Formatting a book in Microsoft Word doesn’t have to be confusing. We often get customers contacting us asking for advice on how to set-up the page size, margins and other typesetting questions so we thought we would put all this information in a simple and easy to read the document.

We will start with a blank document and set our page size and margins. Microsoft Word can offer you various templates to use but you ideally want to start with a blank document and format your book to your own specification.

formatting a book in word 1

After we have chosen our blank document it is time to choose the page size. There are plenty of sizes to choose from and it is something that will need a lot of thinking. Today we will format a B-Format book at 198mm high x 129mm wide. This is a standard size for a novel. If you are struggling to find a page size that you think is suitable for your book, then head over to our other post for more information – Hardback and Paperback Book Sizes.

To change the page size, we go to Layout > Size > More Paper Sizes…

formatting a book in word

This will bring up another window where we can input our own custom size.

Formatting a Book

Under paper size, you want to click the drop-down box and select custom size and then fill out the width and height of the finished paper size you want. In our case, we want a book 198mm high x 129mm wide. As my Word document measurements are in cm’s we will fill this out accordingly. You will need to check if your document is in mm’s, cm’s, inches etc. The paper source we will leave as default for now.

After we have filled out the height of 19.8 cm’s and the width of 12.9 cm’s and selected to apply to the whole document, it is time to move on to the next part, the margins.

As standard Word will set the margins to 1″ / 2.54cm. The margin size you will want will depend on a few different factors;

  • The final page length of your book
  • Finished size of your book
  • Fiction or non-fiction
  • Your book’s genre

There are a few other factors to consider but the best advice we have given our customers is to have a look at other books which are like yours and simply measure the margins. You will find that many books will be different, you just need to choose the right size for your book.

We are going to choose margin sizes of 18mm for the left and right and 15mm for the top and bottom. When we set this up in Word it will be 1.8cm left and right and 1.5cm top and bottom.

We then have the option of setting the gutter and the gutter position. This is a term used in the printing industry which describes the side in which a book will be bound. For a normal book printed and bound in the UK, Europe, USA and many other countries, this will be on the left-hand side. The gutter measurement allows us to set extra space on the bound side. This means you have the equal margin space on the left and right side of your document, plus extra space for when all the pages get bound together so you don’t have to ‘break’ the spine of the book.

The gutter measurement will depend on how many pages your book will be. For a small number of pages in the range of 20 to 50, a gutter size of 5mm may be sufficient. However, if you have a large number of pages, 300+ you may want to increase the gutter size to 10mm. Again, this is something that if you are unfamiliar with, you will want to have a look at some books in the same genre and decide.

For our book, we are going to use a gutter size of 5mm and set it to the left-hand side, the orientation set to portrait and the multiple pages option set to mirror margins.

book formatting


We now have a document which is starting to look like a traditional book but we are far from finished. You should have something which looks like the image below.

Formatting a Book in Word

Formatting a book in Microsoft Word is very similar to Adobe InDesign and other typesetting software. We are now going to work on the paragraph styles. You can bring up the paragraph options under the layout tab and click the little arrow underneath. For our novel, we are going to use a basic style which is common in most fiction novels.

The alignment will be set to justify and the outline level will be body text. The indentation will be set to 0cm but under special we will set the first-line indentation. For our book, we are going to have a 5mm first-line indent. Again, have a look at other books and make a decision based on what you feel would look right for your book. The spacing of the paragraphs will be set to 0pt before and after and the line spacing set to single.

Formatting a Book in Word

You will now have something which looks like the below. You will notice that this paragraph style we have set indents every first line of every paragraph. Now with our book, we don’t want to have the first line of the first paragraph indented. We will have to manually adjust this setting by clicking on the first line of the first paragraph and adjusting the margins using the step above.

Formatting a Book in Word

The next step will be to start amending our chapter titles. The chapter titles should be in a larger font than the rest of the text with some additional spacing between the top of the page and the main body of the text. For our book, we are going to use the same font as the main body but in 16pt. The spacing is a personal preference, use what you think is best for your book.

This is how the first page of the main body of our book looks. We are starting to get a nice clean layout which resembles a standard novel.

Formatting a Book in Word

Now we will start to look into the fonts for our book. This part could be a whole post all to itself as there are many different variables. For more of an understanding of fonts you could check out some of the following posts; How to Choose the Right Font for Your Book, Choosing the Write Font For Your Book and What Font Should You Use for Your Book.

To change the font of your book you will need to click on the home tab at the top of the document. You will then be able to see all the standard options to edit your book. Select what font you will like from the drop-down and the font size. Remember if you have already set your chapter size if you change the font size with all the text selected it will apply that font size setting to everything.

Formatting a Book in Word

Our book is going to be set in Garamond at 12pt. This is a popular font type used in novels. Some other popular fonts are Palatino and Minion Pro but there are thousands of fonts to choose from so make sure you have a good look around before you decide.

We are now going to add page numbers to our book. To do this you want to go to, Insert > Page Number > Bottom of Page and then select a style which has the page number in the middle of the page.

Formatting a Book in Word

You will then have page numbers added to every page of your document. The page numbers will need spacing in the footer. Our book is going to have a spacing of 1.25cm Header from Top and 0.3cm Footer from Bottom.

This is how our book now looks.

Formatting a Book in Word


We have a completed book that has been formatted in word which when exported as a PDF will be press-ready. There are a few little extras that can make your book look more professional but unfortunately, Microsoft Word doesn’t provide those options.

Formatting a book inĀ  Microsoft Word is not able to replace professional typesetting software such as InDesign but it can do a very good job of providing you with a press-ready PDF file.