Thursday, April 28, 2016

10 Formatting Tools You Can't Live Without

✔ Spelling – Always check your spelling! It is best to keep up on it as you write, but you can fall back on the auto spell check. Just remember that it won’t pick up on "its vs. it’s," "there vs. their" or "quiet vs. quit" and it will want to correct your made-up, unusual or unorthodox words.

✔ Line Spacing – Your options are single, 1.5 and double. Typically when you open up a new document the line spacing will be set to single. Make sure the document’s spacing correlates with what you are writing. For a poem, you might use single spacing. For novels and short stories, double spacing is standard.

✔ Font – Times and Times New Roman type are the easiest fonts to read. Most editors prefer this typeface. Use size 10 or 12 -- nothing bigger or smaller unless otherwise specified.

✔ Margins – Most documents will be pre-set with 1” margins, which is standard. Be sure that your margins are even top to bottom and left to right.

✔ Page Numbers - Add page numbers if needed. Depending on your preference, you can usually put them in your header or footer centered, right or left. Do not use page numbers on title pages, acknowledgment/quote pages or any other specialty page that might look funny with a number on it.

✔ Name / Title of Book – It is always a good idea to label each page of your work. One way that you can do this is by putting your first and last name in the upper left hand corner of your header, and the title of your book in the upper right hand. Note: the first and last words in a title are always capitalized.

✔ Title Page – For longer works, be sure to have a title page. This should include your title, name and contact information if necessary. Your title page should NOT have a page number.

✔ Table of Contents – Does your work have multiple chapters or sections? If it does, you need a table of contents listing the chapters and/or sections for use as a guide. Ensure the list of page numbers matches the content.

✔ Chapter / Section Spacing - Make sure that your chapters / sections are uniformly spaced throughout your document. Chapter titles should start about one-quarter to halfway down the page.

✔ Consistency - Above all it is important to have a clean, legible document that is consistent throughout. Make sure you do a few rounds of self-editing. Watch for repetitive words, overuse of adverbs, cliche statements and imbalanced use of dialogue and description.

Two of my favorite formatting resources are Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript by Chuck Sambuchino and The Chicago Manual of Style. These guidebooks cover everything from nitty gritty grammar to formatting every kind of writing you can imagine, including samples of what your work should look like. If you're serious about submitting your work I suggest getting a copy or two.

How do you format your work? I'd love to hear about it! :)