InDesign vs. Word for Book Formatting and Does it Matter?

Why I switched from Word to Indesign.

When we first founded Clean Teen Publishing I had never heard of InDesign before. I formatted everything in Word, from our paperbacks to our ebooks. However, there was always something missing…an element of professionalism that just wasn’t there. I could never get the pages to look just right. Sure, they looked okay and could pass for a book, but upon closer inspection they didn’t look like something I would pick up and buy out of a B&N store. Come to find out there are many reasons someone would want to forgo Word and move to InDesign. Here is my take on things.

  1. Optical Marginal Alignment, I love this feature in Indesign, and it’s not even an option in word. This feature allows punctuation to extend outside of the text frame giving the paragraph a clean and professional look. See the image below for an example:circle
  2. InDesign does a better job of handling ligatures, kerning, and word spacing overall. Below is an example of the two writing passages I used above. The passage is the same as well as the line spacing, font, font size, etc. However, as you can see, they do not mirror each other when placed one on top of the other. The passage from the Word document appears to be longer than the InDesign passage. That’s because InDesign is a typesetting program and allows for further adjustment. You may think, is this even a big deal? Well, if you are an author already, you know that the longer the book is the more it costs. This is only a single paragraph example. Imagine how much blank space you will save on an entire book. On average, a book of 60,000 words will have over 1,000 extra lines, or about 30 extra pages. This can greatly cut into your profit margin!spacing
  3. Rivers are the gaps in between different words that line up with another gap directly underneath it. This creates a ‘river’ of white space throughout the paragraph. It is disrupting to readers and can cause fatigue and slower reading. If you notice on the InDesign passage the rivers are all but non-existent.rivers
  4. Hyphenation: Have you ever noticed that some books have WAY too much hyphenation? Well InDesign has a very sophisticated way of limiting the hyphenation to however you want to set it. Here is an example of the two control panels in each of the programs regarding hyphenation. Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 12.13.10 AM Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 12.14.25 AMHaving this advanced feature in InDesign allows you to control exactly how you want your hyphens to appear in your document.


  1. My pet peeve, and the way I can spot a book from a mile away that has been printed in Word is at the bottom of the pages. Word does not allow you to make sure that the lines end on the bottom of the pages equally. Sometimes there will be an extra line and sometimes there will be a missing line that has been carried over to the following page. Here is an example of a book I formatted in Word. Notice how, at the bottom of the page, the lines of text do not line up from one page to the other: IMG_1022This isn’t because there is a chapter starting on the next page and the text stopped. This is simply what word does. Here is an example of what the pages look like done in InDesign.IMG_1023 As you can see they are all lined up nice and neat!
  1. Master Pages: My favorite feature of InDesign is master pages. Master Pages allow consistency on all pages making sure they are the exact replica of the next. It also allows you to use a bleed making sure the images that you use for chapter headings and such go all the way to the end of the page when printed. If you use Word it is a toss up as to if the bleed will work or not. Let me show you some picture examples: Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 11.09.04 PMThis is what a layout looks like in Indesign. See the red square that runs outside of the page? That’s the bleed. Notice how my moon picture goes off the edge of the page and onto the bleed. This makes sure that when the book is printed there won’t be an awkward white space between the picture and the end of the page. It will print all the way to the edge. Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 11.09.23 PMThis is what master pages look like. When you begin a document, you set up these master pages. Each time I come to a chapter page in the book I simply apply this page. I get consistency every time on exactly how each chapter page should look like. The other amazing feature is grid lines. I can make sure that each chapter header is placed exactly, no questions asked, as the previous chapter header.
  1. Glyphs are amazing!! Have you ever wished that a letter looped a different way? Or have you ever seen loopy titles that all the loops just go in the right direction? Well, that’s what Glyphs are for! If you use a font that has multiple glyphs you get to choose which design you want for each letter. Take this example here: Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 11.56.55 PMAs you can see there are about three different versions for every letter. Check out this text example I did: glyphsThis is using the same font, just different versions of the same letters.
  1. My last example I will provide is for Drop Caps. You can apply both drop caps to InDesign and Word, but with InDesign you get a much nicer finished product.drop cap example 2

dropcapsFor those of you that are inspired to use InDesign, just know there is a very steep learning curve! However, it’s all worth it in the end. I learned everything I know using how-to videos from These video courses were my saving grace when I first started using InDesign. The instructors here are very thorough and concise. I can’t recommend them enough. There is a small monthly fee of less than $30 and you can cancel at any time. Also, InDesign is not cheap! In fact it’s pretty darn expensive…upwards of $800. However, you can join Adobe Cloud and for $20 a month you can have access to the latest adobe software of InDesign. Anytime an update comes out you get it immediately with your subscription. If this all makes your head spin there are people out there that would love to format your book for you, and many of them at affordable rates. You’ll often spend slightly more to have someone format your book in InDesign vs. Word, but as you can see from the above information, it makes it completely worthwhile in the end.