The Elegance of Templates

By David Alan Rech of Scribe Inc.


Publishers have been resistant to use templates in publications, believing them to limit creativity and restrict designs. In fact, using templates gives publishers a wider range of flexibility while keeping their workflow well-formed and consistent.

In publishing, we essentially use two types of templates: editing and typesetting. Editing templates are clearly of value. They contain the elements necessary for copyeditors to communicate. Applying styles through templates is more efficient than any other type of structure “coding,” as templates ensure consistent nomenclature and facilitate the use of house rules. Editing templates ease the editorial process and can even help authors in their submissions.

Typesetting templates (e.g., InDesign) are accepted less widely because they are perceived to limit design. The act of typesetting, however, requires the consistent treatment of elements within a book. The use of templates makes typesetting easier. A typesetting template contains a list of the elements in a publication and their rendering characteristics; a template can include chapter titles, first paragraphs, bulleted lists, and other elements. Well-conceived templates account for every element that appears within a publisher’s books, including the variations necessary in the typesetting process (e.g., paragraphs after heads or first and last items in a list). If templates are properly used, much of the expansion of elements between editorial and typesetting can be automated while you move from Word to InDesign or QuarkXPress. Thus templates save time and reduce error: they consistently set the rendering characteristics for each instance of any element. And those characteristics hold during corrections.

Templates do not limit design. They merely make it more convenient to implement the consistent look of your book. You can apply numerous attributes to a design template and alter the rendering (fonts, size, leading, etc.) of each book’s template. While using templates, you can move elements like sidebars, images, tables, and figures. A template determines how something appears, not where.

In the world of multichannel and multipurpose publishing, templates are invaluable. Their use enables a book to be easily converted from one format to another and the application of structure in copyediting to be independent of the form a book will take. They allow for simultaneous publishing in multiple forms, the chunking of materials, and the easy transmission of intermediary forms.

Templates do not restrict publishing; they increase flexibility and allow us to pursue unlimited options. Templates make publishing more elegant.