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Chapter titles and numbering (Structuring in Scrivener) | ScrivenerVirginChapter titles and numbering!

Because Scrivener offers so much flexibility and gives you so many options to choose between, sometimes you may feel overwhelmed by it all. My advice is to leave the defaults as they are and, only if you feel the need to change something, should you start to explore what options are open to you.

So, let’s explore today’s topic: Chapter titles and numbering …

Chapter titles and numbering

Structuring in Scrivener is all about creating folders and documents, and one of the first decisions you’ll be making is choosing whether just to number your chapters or to have titles, or both, or neither.

It’s totally up to you, and, as a bonus, Scrivener offers to automate the numbering for you.

How to title your chapters

Chapter titles New folder

When you create a new folder for a new chapter, Scrivener labels it as ‘New Folder’.

While this dummy text is still highlighted in blue, you can type your chosen title. Here, I have called the chapters Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 and this next one is destined to be Chapter 4.

Chapter titles Splitting chapters

While I am writing my outline, I stick this simple system: 1, 2, 3, 4, …

If later, I decide a chapter is too large and I need to break it into two smaller chapters, I’ll retitle only those two. In the example, I’ve broken chapter 2 into two and called them 2a and 2b.

Won’t that look daft when the book is compiled? No …

No, because Scrivener gives you the option not to use your folder titles, and to use automatic numbering instead. So, I don’t need to spend precious time renaming all my folders whenever I make a change to the structure of my novel. I’m content with 1, 2a, 2b, 3, 4, …

How to control what appears as the title when compiling

Chapter titles Title ticked as defaultNotice that, when you select File / Compile and reveal the formatting tab, the column headed ‘Title’ shows a tick against the yellow highlighted Level 1+. This is the default option, which means (unless you change it) whatever title you used for your chapters will appear at the start of each chapter.

Notice also that, in the same row, there is no tick for ‘Text’.

For Level 2+ (my scenes), the ‘Title’ is unticked and the ‘Text’ is ticked.

(If you need a reminder about what these levels are all about, check out my blog post on Formatting levels.)

The default provided by Scrivener is therefore: to use the titles you choose for the chapters, but not for the scenes – and to output the text from the scenes, but not whatever titles you used for them.

When you think about this, it makes a lot of sense. However, you are in control and you can output whatever you wish!

Automatic numbering in chapter titles

CHAPTER ONENotice, in the formatting pane, that Scrivener presents two lines of text: CHAPTER ONE and Title.

Again, this is the default, and you can change it if you wish. How?

Tag $tClicking on the Section Layout… button opens up a window with three tabs. The first pane is the Title Prefix and Suffix pane.

For the Prefix, it displays Chapter <$t> and it’s the tag (the characters within triangular brackets) which determines that the word ONE (rather than the number 1, or the Roman numeral I) is displayed.

If you change the tag, you’ll see different versions of the chapter numbering. Selecting Help / Placeholder reveals the full extent of tags and, if you scroll down quite a long way, you’ll find the ones used to control automatic numbering.

Chapter titles tags for automatic numbering

Lots to choose between!

Using your own titles, or not?

Chapter titles Tag example of numbering chaptersIf I choose <$n>, a digit version of the chapter numbering is displayed.

Since my numbering might not be perfect (eg 1, 2a, 2b, 3, 4, …), I have the choice of using the automatic numbering and let Scrivener count the chapters for me. Phew!

I then have to decide about my titles. Do I dream up a title for each chapter, or not?

If I decide I do want my own titles (as well as the numbering, or instead of), I simply overwrite the folder titles in my Binder.

If I decide not to do this, to remove the default Title is easy: delete it from within the display area.

Equally easy is to remove the word ‘CHAPTER’ and just leave the number, or delete the default numbering option altogether.

Or, if you don’t want anything to appear at the head of each chapter, it’s simple: just untick the box in the Title column!

As I said at the start of this post: Scrivener offers so much flexibility and gives you so many options to choose between. In the next blog post, I’ll investigate how to control the appearance of the chapter title.

If you’d like to see a demonstration of any of the features discussed in this blog post, book a Simply Scrivener Special

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Acknowledgment: © Csuzda | – Blocknetwork
  • Eric

    12 December 2023 at 19:23

    Hi. I have never been able to figure out how to get Scrivener to compile with chapters using my folder names instead of “Chapter one,” etc. I really can’t follow this blog post, or maybe it’s out-of-date with my version of Scrivener. But I still can’t make it compile with my own chapter titles.

    There’s no “formatting” tab in compile now, that I can see. I have a “Formats” column, and that doesn’t have chapter names in yellow or anything like that.

  • Roger Maxwell

    29 December 2021 at 23:52

    Thank you for your great article. However, my issue is that I have written a book with a couple of chapters that are divided up in parts within the chapter. What I did while writing those chapters was I separated the parts with two spaces then the part number, then another space to begin the next part. I did this without much thinking about compiling this later. Is there a way for Scrivener to handle this?

    Thanks for your help.


  • Aneta

    19 June 2020 at 12:19

    Bless you for changing titles in my Polish books !! I was furious where searching for option how to custom own chapters’ titles… Thank you !

  • Linda

    1 March 2019 at 00:51

    Oh my gosh! Why didn’t I come across your article two days ago!!!
    Now, I can get the darn chapter name issue off my mind all day. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. I’ll surely check out your other articles.

  • Jackie

    26 January 2019 at 02:21

    Thank you for this! I do have one question, however. If I’m writing using a preface/prologue/introductory matter that I *don’t* wanted included as a formal chapter, how to I “turn off” the settings for this? For instance, right now when I compile I’m getting my prologue as “Chapter 1.” I’ve already fixed it so that it at least says “prologue” instead of chapter 1, already, thank you for your advice above in that case. However for the rest of my chapters it is assuming the prologue is STILL Chapter 1, and so my actual chapter 1 is chapter 2, my chapter 2 is labeled chapter 3 and etc. Any ideas? Thank you!

  • Angelika

    20 August 2018 at 21:10

    Thank you! It’s been driving me mad trying to get rid of that “CHAPTER 1” thing in front of each scene, and couldn’t find the info anywhere. You’ve saved my sanity. 🙂

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