Getting rid of Gutenberg ‘hard returns’ for the iLiad e-reader

Frustratingly, if you take plain text documents from the magnificent Gutenberg Project and use a word processor to convert them, they end up with ‘hard returns’ which break the lines and prevent them from wrapping properly. This makes for a very frustrating read.

The solution is to copy into a word processor file and remove all of the hard breaks while at the same time – important – making sure that the paragraph breaks remain.

  1. First step: in order to exempt all instances of two consecutive hard returns (those separate paragraphs and headings from the text) and replace them with a something unique – say FLESHISGRASS – which I will replace again with hard returns in step 3. This is to protect them from the second step.In MS Word, for example, I do this by Finding all instances of ^p^p (if you don’t know the code for a ‘Paragraph Mark’ as Word calls them, reveal all the Search Options and look for the menu of options for special – non alphanumeric – characters).

  2. The second step finds all hard returns. Deciding what to replace them with depends on what currently ends the lines of text in your book – whether it’s a space followed by the hard return, or just the hard return. Find this out by turning on the formatting, deleting a hard return and observing whether the words run together. It’s important to ascertain this, because if there is no space currently before the hard return, and I don’t insert one there during the Find/Replace, the result is that two words are run together.

  3. The third step finds all the unique codes of XXXXX we entered in the first pass and replace them with two Hard Returns, so restoring the line breaks between paragraphs and headings and text.

  4. Convert to a PDF file as normal

4 thoughts on “Getting rid of Gutenberg ‘hard returns’ for the iLiad e-reader

  1. Dear Sir/Madam:

    I guess form typewrirter days I always hit enter at the end of a sentence which causes hard returns I found out. My manuscript is writen in RTF but opens in MS Word. I was told to go to tools-options-and check all boxes under formatting. Then to delete all the backward p”s. It will not let me delete them.

    This manuscript is 286 pages and my publisher say I have to remove all the hard returns because they can’t print it with them in there.

    If anyone knows how to delete them please email me. Thank you for your time.

  2. Carol, sounds like a real headache.

    All I can say is, in Word you need to show the formatting (there should be a ‘backward P’ icon on Word’s Formatting Toolbar.

    If you can’t delete these backwards Ps it may be that the document is write-protected – can you copy the text of that document (control+a then control+c) and then paste this into a new document which you can edit?

    Best of luck with it.

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