Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Time to Write: #8 Sidebars

In writing the book about my mother’s family I have added sidebars to my book. A basic sidebar is not difficult to add in Microsoft Word. In the top task bar go to: Insert/Text Box & look at the options in the drop down menu. I have used the Conservative sidebar because I don’t want any lines or colors to take away from the content.

I like to place the sidebars on the outer edges of the pages; on the left edge on the left hand pages & on the right edge on the right hand pages. I don’t want them lost on the inner margins, especially if the pages do not lay flat.

I use sidebars for two different reasons.

First, I have used sidebars to add photographs to my book. I have read many genealogy books where photos are placed in a separate section but I like to see the faces of the people I am reading about so I have the text & the photos together. I set my sidebars about two inches wide so my photos are small but if I kept the photos at their original size they would take up lots of space & each new page makes the book more expensive. I caption the photos with name, date & location when known. I’ve also added photographs of churches, homes and tombstones of the people I am writing about. I like the look of the pages with sidebars and I think the photos liven up the pages.

Second, I have used sidebars to add historical notes. For example, when I was writing about the birth of my Nana, Helen F (Coyle) Gardner, born 9 January 1897 in New York City, I added a side bar to paint a picture of the time and place she was born. I include the source of the historical note.

New York City in 1897. New York has more than 2,000 street vendors selling cheaply priced fruits, vegetables, household goods, and clothing. Their pushcarts are to be found mostly on the Lower East Side… The vendors buy wholesale lots of factory seconds, surplus or damaged food items, and the like: customers buy rotting pears for almost nothing and salvage the edible portions; they buy second – and third – hand shoes; even complete wedding outfits (for as little as $10)…. A pushcart can be bought outright for $5 to $10, but most of the vendors rent their carts for 10 to 25 cents a day; with an initial investment of $5, a peddler can earn $8 to $10 per week, enough to support a family of five.  Source: James Trager, The New York Chronology (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2003), p. 251.

Our family members are the characters of the story and the historical facts are the setting. Sidebars help to add details to that setting.   My historical notes might include economic, political or social information on local, state or national level. 


  1. It's good to know that option is available in Word, Colleen. Your book is looking great. Well done.

    1. Dara, if you play around with Word you can find many options there. Thanks for your kind comments.

  2. I have only used Blurb for my books, but the different layout options create the same kind of look. I agree that seeing pictures along with text is more appealing than all text. I think putting text in a sidebar looks best if you use a different font or font size. You can also fill the text box with color, a light grey for example, to distinguish it from the main body. The pages you show look great!

    1. Wendy, I was going to play with making the sidebars a light gray & see how that looks. I may also use italics for the test. Not sure yet. Thanks for coming by!


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