Word Composition

Composition is the act of applying structure to content, resulting in a file that conforms to standards of best practices for editorial and production processes. In Word and InDesign, this is done by applying styles to elements in publications.


This composition procedure is presented in a standard default order. Depending on what is in your specific file, you may decide to adjust the order to suit your needs.

Planning and Approach

Plan the Work

1. Assess

Scroll through the file. Determine what elements exist and decide which styles to apply. (Keep a list of these choices.)

2. Plan

Plan for the best method of applying each style (associate styles; clicking manually using Style Galleries; search-and-replace).

Identify which paragraph styles can be safely mapped to ScML globally.

Establish which editorial cleanups are to be done at the time of composition. This may vary by project.

3. Act

Carry out the planned actions.


1. Save Regularly

Save your file regularly as you work. Some of the routines cannot be undone easily; saving ensures you can fix a problem or backtrack as needed.

2. Draft View

Put your file in Draft View. (The Style Area Width should be set to a number greater than zero so you can see the paragraph styles in use.)

Follow the following menu options to adjust the Style Area Width:

PC: File > Options > Advanced > Display > Style area pane width in Draft and Outline views

Mac: Word > Preferences > View > Window > Style area width

3. Check Your Work

  • While working, use the SAI’s Report Non-ScML Styles feature to find styles that will need to be composed in ScML or cleared out.
  • Check your work against the source document. (For example, if block quotations have been indicated with indentation, has that designation been retained in the composed document?)
  • Scroll through the document. The tools can help, but they cannot identify when human judgment is needed.
  • When done, check your work using the SAI’s File Check option and the Digital Hub’s Alerts, Checks, and Stats features.


1. Apply the ScML Template

Click Apply ScML Template in the SAI toolbar.

If user-defined styles can be mapped to ScML styles, associate styles at this time.

2. Check for Graphics

If there are images embedded in the Word file, replace them with callouts.

Note: Any graphics remaining in the Word file will be replaced with callouts during conversions through the Digital Hub, with the graphics saved into the project’s image assets. This should be considered a safety net to preserve any graphics that may otherwise have been lost; the best practice is still to handle graphics outside of a Word document.

3. Compose Part/Chapter Titles and Heads

Compose all the part titles, chapter titles, and heads throughout the document.

For stacked heads, compose only with the basic head style (e.g., ah, bh, ch). Do not apply “aft” variations of heads except for ahaft if an a-head precedes the first regular paragraph in a chapter.

In addition to heads, compose any paragraph that is using a particular rendering as the base font (e.g., if all sense line paragraphs are using italics). This will remove the italics for you when a new paragraph style is applied and ensure that you don’t have to go back and remove character styles by hand.

4. Run Rendering Cleanup in the SAI

In the SAI, go to the Cleanup window.

1. File Selection

In File Selection, select which files and which parts of files are to be changed.

Note: By default, the Cleanup tool will run on the main text, footnotes, and endnotes of the active file.

2. Settings

In Settings, select Rendering to apply ScML styles to Word’s character rendering.

5. Compose Space-Break Paragraphs

Compose any elements whose distinction would be lost when empty hard returns, multiple spaces, or tabs are deleted.

This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • unornamented section breaks (psec)
  • continued paragraphs following interrupting elements (pcon, ntcon)
  • poetry stanza breaks
  • copyright data
  • code lines
  • adjacent standalone paragraphs (refining the document will provide proper spacing articulation)

6. Compose Remaining Non-p Paragraphs (With Some Exceptions)

At this time, do not compose spacing variations (f, l, s, or o) other than those listed in the previous step. Identify only the structural aspects of the paragraph. A later step will use the Refiner to add the spacing variations.

Compose any paragraph that is not p, pf, paft, td, a list generated by Word , or an endnote/footnote using Word’s “Endnote Text” or “Footnote Text” styles. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • block quotations
  • epigraphs
  • sidebars
  • figures
  • table content that is not td

To cycle through remaining special elements in the book, open up a style gallery, check “Autoselect Next Para. Group,” “Skip ScML Paragraph,” and “Skip Likely <p> Paragraph.” Apply a style or skip as appropriate.

7. Compose the Character Styles

Identify any character styles that need to be differentiated from standard i, b, or sm styles.

This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • dispk
  • fighn
  • thn
  • hemb

Apply “Default Paragraph Font” to remove character styles as needed.

8. Insert Structure Indicators

Insert structure indicators to identify sections that do not include part or chapter titles (such as front matter sections preceding the Table of Contents).

Insert structure indicators to group or separate complex structures, as needed.

Structure indicators can be inserted using the SAI’s Insert Structure Indicators button.

Structure indicators do not need to be inserted for elements that follow the default behaviors of paragraph groups.

For more information on Structure indicators, see Structure Indicators in Word.

9. Run Cleanup Options in the SAI

The Refiner process in the Digital Hub can perform many of the actions available through the SAI’s Cleanup Options. You may choose to use the Refiner before continuing with the SAI’s Cleanup Options for some documents.

In the SAI, go to the Cleanup window.

1. File Selection

In File Selection, select which files and which parts of files are to be changed.

By default, the Cleanup tool will run on the main text, footnotes, and endnotes of the active file.

2. Settings

In Settings, check the cleanup and formatting options to be used.

Select the following:

  • Spaces
  • Paragraphs
  • Rendering

If required, further cleanups can be marked at this time. For more information on the SAI’s Cleanup Options, see SAI Tools.

10. Refine the Document

Upload the file to the Digital Hub and run the Refiner (MS Word Document to Refined MS Word Document conversion) to apply spacing distinctions.

