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David Bergsland talks about

Run-in Heads

plus, the proper use of character styles

Until very recently, what we used to call run-in heads have been very painful to produce. What we are talking about is inserting level three or level four subheads into the beginning of a paragraph. This has several advantages.

First, it is obviously a subhead of lesser importance than a header that has its own paragraph. Like a headline or a second-level subhead, a run-in head's importance is clearly indicated by its position within the typography.

Second, run-ins save a lot of room. Each subhead takes close to a quarter inch, or more. A run-in head never adds more than a single line of copy to a story. You can easily save inches of body copy length.

Third, run-in heads are very readable. They fit very well into the flow of reading. And they do not add any unnecessary white space.

Automated Nested Character Styles

InDesign produces run-in heads by automatically placing (or nesting) character styles into the start of a paragraph. You determine when the character style ends by setting an ending character. You can use as many nested character styles as you need, The only limitation is that they start from the beginning of a paragraph.


Character styles you'll need:
I have found three character styles that I always need. The first one is a 1 Bold (heavy or Black) based on the font family used for the heads. Second is a 2 Italic style that uses the italic version of the body copy. Third, I have a style that I call 3 Bold Body that uses the bold, heavy, or black version of the body copy font.


Remember! For a character style you only make setting for things that will change. If you leave a field blank the character style will have no effect upon the formatted copy.

I find these three styles necessary, not only for nested styles, but simply to deal with underlined copy that needs to be changed to bold or italic depending on the usage.

These are the three I used in the sample paragraphs with the three nested styles below. I play with character styles a lot. I commonly have a small caps bold variant. I usually have a smash style using an extra bold or ultra style of a radically different font used to strong emphasis. I'm currently using twelve in my booklets -- because I am demoing the use of character styles. The main thing is to add character styles if you find yourself locally formatting.

Character styles should eliminate most local formatting: This is a big deal. Local formatting is the bane of your existence. It should only be done as a last resort when you are doing the final cleanup of a document before the final proof to eliminate widows and orphans. A good set of character styles will make almost all local formatting unnecessary.

A Set of Nested Style Samples

Adobe's name indicates what they really are -- because they are much more powerful than simple run-in heads. As mentioned, a nested style allows you to apply a character style to the start of the paragraph until a specified delimiter appears.

You can have a bold style run-in until the first colon, for example. This is a very common addition. Here are three quick samples using the three styles talked about above.


Bold through colon: This is one of my default styles that I use in almost every document. But I can easily add a second nested style through the first em-dash.

Smash through colon: Italic through the em-dash -- then back to normal copy. I could even add bold through a second colon -- if I wanted.

Publishing With InDesign: by David Bergsland -- Practical training in page layout: what a wonderful book (though it's out of print)!

The Bible: by God's inspiration -- Practical training in living: now this is truly an excellent book!

Tips for Nested Styles

If you want you paragraphs to start normally and then switch to a character style at a certain point, the first nested style should be [None].

If there is not a standard character to indicate where you want the nested styles to change, insert a special character called "End Nested Style" character. The easiest way to do this is to right-click (Control-click) and choose Insert special character, The End Nested Style here character is at the bottom of the list. You can set the shortcut for this character.

You can control the size and color of tab leaders using nested styles also. In the sample below (Fig4), the Copy starts with a nested style of none to the Tab, A 6pt Blue nested style through the tab, and an 18pt Maroon Black for the number.

You are limited only by your imagination.

This type of styling change is the perfect solution for programs or catalogs. They work marvelously well for tables of contents and menus.

This is a tool you'll use a lot!

David Bergsland

P.S. find out about the uses of EM and N dashes at: A List Apart

Also by David:

BEST Gradient Paragraph Rules
BEST Art from Dingbats
BEST New Typography: What difference does it make?
BEST Complex Tables in Adobe InDesign
BEST Using Numbers in the proper Case

David Bergsland

David has been a graphic designer, art director, teacher, and author on digital printing and publishing for nearly forty years. He has written several books, See his books and tutorial materials) designed well over a hundred fonts, and taught on the digital publishing industry needs for the past fifteen years. Presently he is working for a large printing company developing training materials for InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Acrobat. Most of his recent works are published by Radiqx Press and available on his Website: bergsland.org

Copyright ©2006 David Bergsland This is reprinted here with permission and kudos to David for contributing some of is extensive knowledge for DTG readers!

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