Fast Format Fixes

These shortcuts will quickly put your manuscript into shape.

A recent social media discussion got some writers worried. They hadn’t known that to indent the start of each paragraph, they shouldn’t use the Tab key. Instead, editors expect them to format their document so each paragraph indents automatically.

Now you tell me … after I’ve completed a 75,000-word manuscript. There’s no way I’m going to manually change each paragraph.

Relax. There’s an easy way to fix paragraph tabs and other lapses from the formatting editors and agents expect. With many, you use your word processor’s Find/Replace function. (On my computer, I access that by typing Ctrl + H.)

Two spaces between sentences.
It’s easy to make this mistake if you learned keyboarding on a typewriter. Fortunately, it’s an easy fix. Begin by opening the “Find and Replace” box. In the “Find what” window, hit the space bar twice. In the “Replace with” window, enter one space. Then click “Replace All.” (You’ll see how many instances were changed. Keep clicking “Replace All” until the number of replacements drops to zero.)

Indents created with tabs.
This takes a two-part fix. Begin by deleting the manual tabs: Open the “Find and Replace” box. In the “Find what” window, type ^t. Leave blank the “Replace with” window. Then click “Replace All.” The manual tabs will disappear.

Next, create the automatic tabs. Select the entire document, then open the “Paragraph” format box. (In my version of Word, it’s under “Format.”) In the “Special” box, select “First line” then the amount of .5 inches. Remember how you got to the “Paragraph” format box. You’ll need it for other automatic fixes.

Single spacing.
Select all the text you need to double space. (If it’s the entire manuscript, type Crtl + A.) Open the “Paragraph” format box. In the box for “Line spacing,” select “Double.” At the bottom of the box, click “OK.”

Space between paragraphs.
Select the affected text, open the “Paragraph” format box, and review the boxes for “Spacing above” and “Spacing below.” Set both to 0, then click “OK.”

Wrong font.
Select the affected text. Open the “Font” box and select “Times New Roman” and for size, “12-point.

With these quick fixes, you’ve cleared the way for an editor to review your writing without the burden of a poor first impression.

About Andy Scheer

With more than 30 years in publishing, Andy Scheer has provided freelance editorial services since 2010. He has edited fiction and nonfiction for publishers including Moody, WinePress, and BelieversPress, as well as for clients including Dirk Cussler, McNair Wilson, DiAnn Mills, Heather Day Gilbert, and Sammy Tippit.

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