Ediquette: How to prepare your manuscript for your editor.
Good formatting can save your editor a lot of time and hassle, which means your edited manuscript gets back to you faster. Plus it will get you into your editor’s good graces—an advantageous place to be. In this post, I’ll show you exactly how to format your manuscript in Microsoft Word before sending it off to your editor.
Use 11 or 12 point font size. Anything smaller is a strain on the eyes, and anything bigger tends to take up too much space.
Choose a common, easy-to-read font face such as Times New Roman or Calibri. Avoid any fonts that are curly, wispy, or generally hard to read.
Set your line spacing to double. Less spacing between lines can become troublesome when many comments and corrections pile up on the same page, and some pages really end up with a lot!
Don’t use the Tab key or multiple spaces to create line indents—these display differently on different computers and different versions of Word, so they can create some formatting issues. Instead, use the ruler or the paragraph dialogue box to set indents, as demonstrated below. (Click the images to see the full-size versions!)
Here's the paragraph dialogue box method:
And here's the ruler method:
Page and Chapter Numbers
There’s no need to number your pages. (Though of course you can if you'd like.) Page numbers will change as the manuscript is edited, so they don’t make very good reference points anyway.
Instead of page numbers, make sure all of your chapters have numbers. (Even if you plan to use chapter titles only in the final version.) This will help your editor make chapter references efficiently.
Use Styles instead of font size to format your chapter titles and numbers. This will create an automatic outline in your document, which will allow your editor to jump around the manuscript more easily. See how to do this below (again, click the images to enlarge them!):
First, here's how to apply styles to your chapter titles:
And here's how to modify the styles to your preferred font:
Remove all the images from the manuscript and send them to the editor in a separate Word file. Manuscript files are already large and unwieldy, and Word slows down significantly the more changes are made. Having images inside the file worsens this effect and could even make your file unusable if a lot of edits are needed.
Give each image a unique number and place the number in the manuscript where you would have placed the image. This way the editor can quickly find the image you mean to insert. Here’s an example of what that might look like (click image to enlarge):
Change all the double spaces after periods to single spaces. You can use a Find & Replace to do this: search for two spaces, and in the Replace field, enter once space. Do this at least twice to make sure all the extra spaces have been removed.
Check your manuscript for typos and other easy to find errors. Run the spellcheck function. (Wondering why you should do this? I have a post about that!)
Give your manuscript a clear, specific, and simple file name. Your name plus the name of the project works well. (For example: Toni Suzuki_The Editor in the Forest.docx)
Avoid generic file names like “my story.docx” or “novel.docx”. These kinds of file names are a good way to get your manuscript misplaced by your editor.
The truth is, the first thing I do when I start editing a new project is make all the changes you’ve learned in this blog post. But it’s always a delight to receive a manuscript that I can just jump right into editing, without all the formatting busywork that’s usually needed beforehand. It not only saves me time (and thus you some money), but it shows me that you’re thoughtful and courteous as well!
Have any questions about formatting your manuscript? Feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to help you out!