Format hoops, and a few Word tips

It seems like every time I send off a submission, it never fails that I’ll have to reformat some part of the manuscript to fit the editor or agent’s guidelines.  I write in what most would consider the norm, with double spacing, indented paragraphs, in 12 point Times New Roman, with page numbers in the header.

Always take the time to jump through whatever hoops they’re asking for.  Yep, it can be a pain, but I’ve heard many an editor say that if an author can’t be bothered to send their submission in the requested format, they won’t read it.  It sends up a red flag that you can’t follow simple instructions and probably wouldn’t be that easy to work with when it came to edits and such.

Here are some tips I use a lot when I need to reformat my Word documents.  These are some of the most common hoops I see people trying to figure out how to jump through.

One or two spaces after punctuation
Neither of those are an always, so take note of this easy trick.  You do NOT want to have to go through your whole manuscript manually adding and taking out spaces. (Yes, I did that once and am still emotionally scarred from the experience. )   🙂
With the document open, click on ‘replace’ to open the Find and Replace box.  If you need to replace two spaces with one, type two spaces in the Find box and hit the space bar once in the Replace box.  Hit Replace All and you’ll be good to go.  Just do all that in reverse if you need to change one space for two.

Indent Setting
My stuff is set to indent a new paragraph by a half inch, but no telling what the next editor will want it to be.  No problem, just click Select All, open the Paragraph box, click the Indents and Spacing tab, select ‘First line’ under the Indentation section where it says ‘Special’.  To the right of that, work the up and down arrows until you come to the indent you need.

Scene Breaks
Every damn body asks for something different on this.  Some want a ‘*’,  others a ‘#’,  or in any grouping from one to five ***** or #####.  That’s easy to fix with the Find and Replace option like I explained above.  These thingies will need to be centered but if you have paragraphs set up to indent the first line,  your page breaks and chapter heading won’t be in the true center, which drives me crazy.  Seriously, it does.  Put your cursor in front of the first symbol or the word ‘Chapter’, whichever needs fixing, open the Paragraph box to the Indents and Spacing tab, select ‘(none)’ under special, and the line should then be centered. You’ll have to do that for each line that needs tweaking.

What formatting hoops do you jump through most often?

7 comments on “Format hoops, and a few Word tips

  1. Great tips honey 🙂

    You’re totally right though. An agent told me recently that if she receives a MS and the writer hasn’t followed her guidelines it goes straight into the slush pile (I think she actually meant the bin but didn’t want to say that lol).

    I’m with you, I think it just gives the impression that you couldn’t be bothered if you don’t submit using their guidelines.


  2. Great tips! I am amazed at how incredibly little I know about Microsoft Word given that I spend all day every day with it! I can perform only the most basic functions – typing and deleting 🙂

  3. Jess says:

    These are great tips! I used to go through and do some of this stuff manually, if you can believe it…

  4. I’m still learning formatting. I haven’t submitted anything to anyone but crit partners and one contest. I have heard some writers say their publisher liked the scene breaks (###) at the left margin. I’m sure I’m in for a few Maalox moments once I get to that stage. LOL Great post! 🙂

  5. Find and replace is so helpful. I don’t know what I’d do without it. It provides such an easy fix.

    Have a great weekend.

  6. I never heard anyone nitpicking about one or two spaces after the period for a submission. Wow.

    Sounds like some editor somewhere has a wicked case of OCD.

  7. One that came up at my workshop this summer was whether you should put ‘The End’ or anything else on the last page. I’ve seen a lot of format guides saying not to do this, but the instructor was apparently getting confused with the abrupt endings to our stories and wondering if he’d lost pages. 😉

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