Formatting Your Manuscript for Your Editor

You’d be surprised how often I get a document from an author with the formatting all over the map. Formatting changes from one page to the next. Sometimes from one paragraph to the next. Margins are moved, a zillion returns take up space, random returns where they don’t belong, and so on. What the heck happened here?

So here’s the thing: I want you to learn how to use Microsoft Word. That’s what all the publishers use. And I want you to learn how to use it before you send your manuscript to me. :)

Here are some things to pay special attention to:

• Do set your preferences to incorporate the items below so all your documents will have the same foundation, and if you copy and paste from one to the other you won’t bring any odd formatting or weird fonts with you.

• Make sure the left and right margins are an inch and a quarter.

• Don’t tab in when you start a new paragraph; instead, set the ruler to indent for you.

• Don’t insert returns to move to the next page (say, at the end of a chapter); instead, insert a page break.

• Don’t insert space (returns or otherwise) to bring the beginning of your chapter halfway down the page. The typesetter will take care of that later. We’re editing now, not prettifying.

• Don’t tab in to center a headline; select it and choose center on the toolbar.

• Don’t tab in to create a text block (of quoted material, for example); instead select the text and reset the margins.

• Do not insert a return (a line of space) after every paragraph; this is a manuscript, not a business letter.

• Do not add space before or after a paragraph (using the alignment/spacing tool); the space between lines should be equal.

• Do use double spacing.

• Don’t justify the text; use flush left.

• Don’t use the automatic footnote function, which creates a link between the number and the note; create a separate document with the notes in it. Do use superscript to place the footnotes in the proper place. (OK, it’s fine to use the automatic footnotes if this is your doctoral thesis, or any other paper for school. Or for something you’re going to print at Kinko’s. It is not fine for a manuscript that will be professionally typeset.)*

• Don’t automate the bullet point list; you can do it yourself, honest. :)

• Do not put a box around a line you want to use as a call-out; in fact, don’t put a box around anything. Ever.

• Don’t insert photos or graphics. Note where they should go within the manuscript, but send me the graphic files separately. Remember they should be high resolution.

• Don’t spend time formatting anything, honestly, beyond bold and italics. No fancy fonts, please.

• Do not send me two dozen different documents, one for each chapter; that is just asking for trouble. Combine the whole manuscript into one document.

• Just use Times New Roman.

Next, I want you to learn how to use track changes. I have a little homemade tutorial.  You’re going to love it. Honest. :)

Seriously, it’s astonishing what I see. At some point, kids, someone’s got to clean that mess up. And I gotta tell ya, it ain’t gonna be me. It’ll be easier for all of us if you do it right to begin with.

*I’m told InDesign—the layout program used by the publishers I know—handles footnotes just fine without unlinking them. However, I’m still asked to unlink them by these same publishers. :)

 

Tweet: It will help us both if you’ll learn how to use Word correctly. Please.
Tweet: Everything you ever wanted to know about formatting your MS but were afraid to ask.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for these points. Shall be going back to my manuscript. Not guilty of all but guilty of ‘using tab’ as described. Have bookmarked your post!

  2. […] Formatting Your Manuscript For Your Editor by Jamie Chavez at Read>Play>Edit […]

  3. […] “Formatting Your Manuscript for Your Editor” by Jamie […]

  4. Bates says:

    Do you have another tutorial for how the writer should respond to your comments and corrections in track changes? Please. Put me out of my misery.

    • Jamie says:

      I haven’t written that one yet, but I’ll start on it right away. In the meantime, email me. :)

  5. […] a friend commented on my post about formatting a manuscript to be edited, asking, “Do you have another tutorial for how the writer should respond to your comments and […]

  6. […] party without knowing how to operate the stove? Again, no. Learn how to use the tools you have, and learn how to format a manuscript. Then clean everything up. Do your level best to find typos. Run spell check. Look for missing […]

  7. […] Last week I got the tweaks back from an author new to me. We’d had some great email and Facebook conversations, and she’d been very calm and professional. But until the tweaks arrived, I didn’t realize she’d been doing some homework: she’d read my post on how to format your manuscript. […]

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7 Trackbacks

  1. By Friday Features #16 | Yesenia Vargas on 3 August, 2012 at 12:50 pm

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  3. By “Track Changes” Is Your Friend. Mine Too. on 11 February, 2013 at 5:51 pm

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  5. By Nothing Matters But the Words on 29 September, 2014 at 8:12 pm

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  7. By The Invisibles on 9 November, 2015 at 5:06 pm

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