Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: Use first-line indentation, not tabs.

Within the standard manuscript format, the first line of each paragraph should be indented by 0.5 inch. However, the number of writers who manually indent the first line of paragraphs using a tab is astounding. Writers should use the built-in first-line indentation for paragraphing. As paragraphs are moved around, first lines are automatically dealt with. In addition, any tab marks need to be removed during typesetting phases, as they add issues when dealing with eBook files. Why make more work for yourself, if you don’t have to?
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Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: Search-and-replace two spaces with one space.

There was a time when it was standard to put two space characters after each sentence before beginning the next. This was how I was taught to type, and I’m only in my early-40s. However, this is no longer the practice. The introduction of modern typesetting and justification algorithms mean that two spaces can result in gaps that are too large between sentences. Industry professionals now specify that we use only one space between sentences.

Retraining the brain to do this has taken me many long years, but there is a simple solution that will work every time, even when you forget. Run a search-and-replace, hunting out all the places where you use two space characters, and replace them with only one space character. All word-processing programs have the search-and-replace feature, so why not use it. (I do this as a matter of habit before I send a manuscript out the door.)
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There’s a reason for the standard manuscript format

In this day and age, many submissions are handled through email. Agents and acquisition editors will often look at the submissions sent to them on an electronic device, commonly a computer or tablet screen. For many submissions, the initial contact is contained in the body of an email (no attachments). If additional materials are asked for, agents and editors expect things to be in the standard manuscript format. Yet, agents and editors will still look at those added materials using electronic devices.

So, if everything is now electronic, why must we format our manuscripts using a format that was devised back in the day when everything was printed? Well, believe it or not, the standard manuscript format is very specific for a reason.

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