MS Formatting Fixes

Look like a pro … and save your editor some work.IMG_7190 2 to 3

by Andy Scheer

The manuscript screamed “Amateur!” It came from an independent publishing services provider, in my capacity as a freelance editor. Had I been reviewing it through an agent’s eyes, the formatting alone would have sent a strong initial message that this author wasn’t yet ready for prime time.

Fortunately, I could perform a formatting extreme makeover in just a couple hours. But its initial condition prompts me to offer yet another refresher in professional formatting, including a few areas not always covered.

Paper size. Unless you’re trying to self-publish on a starvation budget, select the 8½ x 11 size (it should be the default) not 6 x 9.

Margins. One inch left and right, top and bottom (also the default settings).

Font. Times New Roman, 12-point. Use only one space between sentences.

Indents and spacing. First-line indent of ½ inch. Double-spaced, with no extra spacing before or after lines.

Line and page breaks. Turn off “Widow/Orphan control” and all others except “Don’t hyphenate” and “Suppress line numbers.”

Alignment. Flush-left, ragged right, except for titles.

Block quotes. Indent ½ inch left and right. Use 11-point Times New Roman.

Nonfiction subheads. Insert an extra line space above.

Subhead levels. If a nonfiction manuscript uses more than one level of subheads, distinguish their typography. Here’s a common formula:

Level One subhead: 

Roman, Cap & Small Caps, 14-point, Centered, Line Space Above
and Below

Level Two subhead:

Bold Roman, Cap & Lower Case, 12-point, Flush Left, Line Space Above
Use this style if there is only one level of subhead.

Level Three subhead:


Level Four subhead:
Bold Roman sentence case, 12-point, followed by a period and run in to the text. No space above.

Endnotes. 10-pt Times New Roman.


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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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