- Writer Unboxed - https://writerunboxed.com -

Using Styles in Scrivener 3

colored pencil drawings of fashion models with teal banner reading "Using Styles in Scrivener 3" across the middle

You would not want me to advise you on what to wear, but if you want to design a good-looking DOCX, PDF, or EPUB, I’m your girl.

And if you’ve ever wished Scrivener had Microsoft Word-like styles, get ready to rejoice, because Scrivener 3 has replaced the old Presets function—which offered formatting shortcuts without any memory—with Styles. *cue balloons and confetti*

Okay, great, but what exactly are styles?

Introducing Styles

Styles are memorized font and/or paragraph settings that act as a shortcut to quickly change the format of a section of text.

For example, if the characters in your novel often communicate via text message, you might want different font and paragraph formatting to denote the message text. Rather than format each instance manually, you could set up a style and then apply that style to the desired text with one click.

text in the Scrivener editor, some of it styled to denote a text message, annotated

So far, that’s the same as the old presets. Here’s where it gets good.

There are two key benefits of the new Styles function.

  1. You can update a style’s settings and it will automatically update all instances of that style throughout your manuscript.
  2. Text formatted with a style can either be preserved or modified during the compile process. Your pick!

So, if the style you chose for your characters’ text messages looks great in PDF, but not so much in ebook, you can quickly change that style’s appearance in the Compile settings without modifying the original text or style.

I had a great analogy about jeans and T-shirts and high fashion—and a fabulous alternative analogy about Superman changing in a phone booth—but I’ll spare you.

Understanding When to Use Styles

Unlike Word, where a style is applied to every part of your manuscript, even the body text, Scrivener’s styles are meant for formatting exceptions.

The body text and chapter headings can be formatted when compiling, so you only have to style sections of text that need to look different from the rest of the document.

We already discussed using a style to denote text messages within a manuscript. Here are a few other examples of instances where you might want to use a style:

Creating a Style

If you find yourself wanting to apply the same format to portions of text throughout your manuscript, you can create your own style. Here’s how:

  1. Select a portion of text and format it as desired, using the format bar at the top of the Editor. styled text with format bar and styles list annotated
  2. With the text still selected, go to Format>Style>New Style From Selection.
  3. Give the style a name that will make it easy to find again.
  4. If you want this to be a character-only (saves only text attributes like font, color, size) or paragraph-only style (saves only paragraph attributes like line spacing, margins, indents), change the option in the Formatting dropdown menu. Styles panel with Formatting menu annotated
  5. Click OK. The new style is added to the Styles list in both the format bar and the Format>Style menu. Style list with new Letters-GH style formatted

TIP: Styles you create are only added to the current project. However, you can import the stylesheet from another project via Format>Style>Import Styles.

Applying a Style

To apply a style to a section of text:

  1. Select the text.
  2. Choose the desired style from the Styles dropdown menu in the format bar.

Redefining a Style

To change the format of a style:

  1. Select text that has that style applied and adjust its formatting as desired.
  2. Go to Format>Style>Redefine Style From Selection and choose the style to modify. The style is redefined, and all text with that style applied is updated.

Removing a Style from Text

To remove a style from a portion of text, do the following:

  1. Select the affected text.
  2. From the Styles dropdown menu, choose No Style.

Changing the Applied Style

To change the style that’s applied to a section of text:

  1. Select the desired text.
  2. From the Styles dropdown, choose the new style to apply.

Deleting a Style

To delete a style from the current project, go to Format>Style>Delete Style, and choose the style to delete from the list.

Using the Styles Panel

If you are applying styles to a lot of snippets of text, or you want easy access to all of the style functions, open the Styles panel. It’s available via Format>Style>Show Styles Panel.

Styles panel

Preserving Formatting vs. Using Styles

You might be familiar with the Preserve Formatting feature (Format>Preserve Formatting). When you “preserve” the formatting of the selected text, it prevents Scrivener from making any changes to it during compile.

Since text with a style applied is now (usually) automatically preserved during compile, the only reason I can see to use preserve formatting is for single instances of special formatting. If you’re going to need that formatting repeatedly, I’d create a style.

Compiling with Styles

I don’t have enough room to get into compiling here—I have an entire class devoted to the topic—but there are a few things to know about working with styles in Compile. (Feel free to skim or skip if it makes your eyes cross.)

Time to strut your stuff!

NOTE: And if you’re a Scrivener for Windows user, keep the faith. I have no inside track on a release date, but all the great features I’ve been covering this year will soon be yours too.

Confused? Excited? Hit me with your Scrivener questions on styles or anything else.

About Gwen Hernandez [1]

Gwen Hernandez is the author of Scrivener For Dummies [2], Productivity Tools for Writers, and the “Men of Steele” series (military romantic suspense). She teaches Scrivener to writers all over the world through online classes [3], in-person workshops, and private sessions. Learn more about Gwen at gwenhernandez.com [4].