Formatting Your Work for Editors

You may notice, in these articles, that I don’t indent my paragraphs. I double space between paragraphs. I use that format because it works well with WordPress for my website. That is not the format I would use when sending a manuscript to an editor.

Before computers, writers sent all their manuscripts hard copy. They needed to double space, put ample margins around the text, and indent the paragraphs. Today, if you send hard copy, you can do the same thing. But you may be sending an email attachment or a CD. In that case it makes a difference how you indent your paragraphs and set your margins. You may be formatting in a way that makes extra work for an editor. Editors are busy enough without extra work. How can you make your manuscript easier to edit?

Indenting paragraphs: Don’t use the keyboard tab or space bar to indent paragraphs. If you do that, the editor will have to undo what you’ve done so that the graphics team can format the text according to their specs. Use the ruler at the top of the page to set indents.

My ruler has a top triangle, bottom triangle, and a square. The top triangle is the first line indent, which I use to indent paragraphs. The bottom triangle sets things outside the margins. The square sets the left margin. To indent I move the top triangle over as far as I want to indent before I start typing. If I need to change something I’ve already written, I hold down the ctrl key and press the  A  key. This selects the whole document. Then I set the top triangle.

How much should you indent paragraphs? Follow the writer’s guidelines if they mention this. Otherwise the width of about 5 spaces should be fine.

Spacing between lines: Hard copy should always be double spaced. You can doublespace attachments or computer files by using the toolbar icon or, from the top menu, using format; paragraph; indents and spacing. Never enter return (or hit enter) twice at the end of each line. An editor can easily change a computer document from single space to double space. But if you single space a document and double space between paragraphs, the editor will have to delete the spaces between paragraphs.

Spacing between sentences: Years ago two spaces was standard. Now you should only use one.

Automatic bulleted or numbered lists: These features will be lost in trasition so you should enter bullets or numbers manually.

Formatting in this way won’t make your manuscript look any different to you, but it will save work for your editor if she accepts your work. And we all want to keep our editors happy.

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