Eradicate MS nits in minutes #amwriting

The hardest nits to find are the invisible ones, and for that purpose 'Find and Replace' is a potent tool in some respects. The simple premise is that, to remove double spaces, for example, we 'find' them all and 'replace' them all with one space in a single action. 

Of course, we have to run this process more than once to eradicate multiple spaces.

But Find and Replace is also great for removing hanging spaces between periods and paragraph returns, and, more importantly, hanging spaces at the beginning of paragraphs because they will not line up with other paragraphs, should any spaces exist.

Here is a paragraph with all of these nits, but they are tough to spot:

But if we use our pilcrow tool, all spaces are shown as centered dots:

To access Find/replace press your F5 key and you'll get something like this. Click 'Find':

Then here; remember, you'll have to click replace all a few times to make sure you have removed them all:

To remove hanging spaces between periods and paragraph returns, which can can cause extra page generation and other bugs when printed:

This is how it should look:

And to remove hanging spaces before the first word of a paragraph, we remove the space at the beginning of the 'Find' field and place a space after the paragraph mark:

And after these processes, the end result is a cleaner document with all the needles removed from the haystack with the minimum of fuss:

As you can see, if you're a spacebar indent junkie, you'll have to replace with proper indents: Just Select All (Ctrl+A) and click on Paragraph in your ribbon and set the indent for the whole MS - or you can Select All and slide the top ruler arrow to .5cm (or 1/4 inches - but keep the indent small) - that way you will only have to re-center your chapter headings and scene break symbols (See my Layout Tips page).

If you have used tab stops for indents you can remove all these ("Find" > "Special" > "Tab Character") (or in "Find" type: ^t) and replace with nothing in the "Replace" field then set the indent as described above.

Happy hunting!

Thanks for reading this article. When you are ready to publish (or if you want to add a sparkle to your existing books) why not take the hassle out of converting your Word document for Kindle, CreateSpace, and Epub by taking advantage of our expertise and diligence to create the best possible finish for your book. Our author-friendly prices start at just $24. Click HERE to find out more...

And when you want to promote your current or new books, why not use our affordable, premium Tweeting Service, which reaches our network of over 1 MILLION loyal followers. Visit to find out more and see our latest offers and giveaways.


  1. What does replace all with ^t do?

  2. It replaces the selection with a tab character (not a good idea). Better to find the tab characters and replace them with something epub-friendly - sometimes a space, sometimes a paragraph character and sometimes nothing - depends on what the tab character is trying to do. They are often used to indent new paragraphs (bad) so in that case replace them with nothing and use the top ruler arrow to set the indent (as per my layout tips article in the ribbon above). Tabs need to be manually checked in turn, not replaced all at once, because of the variables - hope this helps...

  3. People complain about Smashwords Style Guide, but it clearly illustrates how to remove all formatting and use a corrected template to do all these things at once. Even has yes and no illustrations. It's language is so much simpler than Kindle's, and Kindle accepts the doc.

    1. Smashwords is not perfect in their instructions though. For example if you bookmark the actual chapter heading it will jump to normal body text if you navigate via the NCX sidebar etc - to avoid this, place a space character above the heading and bookmark that instead (but not the paragraph symbol as well, just the space character)

      And line breaks made by Enter key presses do not render in their mobi versions, leading to cramped text (horizontally). To get around this we place a "space after" attribute in the paragraph settings of 12pts per space required. You can save this attribute as a new Style in your quick style gallery by right clicking on the text with the new attribute and selecting "save selection as new quick style" - for lines in italics you have to save a new style because it will jump to regular text if you use the first new style you made...

  4. I have a list of all the edits that I want to do. In it, I include things like the double-space, etc, so I won't forget them. I do these before my final line-edit.

  5. Oh my god! I just did this. I wasn't clear if I was supposed to hit the space bar twice or write type 2 spaces here, but once my coffee kicked in I did as you asked and replaced with one space! Woot! Thank you so much!