Tuesday, January 26, 2016

MS Formatting Fixes by Andy Scheer

Look like a pro ... and save your editor some work.

The manuscript screamed “Amateur!” It came from an independent publishing services provider, in my capacity as a freelance editor. Had I been reviewing it through an agent’s eyes, the formatting alone would have sent a strong initial message that this author wasn’t yet ready for prime time.

Fortunately, I could perform a formatting extreme makeover in just a couple hours. But its initial condition prompts me to offer yet another refresher in professional formatting, including a few areas not always covered.

Paper size. Unless you’re trying to self-publish on a starvation budget, select the 8½ x 11 size (it should be the default) not 6 x 9.

Margins. One inch left and right, top and bottom (also the default settings).

Font. Times New Roman, 12-point. Use only one space between sentences.

Indents and spacing. First-line indent of ½ inch. Double-spaced, with no extra spacing before or after lines.

Line and page breaks. Turn off “Widow/Orphan control” and all others except “Don’t hyphenate” and “Suppress line numbers.”

Alignment. Flush-left, ragged right, except for titles.

Block quotes. Indent ½ inch left and right. Use 11-point Times New Roman.

Nonfiction subheads. Insert an extra line space above.

Subhead levels. If a nonfiction manuscript uses more than one level of subheads, distinguish their typography. Here’s a common formula:
Level One subhead:
Roman, Cap & Small Caps, 14-point, centered, line space above and below

Level Two subhead:
Bold Roman, Cap & Lower Case, 12-point, Flush Left, Line Space Above
Use this style if there is only one level of subhead.

Level Three subhead:
roman, small caps, 12-point, left justified, space above

Level Four subhead:
Bold Roman sentence case, 12-point, followed by a period and run in to the text. No space above.

Endnotes. 10-pt Times New Roman.


oscar case said...

Thanks for the tips! I think I have 'em right, but . . . .? I've been stumped more than once in formatting.

Andy Scheer, Hartline Literary said...

As I novelist friend said, "It's not rocket surgery."

Jim Hart said...


Diana Flegal said...

Thanks for this Andy. Great info for writers.

millenium said...

Thanks a lot for sharing us about this update. Hope you will not get tired on making posts as informative as this.