Styles: The Secret for Word to Kindle

Word to Kindle

Microsoft Word’s Styles

There are five simple rules to follow to achieve very good Kindle formatting from Microsoft Word:

  1. Don’t use the tab key for anything.
  2. Don’t use two or more consecutive spaces (not even after a period).
  3. Don’t press the Enter key three or more times in a row.
  4. Use Word’s styles for any and all formatting that can be done through the styles (including indents—yes, it is possible).
  5. Avoid special characters and formatting that may not be supported on all devices.

The first three rules are really easy to follow. If you didn’t, you can use Word’s search and replace feature to easily remove tabs, extra spaces, or extra Enters. (Tab removal: Make a tab, cut it and paste it into the find field and leave the replace field blank. Double-space removal: Type two spaces and replace with one space, then repeat this find until no matches are found. Triple Enter removal: Click More > Special > Paragraph Mark three times to create three Enters in the find field and replace with two enters; repeat as needed.)

Rule 4 is critical toward achieving consistent Kindle formatting from Word. How to do this is the focus of this article.

The last rule just requires a little research. Beware that some fancy features, like dropcaps, are supported on many devices, but don’t format properly on all devices. When in doubt, simple works better.

Using Word’s Styles

The secret to good Kindle formatting is to apply any and all formatting through Microsoft Word’s styles.

Don’t apply formatting directly to highlighted text or paragraphs—not even for first line indents.

Instead, set the formatting in a style and apply the style to the paragraphs (or text).

You can find Microsoft Word’s styles on the right-half of the Home ribbon at the top of the screen. (These instructions are specifically for Microsoft Word 2010, which is similar to 2007 and 2013, for Windows.)

Styles Location

Note: Some styles (e.g. Normal) apply to entire paragraphs, other styles (like Emphasis) apply to text, and yet others can apply to either. The distinction is important because if you highlight just some text and apply a paragraph style, it will modify the entire paragraph rather than just the selected text. You can tell what a style applies to by clicking the little arrow-like icon below where it says Change Styles. Then look next to the style name to see if it has a paragraph symbol, an ‘a,’ or both.

Styles MenuStyles Options

Modify Word’s Styles

Right-click a style on the Home ribbon in order to modify it.

For Kindle e-book formatting, leave the color set to Automatic in the Normal style (because a customer might choose to read in night or sepia mode, for example). You needn’t set a font, as the customer will choose the font from his/her device, though if you do pick a font, using a very common font like Georgia is apt to work best (but, again, the customer gets to control the font from his/her device).

Apply the font style, font size, linespacing, indents, and all other formatting through Word’s styles.

Don’t highlight text or paragraphs and apply formatting directly to the text.

Instead, modify a style to suit your needs and apply that style to selected paragraphs (or, when applicable, highlighted text).


Style Modify


All styles other than Normal allow you to check a box to Automatically Update after right-clicking and choosing Modify. This is convenient to apply changes to that style throughout your document.

How to Indent Paragraphs for Kindle

Not with the tab key!

Not using the spacebar!

Not by going into the paragraph menu and using first line indent. Close, but no cigar!

Instead, right-click the Normal style, then:

  1. Choose Modify > Format > Paragraph.
  2. Change Special to First Line.
  3. Set the value to 0.2″ or so (definitely, not 0.5″ as that’s huge on a small screen).
  4. Apply the style to paragraphs you want formatted this way.

How to not Indent

Not indenting is even trickier.

Kindle automatically indents non-indented paragraphs.

So the trick is to copy the Normal style and give it a different name, like NoSpacing (don’t put a space in the name). This new style will be modified and used for non-indented paragraphs.

To copy a style, click the little arrow-like icon below Change Styles at the right of the Home ribbon to pull up the styles menu. Find the three buttons at the bottom of this menu (this menu pops up at the right side of your screen). Click the left button (of these three buttons) to add a new style. Choose the style you want this based on (pick Normal). Name the style (e.g. NoSpacing). Modify the style as needed.

Modify this new style as follows: Click Format > Paragraph, change Special to First Line and set the indent to 0.01″ (not smaller).

Note: Setting this to zero will backfire!

As always, modify the style and apply the style to the paragraphs. Don’t apply First Line Indent directly to paragraphs.

The first paragraph of the chapter is typically not indented. This is typical of most traditionally published books.

Stand-alone, non-centered lines like subheadings or lines from your table of contents also need to be non-indented. There are typically many such lines throughout the book. Remember, if they appear non-indented in Word, they’ll be automatically indented on Kindle.

Unless you apply the NoSpacing style to those paragraphs.

Indenting isn’t an issue with centered text, e.g. using styles like Heading 1 that center text.

Page Breaks

You can even use Word’s styles to create page breaks.

You should be using Heading 1 to create your chapter headings.

If you want each chapter to automatically start on a new page, and if you only apply Heading 1 where you want to begin a new page, you can remove all of your current page breaks and instead implement them through Word’s styles.

Right-click on Heading 1 to modify it. Choose Format > Paragraph > Line and Page Breaks and check the box for Page Break Before.

Why Do You Need to Use Styles?

When you upload your file to KDP, it gets converted to a .mobi file.

In this conversion, KDP reads your Word file as an HTML file (yes, even if you upload a Word document).

The top of your Word’s HTML (even if you don’t upload an HTML file, this still applies to you) defines all of Word’s styles.

If you highlight selected text or paragraphs and apply formatting directly to them, you introduce formatting contradictions: The styles say one thing, while the specific paragraphs or text says another. This confusion can lead to inconsistent formatting in the all-important Look Inside or on specific devices.

If you only apply formatting through the styles, then you won’t have contradictions, which leads to more consistent formatting.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © Chris McMullen, Author of Kindle Formatting Magic (now available)