Making Your Own Ebook – Part Nine – Making a fresh start

Sometimes the only way to remove the formatting from an existing file is to make a fresh start by stripping out all existing formats, completely, and start the formatting again. But you want to do this in a way that does not disturb the text of the book and also is as fast as possible. In this post we will look at the detailed processes that you can use to do just that. The best approach is to read through the post completely then you will be in a position to decide which of the options will work best for YOUR book.

To make a “fresh” start you will want to mark all instances of formatting – Bold, Italics, Bold Italic, Headings of all kinds, indents, etc. so that when you transfer the plain text file back into Word you will be able to find all the instances and format them again using styles. The best way to do this is by “tagging” each instance.

The Tag and Replace Process:

  • Make a backup of your original file and put it in a separate directory for safekeeping.
  • Open the file in Word and Tag all the formatting in the file.
    (More on the details of how to do this below.)
  • Save the file with “Tagged version” in the name
  • Select ALL the text in the book file (Ctrl + a)
  • Open a plain text file using “Notepad”
  • Paste all the text into the Notepad File (Ctrl + v)
  • Once all the text is copied over, save that file also With “Tagged” somewhere in the filename. This file will have a “.txt” file extension
  • Close the original Word file
  • Open a New Word file
  • If you have already prepared a blank template for your book that is the file that you should open up – remember to save it under a new name so that your Blank template is saved elsewhere and available for use in other projects.
  • Go back to notepad and Select All (Ctrl + a) the text.
  • Back to Word and paste all the text into the new file (Ctrl + v).
  • Save the new file and include the word “New”, or a version number, in the filename.
  • Replace all the tags with formatting from your styles (More on how to do this below) and save the file with a new version number.

This process is the most “robust” approach and gives the cleanest file.

Manual Process

If you have a file that has only a small amount of formatting you can do the process manually, but this is time consuming and only works if there is not too much formatting.

  • Make a backup of your original file and put it in a separate directory for safekeeping.
  • Open the file in Word
  • Select ALL the text in the book file (Ctrl + a)
  • Click on the “Clear All” line at the top of the styles list and this will clear all formatting.
  • Save the file with “unformatted” in the title.
  • If you have already prepared a blank template for your book that is the file that you should open up – remember to save it under a new name so that your Blank template is available for use for other projects.
  • Go back to the unformatted version and Select All (Ctrl + a) the text.
  • Switch to the new template and paste all the text into the new file.
  • Save the new file under a new name.
  • Open the original Word file with all the formatting in a separate window and resize both instances of Word so that they are displayed side by side on the screen.
  • Either search through line by line in the original to spot the formatting, or use the find box to locate types of formatting.
  • When you find the formatted text format it with the new styles.

How to Tag the formatting in your file

When you read through the tagging process it may seem a bit complicated but when you have done it a few times you will see how fast and useful it is compared to manually searching and changing formatting.

Tagging the formatting in a file is a great option if you have a lot of formatting. It will save a huge amount of time. However, it does not make sense if you only have a small amount text styling. The Manual method may take less time.

All we are doing with Tags is putting a simple Text Marker before and after each type of formatting so that the format can be identified by the “Find & Replace” tool that is built into Word. Each type of formatting has to have its own individual tag so that it can be easily identified and not confused with other styles.

This approach works well for text styles – mainly because there are usually many more instances of Text Styles compared to Paragraph Styles – but it is generally easier to format paragraph styles like Chapter Headings and Paragraphs Headings by placing the cursor in the paragraph and clicking on the style to apply. Check out the section on Keyboard Shortcuts at the bottom of the post if you want to really speed up the manual process.

Here are examples of the tags you can use to mark the formatting in your book:

  • -STARTI- for italics
  • -STARTB- for bold
  • -STARTU- for underline
  • -END- to close any tag

Here are the search scripts to use to change formatting to tagged text:

  • -STARTI-^&-END-
  • -STARTB-^&-END-
  • -STARTU-^&-END-

You can use your own tags as long as you make sure that they clearly mark the start and end of each format and are easy to find. Don’t use short tags like “i” for italics or “b” for bold as Word will misinterpret them.

Also, notice the hyphens before and after the tags. This helps avoid confusion with real words in the text and makes them easier to remove later.

Replacing existing formatting with tags

You can set the tags automatically using the Find & Replace function. As an example let’s use Italics as the first format to tag.

To tag and replace Italic formatting

Open up the Find & Replace Dialogue (Ctrl +h). If the fullbox is not visible click on “More>>”  to open it fully.

  • In the Replace box, type in, or copy & paste, the search term
  • Click in the Find box but leave it empty
  • Click on “Format / Font / Italics” to set the Find script to Italics
  • Click on “Replace All” and all of your italicized text will have the tags applied.

Word 28 - Tagging Italics 1

Word 29 - Tagging Italics 2

Word 30 - Tagging Italics 3Here is an example of what the text would look like Before and After.

  • Before: This line has some words in italics. This is a test.
  • After: This line has some -STARTI-words-END- in italics. This is a -STARTI-test-END-.

When you use consistent tagging it is easy to replace the tags with the proper formatting with the Find and Replace function.

Tagging Bold and Underline

Repeat the Find & Replace process for Bold and Underline if you have used them in your manuscript. Paste in the appropriate Replace term from the list above and remember that when you go into the “Find” box it is best to click on the “Clear formatting” button before entering a new format to search for. It is easier to Copy & Paste the search script as this will avoid typing errors that might mess up your changes.

Word 31 - Tagging Italics 4Once the tagging is done you can remove all the text formats using the methods outlined in the “Tag and Replace” or “Manual” processes above.

