I’ve done a lot—and I mean A LOT—of typesetting in my career. When you were a junior designer back in the day, you learned the ropes and cut your teeth by laying out copy. 

Most people dread it, but I actually find it strangely soothing. I think because typesetting appeals to my OCD side—bolding, adjusting rag, etc.—I get lost in the details. 

For those of you who dread it, my tips below should make it a little less painful. These steps will quickly adjust some major issues with client’s source files. They should also make your typesetting easier and more consistent. 



There are different dashes for different typographical situations. Below are the explanations of what the dashes are, when to use them and what keyboard shortcuts to use:

emdash (—, longest): used in a sentence in place of a period; shift, option, hyphen
endash (–, second longest): used between dates, times and numbers; option, hyphen
hyphen (-, shortest): used to separate words at the end of a line or words like “e-mail”, try not to have them at the end of two lines in a row (you can control this in paragraph style)


When you receive a Word document from a client, complete the following steps:

1. Save the document as text only (.txt).
Note that sidebars, pull quotes, etc. may not be saved in the text only format. Review the document carefully for these elements.

2. Import the .txt document into InDesign using the Place function.
If you use Copy/Paste you will lose curly quotes (you want “, not “).

3. Set up your Basic Paragraph style for your body copy with a space after or space before.

4. Before you start styling (using paragraph styles) you MUST “Find/Replace” the following:
find spacebar spacebar (double space)……..change to spacebar (single space)
find spacebar ^p (space return)……..change to ^p (return)
find ^p^p (double return)……..change to ^p (return)
find ^t (tab)……..change to nothing
find spacebar – spacebar (space, hyphen, space)……..change to spacebar—spacebar (space, em-dash, space)


General No-Nos

Never Use Spaces or Tabs to Indent a Paragraph
Use the first line indent in the paragraph style. This will ensure that no matter who opens or edits the document, the design remains the same and different default settings will not affect the layout.

Never Use Hard Returns for Extra Space between Paragraphs
Always use the space after or space before settings in paragraph style. This ensures proper flow of text when edited.

Never Use Spaces or Tabs to Push a Word to the Next Line
Instead, use soft returns or use the non-breaking space (option, spacebar) after the word you want to push to the next line.

Don’t Use Default Tab Settings
Create your own in the paragraph style.


Always Do the Following:

  • Spell check or use Dynamic Spelling in the Edit menu!
  • Pay attention to rag, hyphenation, widows and orphans.
  • Always check your layout against the client’s for special formatting (i.e., italics, bolds), special characters (i.e., fractions, ©, ®,TM ) or for missing text.


Quick Keyboard Options

Did you know that you can assign keyboard commands in paragraph and character styles to help you quickly apply formatting?

Under General in the paragraph or character style options box, there is a place to enter a shortcut for that style. I typically assign numbers (option + number)—option 1 for bold, option 2 for subhead, option 3 for italics, etc. It really helps you speed through your document.

Download Pomp’s Typesetting Guide

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask Pomp for help!

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typesetting guide • pomp creative • graphic design studio • washington, dc • annapolis, maryland