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How should I format my manuscript for an editor?

November 19th, 2020 by Jane Turner

I get asked this A LOT – “How should I format my manuscript for an editor?” I touched on this in my What happens during an edit post, but I thought I’d go into more detail.

 

First though – Word, not Google Docs. Word is the standard. If you send me your manuscript in Google Docs, you won’t get it back that way. Google Docs is fiddly, doesn’t have Word’s capabilities, and shared files can easily become corrupted. 

Just use Word. Seriously.

AND – don’t have a separate file for each chapter. Separate files make it ridiculously difficult to manage consistency checking! Have one single file which contains all the text.

 

Now – the how-to bit…

 

Spacing

The standard is double-spaced, which gives you an extra line between rows of text.

This not only makes it easy on your editor, but easier for you – as, when you get your manuscript back from your editor, you’ll be able to clearly see the markup and changes made.

Don’t put more space before or after your paragraph. There’s plenty of room when you use double-spacing.

 

Use a decent (and readable!) font

Before anything else, check your font. It should be easily readable; none of these stylistic fonts please. Comic Sans might look great, but it’s difficult to read for 50,000 words!

Recommended fonts:

  • Times New Roman (TNR)
  • Courier New
  • Arial
  • Verdana
  • Calibri

Many books now include the font used in the front matter (the page/s at the front of the book with the publishing & edition info).

Look at the books on your bookshelf. Go on, take a look – I’ll wait. Did you find the front matter? Is the font listed?

Since you’ve now got a book in your hand, turn to any page. Note how easy it is to read?

Your manuscript should be equally easy.

 

Check your language

One of the first things I check is the language used in the manuscript. It needs to be consistent all the way through, or your spellchecker will have issues and your editor will go a little crazy!Where to find the language used in your manuscript

You can find out what language is set by looking at the bottom right corner of your Word screen, as you can see on the graphic.

If you right click where it says ‘English (United Kingdom)’, you can change the language choice to whatever you like. 

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s applied through the whole document. The easiest way to do this in Word is CTRL+A to select everything, then right-click on the language and select.

 

Page Breaks

When starting a new chapter on a new page, don’t press return 40 times to get to the new page – just insert a Page Break!

Go to the Insert tab, and it’s the third item from the left.

Easy peasy – and makes sure your editor will want to work with you again.

 

Styles

Word Styles are fantastic. No, really – they’re wonderful.

No more flicking back and forward to check you’ve been consistent in your chapter headings – just use a Style!

Your Styles will appear on the Home Ribbon. Here’s what they look like.

A snap of the Word Styles box

Select a bit of text, then select a Style. Isn’t that great? 

Not only that, but you can change the detail of style by right-clicking – change it to whatever you prefer!

How to Modify a Style

Colour, size, how much space before and after, Small Caps/All Caps – make it how you like it. (Though be aware that most novels are printed monochrome, so colour is maybe not the best idea.)

Don’t forget to give your ‘new’ style a name, so you can find it in the Styles Box.

The popup box for Modifying Styles

As an added bonus, if you tick the option to Automatically Update, it will change every use of that particular Style to your newly selected preferences.

 

How awesome is that?!

Go have a play with Styles. Call me if you get stuck 😉 

 

Indents, not tabs

The other thing which is absolutely essential – use the First Line Indent function for your paragraphs. DO NOT use Tabs.

First Line Indent automatically indents a new paragraph. Much MUCH easier than tabbing, and much MUCH easier to edit!

Also, tabs are not really recognised by typesetting systems – so you may get in trouble if you’re self-publishing!

To add First Line Indent, on your Home Ribbon, find the Paragraph section and click on the wee icon on the bottom right.

How to find the Paragraph Options pane

This will open the paragraph options pane, where you can select First Line Indent, and also change your spacing to double (if you haven’t done that yet!).

Where to find First Line Indent

Like the language, if you want to automatically adjust your whole document, CTRL+A, then use this box.

 

 

Writers, do please follow these simple tips. Your editor will thank you as these simple things will save them so much time (and therefore, save YOU money!). 

 

 

And don’t forget, just  GET IN TOUCH  if you’d like a sample edit!

 

 

 

4 Responses to “How should I format my manuscript for an editor?”

  1. Much like writing coursework for uni then, use double spacing. I would have thought people might write each chapter in an individual Word document, then once finished, merged them into a single document

    • Jane Turner says:

      That makes it extremely difficult to keep consistent – and I don’t know a single editor who accepts submissions chapter by chapter.

      If you’re going to write that way, use a Style Sheet to keep track of your characters, locations, worldbuilding and spelling choices. And do a final check for consistency before sending the combined file to your editor.

  2. T. Annette says:

    Awesome advice! I really appreciated the screen shots to actually show the reader how this looks inside of the software. Thanks for sharing!

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