The lighter side of editing

The lighter side of editing

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Should I Format My Manuscript in Book Form Before I Submit It for Editing?

A manuscript submitted for editing should be neat but not print-ready
Image credit: Adobe Stock

Let’s make this simple. No. No, you should not do a lot of fancy formatting in your manuscript before you send it to an editor. As an author myself, I know how tempting it is to try out different fonts, heading styles, picture placement, and so on. You’ve worked on this thing for months or years, and you’re ready for it to start looking like an actual book. It’s time already, right?

Well, not so fast. There’s not much point in putting time into doing a pretty layout when the editor is just going to come along and screw it all up. For example, I’ve gotten my share of raw manuscripts that are set in some font—any font—other than good ol’ boring twelve-point Times New Roman. And the first thing I do to those manuscripts is change the font. My editing eyes are used to seeing twelve-point Times New Roman, and it seems like a bad idea to confuse them now.

How should you format your manuscript for editing?

Unless your editor/publisher tells you otherwise, just keep it simple:
  • Use a page size of 8.5 x 11 inches with one-inch margins.
  • Set your main text in twelve-point Times New Roman, double spaced.
  • Use a larger font size and/or bold to indicate section headings, chapter headings, and subheadings.
  • If your manuscript includes any unusual formatting that you want to keep (if you want certain sections set in a different font, for example), let your editor know.
  • If your book will include photos, illustrations, and so on, do not paste them directly into the manuscript file. Instead, add text such as “Insert figure 1 here” to keep track of where everything goes. I also prefer to have captions in a separate file rather than placed directly in the manuscript. This makes both editing and layout easier.

 Basically, you want it to look neat, but you don't need to worry about making it "print ready." First get the words right, and then worry about making it look pretty.