Strip out the Formatting

The surest method is to Copy & Paste all the tagged text into a plain text processor, like “Notepad”. This will strip out all the formatting but leave all your tags. Then copy and paste the plain text back into a new Word document which has your Styles ready to apply. If you do not use “Notepad”, the built-in plain text processor in Windows, there are a number of FREE apps that are easily downloaded which will do the job also. I will post links for these later.

You can re-apply the styles using “Find and Replace” function in reverse. Then, once the text has been re-formatted you can remove the tags and you have a cleanly formatted file.

Re-formatting the text and removing the tags

This time we will be entering the “Script” in the “Find” box and the format in the “Replace” box.

Here are the search scripts to use to change the tagged text back into formatted text:

  • -STARTI-*-END-
  • -STARTB-*-END-
  • -STARTU-*-END-

The “*” is the wildcard marker and all it is doing is telling the system to apply the change to any text found between the Start and End tags.

Let’s use the Italic format again as the example process:

When you open the Find and Replace dialogue the first thing to do is to make sure that none of the boxes have any formatting applied. You will see if this is so as the format information will be below the Find or Replace boxes. Click in the Find or Replace box and then Click on “No Formatting” this will clear any existing formats. Repeat in both boxes if needed.

For this part of the process you will need to activate “Wildcards” for the Find function.

Word 32 - Use Wildcards for FindReplacing tagged text with formatting

  • In the Find box, type in or copy & paste the search term
  • Click in the Replace box but leave it empty
  • Click on “Format / Style / Emphasis” to set the Replace format
  • Click on “Replace All” and all of your tagged text will be returned to Italic but this time All the Italics will have the style “Emphasis” applied.

Word 34 - Select Emphasis Character StyleWhen the “Format / Style” pop-up menu appear you will need to scroll down to find the Character style “Emphasis”. You know it is a character style because it has a lower-case “a” in front and will only change the characters not the whole paragraph.

Word 33 - Replace Tags with Italic FormattingUse the same process to replace the Bold and Underline tags.

For bold you can use the “Strong” style which is the same as standard Bold but for Underline you will have to create a new style or modify one of the standard Character styles (e.g. Subtle reference or Intense Reference) to get exactly what you want.

A note about Underlining

If you use underlining for emphasis in your Ebook you need to use it sparingly if at all. Hyperlinks are usually shown with underlined text and when you use underlines there is a risk that readers might confuse YOUR underlines with hyperlinks. When they do not link to anything customers may be disappointed.

If you are using a word processor to style your Ebooks, use the Heading 1 and Heading 2 styles for your chapters, parts and sections. Do NOT depend on the conversion programs to recognize your inserted page breaks!

Keyboard Shortcuts

One thing that can really help speed things up when you are applying styles is the use of Keyboard Shortcuts. If you have used Word for a number of years you probably use quite a few shortcuts without thinking about them: such as “Ctrl c” to copy and “Ctrl v” to paste. But if you have not used styles you may not be aware that you can create a keyboard shortcut for any of the styles in your list!

All you need to do is to go into the Modify dialogue box and at the bottom when you click on format you will find “Shortcut Key” near the bottom of the list.

Word 35 - Setting Shortcuts for stylesWord 36 - Shortcut Dialogue BoxIn the example above, I have set a shortcut of Ctrl+Alt+A for the “Heading 1” Style. All I have to do now is to place the cursor in a piece of text and press Ctrl+Alt+A to make it “Heading 1”. If you want to remove the shortcut just go back into the dialogue box and click on Remove (bottom left) to clear.

That’s it!

You now have all the basic tools needed to create a robust and well formatted file that should pass muster if you are uploading to your Ebook retailer. If you are converting from Word to Epub with any local conversion software remember to use Epubcheck to test the file before you upload it anywhere.

Testing (again!)

In a couple of earlier posts I went on about testing and proofing and here we are again. Testing and proofing is vital and all you have to remember is to keep on with the cycle of “Test – Fix – Proof read / Test – Fix – Proof read” until the result is clean and without problems. It may be tedious but your reader will be happy – and a happy customer tends to tell others and sales go up, and then YOU are happier… A “Win-Win” result!


What I have described are the basics and these are some of the steps that we use when repairing files and producing Ebooks. Once the book has been proofed before and after conversion we then open up the HTML files and check all the files for errors that do not show up as “conversion” problems. We almost always have to make adjustments in the Metadata file and have to remove parts of the CSS and modify HTML code that would cause problems in some readers.

Since most people don’t want to mess with HTML I need to add some notes about Metadata and how to manage it. There is also some important information about Fonts that you need to be aware of and I will include that next week too. The final piece will summarise the links for FREE software that you can use to enhance your formatting and testing process. I will post these next week to close off the series.

Here are the links to all the previous posts in the this series and it is recommended that you read them in order…

©DavidCronin 2015 The Ebook Doctor


David Cronin


After over 30 years as a senior executive across the cable, telecommunications and cable television industries, David Cronin founded the Indie Publishing company Moyhill in 2004. Already involved with computers since the mid 1970s he quickly made the transition to book designer and publisher and the first book that Moyhill published in 2004, The Red Tailed Hawk, in Spanish won best digital print book in the UK that year.

Since then Moyhill has set up authors as their own publishers and has formatted several award winning novels and non-fiction titles. It is essentially a one-man operation and this enables a one-to-one relationship with authors throughout the entire process.

After this series has been completed next week David will be holding a Q&A session via the blog for those authors who have read the series but still have questions.

If after that you feel you need more assistance to give your book a final polished format then you can contact him direct on