There are some formatting transgressions that will get you spanked and sent to the corner so your editor can quietly down a bottle of Draino. So let’s talk about those, ok?
It goes without saying that your manuscript should be:
- double spaced,
- 12 pt. Times New Roman,
- .05 paragraph indents
To do anything else would make your editor jump off a cliff at low tide. But there are the little nigglies that authors can take care of before they send their darlings out to play on the literary playground.
Spacing after full stop
Regardless of what punctuation you use to designate a full stop of a sentence, there should only be ONE space. Not two. Yes, that’s the way we were taught in high school and college. But publishing only uses one space when printing a book. Space wasters = money busters. We’re a cheap lot, and we know that removing one space between sentences reduces page counts.
Will I send out the beagle and her gang of leather-frocked German Shepherds? Nah. I’ll just go in and do the universal presto-change-o from two spaces to one. But it’s lovely when an author understands this ahead of time and formats their ms with one space.
Double dash = em dash
If you want to use an em dash then use an em dash (—), don’t use two little dashes (–) because we have to go in and change it. Again, it’s not a big deal, but it’s a time waster.
And while you’re at it, check to see if you have a lot of the little beggars. I edited a manuscript where I noticed they’d used the little double dashes. I went in with my Seek and Destroy and noticed they’d used 283 dashes.
Thatsa lotta dashes, and I did a LOT of refining because those dashes create a pace and flow. Used properly, they’re great. Overused, and they are clunky little whippersnappers than make me drool. Like my love for chocolate martinis, everything in moderation is best.
Be careful with your use of colons. They have a clinic-y feel to them, and they can easily take the softness and poetic flavor out of your writing. Think about using a comma or semi-colon instead. If you don’t, chances are your editor will.
Underline = italics
This is really old-fashioned. Back in the day when typewriters didn’t have italics, writers would underline to denote italics. We don’t have that problem nowadays, so join the 21st Century and use them. This is a particularly irksome feature that takes a lot of time because I can’t use the universal seek and destroy feature. I have to manually fix them one by one, which makes my teeth itch.
I always have my punctuation phaser set to stun because it’s so easy to let them do the heavy lifting. Thing is, punctuation wasn’t meant to do heavy lifting. So if your manuscript has a ton of exclamation points, I know that you’ve let them do the job your writing is supposed to do. I had a manuscript that was roughly 100,000 words and it contained 265 exclamation points. I nearly fainted.
If you need to communicate excitement, tension, or fear, show it, don’t tell it by sticking an exclamation point at the end and calling it a day.
Lazy way out: Overworked and Underpaid Editor was out of Twinkies and was so upset!
Putting some elbow grease into it: Overworked and Underpaid Editor broke out in a cold sweat. Her stomach rumbled, and her heart rate jump-roped into triple digits. She was out of Twinkies.
You’ll find that by forcing yourself to review your use of exclamation points, you’ll become a better writer because you’re not using punctuation as a crutch.
So these are a few of the little things you can do to make keep your editor’s hair from turning white. Will any of this result in instant death rejection? Nah. But it’s always lovely to avoid that silent scream that makes us break out into cold sweats at 3 a.m.