Editing and formatting tips

Style guides and dictionaries

Book Nanny uses the following style guides: New Oxford Style Manual (New Hart’s Rules) and Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. and 17th ed.

Dictionaries: Oxford Dictionaries/OED, Merriam-Webster and Macquarie.

I work with clients internationally and can use other style guides and dictionaries (such as Canadian Oxford or American Heritage) as necessary.

Editing in MS Word

Most traditional publishers and freelance editors edit manuscripts in MS Word before layout and typesetting. So, whether you are going the traditional or the indie publishing route, as a professional writer, you should familiarise yourself with MS Word and its functions as much as possible.

Track Changes and Comments

I use the Comments function in structural and copy line edits to comment on any issues showing up in the manuscript or to explain suggested changes and amendments to you.

I use the Track Changes function in MS Word to mark-up all copy-edit amendments—each change can be individually accepted or rejected once the copy-edit is completed and returned to you.

Layout and formatting

Whether you are submitting a hard copy to an agent or a soft (Word) copy to your editor, the most important thing is that your manuscript is easy to read and mark up. Here are some standard layout and format settings which you can use to make your manuscript look professional for editing/agent submission purposes:

Format settings 

Paper size A4, portrait
Margins MS Word default is fine
Line spacing Double
Font Stick with standard fonts such as Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman
Font size 12 pt.
Justification Ragged right or justified—choose one and use it consistently throughout your manuscript
Page breaks Set your Word style to add a page break automatically before a new chapter heading
Page numbers Yes, please—in the header or footer
Book title In the header
Spacing between sentences 1 space only
Paragraphs First paragraph after chapter heading or section break should be flush with left margin

Indent all subsequent paragraphs (my personal preference is for 1.25 cm [0.5 inches] indents)

No spaces between paragraphs

Quote marks Single quotes or double quotes—both acceptable in fiction. Choose a style and keep it consistent throughout the manuscript

Nested quotes (quotes within quotes)—the opposite of the main quote mark style

Dialogue New paragraph for each new speaker—remember to keep your dialogue tags or beats with the dialogue so readers know which character is speaking
Spelling and punctuation styles and usage Choose a style/usage (British English, American English, Australian English and so on) and use it consistently throughout the manuscript

Formatting and style don’ts

  • Don’t use tabs or spaces to indent paragraphs—set them up using styles instead
  • Don’t add manual paragraph returns at the end of each line—Word wraps the text automatically
  • Don’t add two spaces between sentences—it causes spacing problems in Word
  • Don’t insert multiple paragraph returns to get to the next page—use the page break or section break function where necessary
  • Don’t mix spelling and punctuation styles and usage—readers may pick them up as errors rather than choices

Indie authors/self-publishers: you should set up all your manuscript settings using the MS Word styles function—this will help your editor and could save you money in the long run.

Submitting to agents and writing competitions? Make sure you follow any document formatting instructions carefully and in full.

Tutorials – Track Changes, Comments, Word styles and formatting dialogue
Word 2016: Track Changes and Comments by GCFLearnFree.org
Word 2016: Applying and Modifying Styles by GFCLearnFree.org
Basic manuscript formatting and Word styles by Charlotte Nash
Punctuating and formatting dialogue by Angela Spurlock (US punctuation, also used frequently in British fiction)

Proofreading disclaimer

All professional editors aim to do the best job they can. However, even with the use of additional proofing software and macros, no editor or proofreader can guarantee 100% error-free work on any project and, despite the best efforts of all parties, there may be residual errors remaining in the finished product. To reduce the risk of errors, indie publishers should include and budget for a number of proofreading passes in their publishing schedule.

Query about editing? Contact Book Nanny

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