Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ban your tab

Dear authors, if you value your editor’s/designer’s sanity, you will stop using the tab button immediately. I am not kidding. Put a piece of two-sided tape on it or scribble over it with a black marker; just don’t use it.

You might be thinking I am slightly insane, but there is a logical reason for this request. Every tab you put in is one that has to be taken out when typesetting. Do you know how many tabs a full-length novel can contain? Too many. And while a search and replace can be used, inevitably it will miss some because there will be a slight difference such as an extra space or something that throws the search off.

Luckily, there is an easy solution.

Writers should become familiar with the auto indent feature in Word and use it every time they create a new document.

Simply open a new doc and go to the “paragraph” tab and click on “format” (or just the paragraph tab in Word 2007 and 2010). You’ll see a drop-down menu in the middle of the box that says “special.” From the drop-down menu, select “first line” and in the “by” box, select “.5,” which normally pops up automatically. What this does is tell the computer to automatically indent the first line of each paragraph .5 inches — the same as a tab button.

This saves you a step because you no longer have to insert a tab at the beginning of each paragraph, and your designer doesn’t have to take it out. It saves time all around.