Settings available for the Refiner include the following:

  • Convert Notes
  • Place Footnotes at Section Breaks
  • Place Endnotes at Section Breaks
  • Articulate Spacing Distinctions for MS Word

11. Final Cleanup and File Check

Run File Check in the SAI.

Upload the .docx file to the Digital Hub. View the Alerts tab and Stats and Checks fields to identify potential errors.

Potential errors include the following:

  • en/enref/ennum or fn/fnref/fnnum counts not matching
  • combining Unicode characters in use
  • missing or duplicated structure indicators

Convert the .docx to .sam in the Digital Hub and run the text checks listed in the Composition QC Checklist.

Common Composition Considerations

When composing, there can be a wide variety of elements to consider. The following is a list of some of the common considerations to be reviewed in documents.

The rendering in Microsoft Word, as defined by the Scribe Word template, has no effect on the rendering defined within a typesetting program or an e-book’s CSS settings. Specific notations can be added for future rendering instructions, as needed, such as indicating if poetry needs to center-align instead of left-align.

1. Paragraph Variations

The Refiner in the Digital Hub can automate certain distinctions for p paragraphs, identifying which are to be pf or paft. These paragraph styles have a consistent set of rules within a document’s structure. Others, like pcon, need to be identified, as they have an editorial distinction.

  • The first standard paragraph (p) of every chapter should be pf.
  • The first standard paragraph (p) following heads and section breaks should be paft.
  • Use pcon to indicate a continued paragraph after an interrupting element. If the paragraph after a block quotation, for example, is to be a new paragraph, then use the p style.

2. Spacing Rules

The Digital Hub can articulate spacing distinctions as part of the Refiner or conversion processes. When reviewing the file for these distinctions, the following rules apply:

  • Do not allow multiple stand-alone paragraphs in a row (e.g., bqs, wls, eps).
  • Do not follow a “last” with a “first” (e.g., sll followed by slf).
  • When spaced elements are next to each other, the bigger element, or the interrupting element, will control the spacing (e.g., if a numbered list item follows a head, then it should not be identified as nlf; it should just be nl).

3. Character Styles

1. Character Styles in Heads

Source files commonly use bold and italic rendering to designate head levels. This rendering can be removed when using the SAI’s Associate Styles feature. Searching for head styles and replacing with Default Paragraph Font is also an efficient method for removing unwanted character styles in heads.

2. Character Styles on Entire Paragraphs

The Scribe Word template approaches all paragraph styles as having a roman base font. Compose files with this approach, even if rendering will be reversed to an italic base font in a final design.

There may be exceptions to this when preparing files for e-books.

Copyright pages often have intricate style distinctions and should be composed before automated cleanup steps are run.

The cip styles should be used for the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data text. Use the appropriate cip style variations to set proper spacing and indentation.

Other copyright page text should use the crt styles.

5. Figures and Captions

1. Style Choice: figh vs. figcap

  • Compose as figh only if a figure head number (fighn) is present or if the text is functioning as a head or is a title preceding an image or caption text.
  • If the caption is merely descriptive text, compose it as figcap.

2. Figure Placement

  • If figure placement requires a specific instruction, include the instruction in Scribe’s query format ({~?~TN: instruction text here}).
  • Figures should never break a paragraph unless specific instructions are in the text (e.g., if the text introduces the image and then has a continued paragraph after it).

6. Tables and Tabs

Tables should be in table format, with paragraph styles applied to each line.

If left as tabbed text, use only one tab per column (even if the alignment looks unclear in Word).

Tables built in Word will import as InDesign tables when converted to InDesign Tagged Text (IDTT), retaining all cell features. Tables left as tabbed text will import as tabbed text in InDesign when converted to IDTT.

If a table is immediately preceded by a structure indicator (e.g., {~?~ST: begin figure}), the table will import as conditional text into InDesign and be hidden in the typeset. If this text pattern exists in your Word document, remove that set of structure indicators and add them into the .scml file before proceeding with e-book creation.

7. Poetry (Senselines)

Compare with the source file to confirm that each line of poetry has been composed to maintain proper space breaks and indentation.

Use different levels of poetry to indicate regular levels of indentation (sl, sl1, sl2, etc.) rather than using tabs.

8. Written Language

Use written language (wl) styles for text that will render in a manner that represents its content (e.g., making the text of a street sign render in a special font). This is distinct from a block quotation (bq), which is not meant to look like the text being quoted.

9. Foreign Languages

Foreign language characters only need to be composed for rendering such as italic, bold, superscript, or subscript. The Digital Hub’s Compose Language Styles settings will apply appropriate ScML style names for all characters outside the basic ASCII range, including Greek, Hebrew, Chinese, and more.

10. Footnotes and Endnotes

When composing notes, the following basic rules and standards apply:

  • Footnotes and Endnotes in Microsoft Word are typically best left as dynamic notes and only converted to main level text when all copyediting processes are complete.
  • In the main text, note references should use the fnref or enref character style.
  • In the footnote paragraphs (fn), the note numbers should be fnnum.
  • In the endnote paragraphs (en), the note numbers should use ennum.
  • Notes that are multiple paragraphs should be composed using en/fn for the paragraph with the note number and enp/fnp for subsequent paragraphs. Other nt variations are available for elements such as block quotations and lists within notes sections.
  • If endnotes will be collected at the end of the book, add an ah preceding each new set of notes.
  • Add Word Section Breaks to enable notes to restart their numbering in each new section.