How to Make Your Editor Happy

by Kim Pearson on September 20, 2012

I’m now working on Susan’s manuscript and making suggestions on what and how to change, relocate, delete, and fix things like cumbersome wording, trite or cliché-ridden passages, redundant or unnecessary words and phrases, and other such writing perils that befall authors.

This means that the manuscript that emerges after I’ve done my thing will be much changed from the one that was given me. That brings me to what I want to tell you today.

Here it is: don’t spend a lot of time formatting your manuscript for your editor. Editing will change your manuscript – that’s the job of the editor. This is why a lot of formatting of your manuscript before it is sent to your editor is a waste of your time. It is also a waste of time because your book designer will most likely remove all your lovely formatting and convert the manuscript into their design layout program.

Formatting before editing also wastes my time. It makes my job harder, especially if major editing or rewriting needs to be done. Working around unnecessary or inappropriate formatting codes and design elements is harder so it takes longer – and since many editors charge by the hour, it can cost you money.

So what does that mean to you, the author? What formatting am I talking about?

There are some standard formatting that most editors want to see, and other things they don’t, although it is a good idea to ask your editor her preferences – before you send her your manuscript. We’re not all the same, but here are some standards that I like to see:

• Many of us prefer 12 point Times New Roman. Don’t use Helvetica, Ariel, or any sans-serif font. These are good for headlines, but make for slow reading in a body of text.

• Double spaced is often preferred, for the simple reason that it is easier on the editor’s eyes, and secondly because if your editor likes to print the pages to read them, it gives her more space to scribble in.

• Use left-justification, sometimes known as ragged-right margins. Full justification will be done in page layout design. Ragged right margins make it easier for the editor to spot extra spaces between sentences, among other things.

• Very important! Always indent your paragraphs. Standard indent is 5 spaces. Do not insert a space between paragraphs. This is called business letter format, and often causes big problems in editing, because the formatting codes (which are not always obvious) must be removed to get rid of this. This is one of the errors that Susan made.

• Use one space between sentences, not two. You are betraying your age if you use two – this is the way people were taught to type back in the dark ages – you know, on typewriters.

• For emphasis use italics – never underlines. Use bolds for chapter headings and subheads.

• Don’t use large fonts. Don’t position chapter headers halfway down on the next page. Some editors and layout designers have other preferences – ask!

• Do not use any other formatting other than italics and bolds. If you have other design ideas such as indented text or shaded boxes, ask your editor and/or designer how to indicate your desire.

• It is not necessary to include a table of contents page with page numbers. Adding, deleting, and moving text around renders those page numbers meaningless. Do put page numbers as a header or footer on each page, in case your editor likes to print the pages out to read and scribble on them. Then if she drops them on the floor she’ll be able to put them together again.

• In short – keep your formatting as simple as possible for your editor. Remember the KISS rule. Don’t worry – you can have fun telling your book designer your ideas on how the words might look on the pages. But that comes later.

I hope this helps other authors work well with their editors. And now back to editing!

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: