Thursday, June 7, 2018

Manuscript Formatting (Part 2 of 3 Parts) blog post #288

Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Today, I’ll continue to run the risk of chasing away readers by continuing my rant on manuscript formatting with the second part of the paper I prepared for my Wordwrights Writing class held each Monday (other than holidays) at the North Domingo Baca Multicultural Center here in Albuquerque.

Before we start on this week’s post, let me repeat the warning I gave in part one last week. The format I am describing has worked for me, but I do not claim this is the ONLY format or the CORRECT format, but all publishers, agents, and editors I’ve worked with found it acceptable.

The instructions for accomplishing some of the tasks named herein are performed specifically on Windows 10, Microsoft Word 2013. Mac users may find it useful but may not be able to exactly follow the instructions.

When you are ready to submit a manuscript, you will go to some source such as WRITER’S MARKET 2018 to select an agent or publisher. They ofttimes give specific requirements for formatting. For example, my present publisher requires manuscripts be spaced at 1.5 lines; many publishers require double-spaced documents.

Now let’s continue:



Show/Hide Function

I always work with the Show/Hide function (¶) on so I can spot excessive spaces between words, before paragraphs, and at the end of paragraphs. This is especially useful in editing your own work. This does not affect what prints on a page, but for reading ease on the screen, you might want to turn off the function (Home/Paragraph/¶) before sending the ms for submission.

Header and Numbering

There are several header styles, but I find the one at the top of this page to be very common. Some people put the title in CAPS, followed by name of the author in mixed case, but I adopted the one at the top of this page as preferred by my current publisher. The page number is where editors and agents normally look for them (not as a footer, for example). Be sure your header is in SAME FONT AND SIZE (POINTS) AS THE REST OF YOUR MANUSCRIPT.

To set a header, go to Insert/Header & Footer/Header down arrow/click on a blank (I use first one). That returns you to your manuscript with your cursor in the proper place. Type in your title and author credit. Then tab so that your cursor is at the right margin. Click on Page Number at the top left of your ribbon/click Current Position/plain, and the proper number will appear. (You can do this on page 50, for example, and it will correctly number the preceding 49 pages as well as all subsequent pages.)

NOTE: You do not want a header or a number on your first (or title) page. One appears unless you prevent it by going to Layout/Page Setup/Layout and click on Different First Page. Then the header disappears and your second page is correctly numbered as 2.

Fonts and Sizes

Use a font with a serif. Times New Roman is commonly accepted, but it is not the only type with a serif. Don’t pick one that looks too different from what you see in other manuscripts. Home/Font/upper left, click the arrow to select right font/click the arrow on size and pick the size you want (12-point is commonly accepted).

Keep the manuscript clean. Never submit one with fancy fonts, colored fonts, page borders, etc. Minimize italics. They can be hard to read.


DO NOT USE THE TAB KEY to indent ½ inch. Likewise, do not hit the space bar repeatedly to indent.

Work with a ruler at the top of your screen (View/Show/and click on ruler) to set a hanging indent. When the ruler is up, if you have correctly set your margins, there should be a shaded area to the left and right sides of the ruler. This indicates the area where your margins do not permit you to type. Just to the right of the left shaded area, there will be an up arrow with a down arrow directly above it. To set the indent, place your cursor on the top arrow, hold it down and move the arrow ½ inch to the right (the ruler is marked in inches and half inches). Now every time you hit the ENTER key, the computer will automatically indent the number of spaces you have set it for.

NOTE: Whenever your center something in the manuscript (titles, scene breaks, etc.), you must go back and remove the 5 points it will be off-center by moving the top arrow back in line with the lower one. This will affect only that line.

We finish this presentation next week... I promise.

I continue to hope this was helpful to some and didn’t drive the rest of you away. As I’ve often said, I’m passionate about writing and believe there’s a writer in each one of us. Bear with me.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you would like to drop me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.

The next book in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The Lovely Pines is scheduled for release on August 28 of this year. Abaddon’s Locusts follows on January 22, 2019.

See you next week.


New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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