3 Tips To Master The Text In Your InDesign Document

by Stefano Bernardi 5 minutes to read

Dealing with threaded text and overset text in InDesign is a constant pain when working with files produced in many languages.

Some target languages will have radically more or less text than the source language when you get the translated file, and that might impact the document’s layout and require you to have to fix various issues here and there.

We, InDesign users, are often very busy and sometimes we prefer to deal with issues when they come up.

However, there are strong reasons to “program” your layout to “host” a shorter or longer textual content.


Working on the base language document (before going to translation) is the right choice because:

  • You understand the language and the context perfectly
  • You only have to edit one single document
  • You’ll have the final documents faster

Once you’ve learned these simple tips, you will be able to create your documents correctly and very easily. You’ll avoid mistakes and meeting deadlines will be much easier.

Want to get better at InDesign?

Sign up today for free and be the first to get notified on new tutorials and tips about InDesign. Immediately get a useful InDesign Shortcut Cheat Sheet sent to your inbox.

1. Make the text jump

Text from a first box flows into a second one

As illustrated in the picture, we often size text-boxes so that the text from a first box flows into a second one.

This is a very common way of dealing with text, but there is actually a better method.

By using “Column Breaks” you can control your text in a more precise and efficient way.

Use of InDesign Column Breaks

Columns breaks allows you to:

  • edit the text without having to trigger changes to the layout
  • replace your text with a shorter text
  • replace your text with a longer text

You can insert a “Column Break” in InDesign by pressing Fn + Return in your keyboard or by clicking on Type > Insert Break Character > Column Break.

Note: There are more break characters. I prefer to use the “Column break” because it allows you to jump from both a column to another and from a text box to another by using the same character.

2. Scale the text

Vertical and Horizontal scale are two text attributes that you might want to take into consideration to quickly adjust your layout.

Text has many different settings. Most of the time you won’t use many of those settings, so InDesign sets a default value.

The default settings for both the vertical and horizontal scale are 100%.

When you copy translated text into your document (or replace it using Redokun), longer text can overflow the box.

The result can be:

  • the dreaded red plus sign – this indicates that part of the text is hidden
  • text flows into the wrong box

Text that overflow the box

An easy way to adjust this is by changing the scale of the text with a simple Find / Change:

Make sure that Find what: and Change to: fields are empty;

Click on the first icon next to the Find format: field;

InDesign: find format

In the window that opens, click on Advanced Characters Formats;

Set Horizontal Scale to 100%;

InDesign: Horizontal Scale to 90

Click on the first icon next to the Change Format field and set the Horizontal Scale and Vertical Scale to a lower percentage (e.g., 90%);

Click on Change All – All the text in your document will be scaled to 90% and should fix the overflow text by taking up less space.

[Advanced TIP] Use a paragraph style

When I create the Paragraph Styles, I generally start from a Style that I use as a base to which I link all my other Styles.

When I am about to finish my document, I set this paragraph to have Horizontal Scale to 130%.

It results in all the text taking up much more space than it should. At this point, I insert “Column breaks” at the end of each chunk of text and resize the frame to contain the correct text before setting the Horizontal Scale back to 100% .

Check this post to learn how to use Paragraph Styles like a pro and download the boilerplate I use for my projects in InDesign

3. Prevent overset text in InDesign

From the two previous tips derive this one. Since the translated text might take up more space than the source one, it’s good to leave some white space at the end of each text box.

As mentioned above, you can use the “Column break” feature to control the flow of your text.

Use of InDesign Column Breaks

Easily deal with many languages

Redokun was developed with the express purpose of helping InDesign users who are working on multilingual projects.

If your company uses InDesign, then you should definitely give it a try.

With Redokun you can:

  • drastically reduce the time spent on getting documents translated
  • significantly cut down on translation expenses
  • reduce time spent on updates and revisions

Subscribe to the trial and try Redokun for free for 14-day!

Stefano Bernardi
Stefano Bernardi

Stefano has worked on numerous mid to large–sized InDesign projects for Alstom, DeLonghi, Philips, and many others before starting Redokun in 2015.
As Redokun’s Co-Founder, Stefano spends most of his time helping customers to optimize their InDesign work-flow. He also holds in-house InDesign courses for companies in the Venice, Italy area.

19 Tips To Optimize Your InDesign File For Translation (Free eBook)

Free InDesign eBook
A short guide for InDesign users who work on multilingual projects. It'll give you an exhaustive look into the issue of creating an InDesign document ready for translation.

Get your multilingual projects done faster with Redokun. Free for 14 days.