Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Cleaning up your dirty bits


Jean-Leon Gerome: Femme Nue (1889)

I rarely post actual writing advice, because, like - what do I know? But here's my standard check-list for manuscript clean-up when I'm sending something in to editors.

NB: DOUBLE CHECK WHAT THE EDITOR ASKED FOR. Always follow instructions, even if they ask for everything in 8-point Comic Sans!

If no other guidance is available, this is what I do:

  • Select the entire manuscript and choose a single font, size 12, double-spaced - I work across several laptops so my manuscripts end up a mess of Calibri and Ariel.
  • Select entire manuscript and set the spellcheck language to US or UK English, depending on publisher.
  • Single and double quote marks - to avoid a mix of curly quotes and straight quotes, for the same reason as above:  [Find ' and Replace with '   then Find " and Replace with "]
  • Tabs - Editors HATE tabs. You should have an automatic indent set instead.  [Find ^t and Replace with nothing] Then check your manuscript to make sure you've not just got one HUGE paragraph now.
  • Em dashes    [Find - (space hyphen space), Replace with em dash:  ctrl + alt + [minus on the number pad]. Do it again, searching for  -- (two hyphens)]
  • Ellipses    [Find … (three periods) and Replace with ellipsis  (ctrl + alt + period)]
  • Double spaces (between sentences or words)    [Find (space)(space) and Replace with (space) Important! Repeat this until 0 instances are found!]
  • Trailing spaces at end of paragraph:    [Find (space)^p  and Replace with ^p]. Repeat until you get 0 results
  • Extra spaces at start of paragraph text:    [Find ^p(space) and Replace with ^p] Repeat until you get 0 results.

This doesn't take long at all, once you get used to it.

Now you're ready to spell-check.

1 comment:

Ian Smith said...

Good, plain advice!