Grace's Mosaic Moments

Sunday, May 6, 2012


                                                             For Print & e-Pub

I never thought to get this basic in the EDIT THE BLASTED BOOK series, but the first thing any author needs before writing, let alone editing, can begin is a properly formatted manuscript. Yet the manuscripts I see coming in to the many contests I judge (and some of the manuscripts I get from my editing clients) reveal that someone needs to list the basics of formatting for today’s market. Authors are invited to use Comments below to add items I’ve left out. (Or e-mail me at

Please note that these rules are for manuscripts, not for books being formatted for indie publishing. The rules below are for:  1) creating manuscripts for submission to NY editors and agents; 2) creating a manuscript for submission to an e-publisher; 3) creating a manuscript, which can be easily read, edited, revised, and polished before you get down to the final step of formatting for indie publishing.

Classic Formatting Rules (which many newbies seem not to know):

1.    1" margins all around

2.    Double space - manuscript & synopsis

3.    Title and Page Number in the Header - usually Title flush left & Page Number flush right. (Wherever you put the title, the Page Number is always flush right.)  Note: if you are certain you will submit only to e-publishers, and if you never print your manuscript so you can edit hardcopy, then page numbers can be omitted. But I really don’t advise it. They’re easy enough to eliminate when you don’t need them any more.

4.    Put a Required Page End (Page Break) at the end of each chapter. (Frankly, I’m stunned by the number of authors who don’t seem to know this.) DO NOT use “Enter” to get to a new page. Besides making your manuscript look highly unprofessional, it messes up your editing. Every time you add or subtract words from the page, the chapter end will likely shift, making a real mess! (I bolded this header because so many authors seem unaware of this absolute basic formatting rule.)

5.    Location & Date Line - still flush left & in italics 
    Note: this means if you’re using Auto Indents, you have to highlight the Location & Date & remove the indent on that line. [Format - Paragraph -  By - change .5 to 0]

6.    DO NOT use a block paragraph at the beginning of each scene. For one thing, that’s BOOK format, not manuscript format and looks pretentious. Secondly, it’s really annoying to take the extra time and effort to do this when you’ve set up the Auto Indents that are required in contemporary publishing. (See below.)

7.    Long quotes, such as letters (3 lines or more). Indent .5 from each side. Use italics (no quotes).

8.    Single quotes are only used when INSIDE double quotes (as in dialogue). If there is a quote in a narrative passage, use double quotes.

9.    A single space after each sentence. This is nothing to get upset about if you were taught, as I was, to use two spaces. Don’t agonize over retraining your fingers. Type the way you always have. At the end of the book, simply run a Search and Replace. Search for: space space. Replace with: space. (You make the “spaces” by hitting the spacebar.) In a matter of seconds a vast number of spaces will have disappeared.

Relatively Recent Rule Changes - some much too long in coming!

1.    Times New Roman, 12 or 14. (And I really don’t advise using anything else. For example, you might be sending your ms to a computer which doesn’t support the type font you chose.)

2.    Use Italics, not Underlines where italics are needed.

3.    Use computer word count (which means forget all that malarkey about 25 lines to the page!)

4.    Auto Indents only (in MS Word, this is done by Format- Paragraph - Special - First Line Indent - By .5) For indie authors, in particular: be sure you have NO manual tab stops anywhere. (For MS Word users, click on ¶ in the toolbar and look for the icon that looks like a sideways L with an arrow point. Get rid of every one of them!) [For instructions on converting manual tabs to auto tabs in both MS Word and Word Perfect, please see the archives of this blog: - Tab Conversion]

5.    Use M-dashes and N-dashes instead of a double hyphen or space-hyphen-space.
    In general, use a M-dash for a true dash, the shorter N-dash for a “stutter.” (For example, when someone is stumbling over what to say.) You can find both dashes under Insert - Symbols. Faster & easier are the old ASCII codes. Use Alt + the numbers on your keypad.
    M-dash = Alt + 0151      N-dash = Alt + 0150

6.    Ellipses are a genuine puzzle. I’ll stick with the classic ellipsis in the Chicago Manual of Style, which is three periods with a space before, after, and in between each one . . .
    Some E-publishers, however, have arbitrarily decided to take out the periods...making the implied pause into a hiccup. A better compromise, I would suggest, is the three periods with a space before ... and after. Frankly, why anyone would want to change the standard ellipsis is beyond me. Whatever style you choose, just be sure you are consistent. If you are indie publishing, the choice is yours. If you are submitting to a publisher, their copy editor will use the rules the house approves.

7.    Today’s manuscripts are submitted electronically in RTF.  (Rich Text Format) [This is a simple “Save As” function.] Read the agent’s &/or publisher’s guidelines (or contest guidelines) carefully before submitting. Each is a little different, and following directions exactly counts.

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Thanks for stopping by!
Coming soon: AIRBORNE - THE HANOVER RESTORATION, a Steampunk "what if" in Regency style.
More in the EDIT THE BLASTED BOOK series

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