it runs through Word. This all sounds wonderful, Keith. Now about that check box marked ‘Write next chapter for me…’

That’s brilliant, Keith! And I don’t use widows and orphans because it produces variable numbers of lines per page. So it’s perfect.

And those chapter headings with ‘Something else happens’ look just like the outline I write for myself on the rare occasions when I bother to write an outline.

Thanks yet again.


Thank you - this topic has been useful in fine tuning the new Compile Draft feature.

On the topic of widows and orphans, how important are they for manuscript submission, out of interest? I’ve read different opinions on this. Most that I have seen have suggested that they should be turned off for standard manuscript format submission, for the same reason that Veronica gives (keeping the number of lines per page constant). But from David’s previous blog posts (about Mellel a couple of years ago) I get the impression that this varies… (Although Scrivener still won’t support widows and orphans itself in 1.5, there is a checkbox available in Compile Draft to avoid widows and orphans when exporting to RTF, so that Word will get rid of them without you having to do anything as soon as you import.)

Thanks and all the best,