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Creating a Question and Answer Format with InDesign Nested Styles

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In this tutorial, we'll explain how to create nested paragraph styles on a question & answer example text. This is an intermediate level tutorial, which shouldn't take more than an hour to complete, and it's great practice for utilizing InDesign styling features.

Step 1

Open up a new document, choose letter and deselect the facing pages check box.

Step 2

Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and draw a rectangle the size of our document onto the page. Fill it with a beige color from the Swatch Palette.

Step 3

Drag a guide (to make the ruler visible press Command + R) and place it to Y: 13p0.

Step 4

Select the Text Tool (T) and drag a text box fitting the guide and margins onto the page.

Step 5

With the Text Tool (T) still selected, set the columns to 3.

Step 6

I prepared some lorem ipsum (dummy text). To load a text file, just hit Command + D and select the text file. This will import and place the text into the text frame box.

Step 7

This is how the text looks when imported into the three column text box.

Step 8

Open up the Paragraph Styles Palette (F11). We need to create three basic paragraph styles. A "main" style, a "question" style and an "answer" style.

Step 9

Let's start with the "answer" style. Click the Create New Style button on the bottom and call it "answer." Set the Basic Character Format to Times New Roman, Italic, 10pt and 13 pt leading. Set the Indents and Spacing to 3 pt Space before and Space after, and set the Character Color to pink.

Step 10

Repeat Step 9 and call the style "question" this time and apply the settings you see below.

Step 11

Go back to edit the answer style (in the Paragraph Styles Palette right-click on the paragraph). In the General Tab, select for Next Style the "question" style.

Step 12

Repeat Step 11, but edit the question style and set the Next Style to the answer style. Apply the settings you see below.

Step 13

Let's create the main style. Set the Next Style to "question" and apply the settings you see below.

Step 14

Go back to edit the "question" style. Click on the Drop Caps and Nested Styles tap. Under Nested Styles we want to set up a different styling for the question word in our text. Click on the New Nested Styles tap.

Step 15

In the new Character Style pop-up we can give the text a different style. Call it "name," set the Character to Times New Roman Bold Italic, 13pt, black. Once you hit OK, the Character style will be saved to the Character Styles Palette automatically.

Step 16

Now set in the "question" style the Drop Caps and Nested Styles to "name" through 1 Word. This means that the first word of the paragraph in the "question" style will be changed to the character style "name" that we just created.

Step 17

Set the same Nested Style to the "answer" style.

Step 18

Let's see the styles in action. Select all the text and go to the Paragraph Styles Palette.

Step 19

Right click on the "main" style and choose Apply "main" then Next Style from the drop down menu.

Step 20

Voila, with one click the complete style setup has been applied to the text. Neat isn't it.

Step 21

I added a big title and to have the text columns align or drop down, you can add a runaround to the text box. Click Command + Option + W, or under Window > Text Wrap, and in the Text Wrap Palette choose Wrap around bounding box.

Step 22

You can just extend the text box and the column text will move with it.


Nested styles can be very helpful and time saving. I hope you enjoyed this quick InDesign tutorial.

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