Thursday, June 14, 2018

Manuscript Formatting (Part 3 of 3 Parts) blog post #289

Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Before we start on this final post covering FORMATTING, let me repeat the warning I gave in the previous two posts. 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 or agents or 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:



As noted elsewhere, justify your manuscript should be left justified only, leaving the right margin ragged. It may be appropriate to fully justify some portion of your interior verbiage (a note written to one of your characters, for example). In that case, go to Home/Paragraph/and justify it with the 4th icon showing uniform lines both left and right.


This actually covers Chapters, Prologues, and Epilogues. Setting up a chapter heading is a matter of personal choice. Ending a chapter is not. When you are finished with a chapter, use a page break to make certain the new chapter starts on a brand-new page. You can create a page break a couple of ways. The simplest is Shift+Enter. Another way is to go to Layout/Page Setup/Breaks. Hit the arrow to the right of breaks. This brings up options of Page breaks and Section breaks. Select Page under Page Breaks.

Many authors center their Chapter heading using CHAPTER 1 (for example), adding a title on a second line beneath it, if there is one. I use the format preferred by my publisher, which is to use mixed case (Chapter 1) simply indented (1/2 inch) and then begin the chapter right below it, e.g.:

Chapter 1

It was a dark and stormy night.


The spacing between words. Back in the typewriter days, we learned to put two spaces between sentences. Today, we use a single space following the period and the first letter of the next word. To do otherwise marks the writer as an amateur.

We also learned underlining as a way to emphasize words, phrases, thoughts, etc. DO NOT use underlining, use italics instead. Again, underlines broadcast the writer as an amateur. As noted earlier, use italics sparingly, as they use their impact if they are overused.

Most Word applications change two hyphens (--) into an emdash (—) automatically. If your operating system does not, then the two hyphens are acceptable.

Either way, the use of dashes sometimes causes the quotation mark (“…”) to misprint, especially in dialogue. For example, in case of interruption of dialogue results in the following: “Smith,” Jones said, “I’m not going to—" Note the difference between the opening quotation mark and the closing mark. To correct, simply type as shown above (…. “going to—“”), type two quotation marks and delete the incorrect mark to get: … “going to—”

Many thanks to Sue Babcock for her assistance in putting this together, and for providing the following links to a very good treatment of Formatting by her friend Rick Taubold. I suggest you check them out.

I hope this was helpful rather than stressful.

At last, we’re finished! I hope I have some readers left. With any luck, these posts have helped a new writer or two to build the confidence to start his or her next writing project.

We’ll return to some short fiction for the next post.

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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