The Invisibles

As you might expect from someone who grew up to be an editor, I am (generally) an orderly person. Everything in its place, organized, methodical, systems, processes, plans … that sort of thing.

This includes the way a manuscript looks when I am working on it. I like it to be neat. (Or at least neatish.)

We’ve discussed this before. Here’s a list of dos and don’ts to help you set up your Word document, for example (“Formatting Your Manuscript for Your Editor”). I know I preach “Nothing Matters But the Words,” but there’s a difference between going crazy with fancy fonts and putting your best foot forward with a neat and clean manuscript so as not to distract your editor.

I am continually surprised, for example, to see margins move from page to page, fonts change from paragraph to paragraph, or the auto-indent on … then off … then on … then off … Or multiple tabs used to center a chapter title when all you’d have to do is, well, center the line.

And do you realize how often you hit the space bar when you’re thinking? A lot, friends. Between words, at the end of sentences, and even at the beginning of paragraphs.

Yep, I’ve seen manuscripts with a single space added before the first word of every new paragraph.

I know these are unconscious things you do. But they’re distracting and they’ll have to be cleaned up (by someone; preferably not me). And while find-and-replace works for a lot of things, I haven’t yet been able to figure out how to use it to remove those single spaces at the beginning of a paragraph. Styles (pre-defined formatting instructions) can be set to handle a lot of these things but learning advanced techniques can be maddening and most of you won’t bother when all you want to do is get words on the page.

So here’s a simple thought: turn on the invisibles. If you can see the mess, if you realize you’re making a mess, you might be more inclined to do something about it. You know about the invisibles, right? Tabs, spaces, returns … all of them have place-holding symbols that you can see in your document when the invisibles are set to “on.”

Here’s how: in your menu, click on this: ¶.

See it there? SHOW [invisibles] …

See it there? SHOW [invisibles] …

            When you’ve turned on the invisibles, you’ll see that same symbol (in blue) every time you hit the return key to start a new paragraph. That’s a hard return. (If you see a left-facing blue elbow arrow, that’s a soft return, and though you move to the next line, you don’t begin a new paragraph. Among other things, your auto-indent won’t behave how you expect it to. Just delete the soft return and use the ¶ instead.)

You’ll see a right-facing blue arrow every time you hit the tab key—and that’s a reminder to set your auto-indent instead. You definitely don’t want to see multiple tab arrows in a row; that means you’re doing something wrong. :)

You’ll see a tiny dot between every word, representing every time you hit the space bar. You may see more than one dot between words—so delete the extras. (You may see more than one after a period, in which case you should delete those too.) And definitely delete the dot if it begins a paragraph!

This is a little thing, turning on the invisibles. I always have them on, because I find it very useful for seeing the little (ahem) messes. You might too!

Tweet: Do you realize how often you hit the space bar when you’re thinking? A lot, friends.
Tweet: You know about the invisibles, right? Tabs, spaces, returns—all of them have symbols.

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.”

 

Posted in Your Editor Says … | Tagged as: , , , , | Bookmark the permalink | Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

8 Comments

  1. Very helpful. Thank you – printing this one.

  2. Sally says:

    Oh, those extra spaces and tabs! Spaces at the ends of paragraphs annoy me to – quite illogically, as I don’t think they matter when the file goes to the typesetter. My house is untidy, my desk is untidy, but I get quite uptight about my Word files!

    On getting rid of the spaces at the beginning of paragraphs, in the find box type “^p ” (without the quote marks) – hat, l.c. p, space (I know it’s not called a hat!). In the replace box type “^p” (without the quote marks).

  3. Sally says:

    *too* /blushes/

  4. Consistency is so important! :) Love this.

  5. […] pages—uses a slightly different symbol for the space between words.** In MS Word, when you have the invisibles turned on (as I always do) the space between words is represented by a simple, centered dot. But […]

One Trackback

  1. By Be Careful, Little Mouse, What You Copy and Paste on 29 February, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    […] pages—uses a slightly different symbol for the space between words.** In MS Word, when you have the invisibles turned on (as I always do) the space between words is represented by a simple, centered dot. But […]