Ilene Strizver


Learning InDesign’s Nested Styles has been one of those ‘typographic’ peas I’ve been pushing around my plate for way too long. Now that I’m working on a book project that includes designing and typesetting over 40 chapters, I can’t delay it any longer if I want to avoid spending an unnecessary amount of time formatting (and sometimes reformatting) repeated elements. Here’s how I went about it:
To begin, I manually compose the preliminary design and typography of the chapter headings and the body text. It is important at this stage to set up all of your desired settings and preferences, including hyphenation, justification, numeral style, etc. This will save a lot of time when creating each individual style.
As you can see, the text formatting in the first paragraph of body text is a little more complicated than the rest. It includes a raised initial cap and a full line of small caps. Over the course of a whole book, this could be a time consuming chore, but not with the help of nested styles!
With my preferences set, I create the paragraph style for my indented body text, and character styles for the raised cap and the small cap lead-in in the first line of the first paragraph.
With these pieces in place, I can create the style for the first paragraph of each chapter, which will harness the magic of nested styles.
With my cursor in the first paragraph of text (currently formatted with my Indented Body Text style), I hold Option/Alt and click on the new style button at the bottom of the Paragraph Styles panel. This opens the New Paragraph Style dialog box, and my new style is automatically based on the existing style (Indented Body Text). I also set the Next Style to my Indented Body Text style (you’ll see why shortly).
Then all I have to do is name the new style properly and define how it should differ from the rest of the body text. To see the effects of my choices immediately, I make sure Apply Style to Selection and Preview are both selected in the dialog box.
After that, I remove the first line indent in the Indents and Spacing options. Then I click on Drop Caps and Nested Styles. I click on New Nested Style, and then select the character style I want applied to the first letter in my first paragraph: Raised Cap. Then on the right I click on “Word”, which changes to a drop-down menu, where I select Character. So I end up telling InDesign to apply the nested character style Raised Cap to the first character in the paragraph.
Next, I jump down to Nested Line Styles. I go through the same process as above, clicking on New Line Style, selecting Small Cap Lead-in, and then set it for 1 line. I hit OK, and there you have it, a Nested Style!
Now comes the test: seeing if it really works on some unformatted text, which I created on a new page. I select all of the body copy and right-click/ctrl-click on my First Paragraph style. Then from the menu that appears at my cursor, I choose Apply “First Paragraph”, Then Next Style. Instantly, all my body text is correctly formatted! The first paragraph looks great, and all those that follow are formatted with my choice for Next Style which was Indented Body Text. 
It takes a little extra effort to create nested styles, but the end result is extremely rewarding, not to mention a huge time saver. So my advice is to go ahead and take the plunge—and embrace the power of Nested (and Next) Styles!
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Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer, writer and educator specializing in all aspects of visual communication, from the aesthetic to the technical. Her book, Type Rules! The designer’s guide to professional typography, 4th edition, has received numerous accolades from the type and design community. She conducts her widely acclaimed Gourmet Typography Workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at Sign up for her free e-newsletter, All Things Typographic, at

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