Monday, June 20, 2016

Book Formatting Tips - Cleaning up the Word Document

One aspect of book formatting most people don’t discuss is the initial cleanup. Whether you are formatting it yourself or someone else is doing the job, here are some things to look for that will make formatting easier.

Step one - Click button to show paragraph marks and formatting. Spaces are dots, paragraph returns are P’s.

Step two - Do a Find & Replace on all of the double spaces. There should be a single space between each sentence and word.

Step three - Remove any manual indents. Those will show as arrows.

Never use the tab key to indent. Open up the paragraph box and set the indent there. This is also where you control justification and line spacing.

Step four - Do a search and destroy for all spaces at the ends of sentences. These can cause a sentence to extend one line farther. In a print book, that might be what sends a lone line at the end of the chapter to a page all by itself.

These spaces come from the habit of hitting the space bar after every sentence. Sometimes we type another line, but sometimes we hit the return key and start a new paragraph, leaving that space (or two) at the end of the sentence. I can always tell when an author is on a roll - those spaces vanish.

Step five - Do a search and destroy for extra spaces at the beginning of a paragraph. This is even more critical, as those will indent the line just a little bit more than the rest, resulting in an unprofessional look.

Step six - Look for odd issues, like forgetting a space before or after * * * or too many asterisks.

These are simple, basic items that need attention before the manuscript is formatted for either print or eBook. But they will make a world of difference in how the book appears. (And your formatter will thank you!)

Did you know to look for those issues?


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54 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Diane--Thanks for sharing the helpful tips here. I'm an old-fashioned typist from the days of typewriters and still unconsciously do the double space at the end of each sentence. I do go back through at the end and remove those, but I've never removed the odd manual tab indent that I'll accidentally put in. I'll be using your tips here. :)

Tamara Narayan said...

The manual indent thing used to drive me insane. I was constantly going through very long manuscripts trying to fix what felt like a ghost error. Then I found out. What a life-saver that was. At this point I am now aware of most of these.

I like the idea of an IWSG question of the month. That will be fun.

nashvillecats2 said...

Some wonderful tips for writers of all genre.
Many thanks for sharing.
Yvonne.

Annalisa Crawford said...

It took me ages to break the double space habit, but I'm pretty good these days - I always type with the paragraph buttons employed so I can remove all those odd little quirks immediately.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'll be sure to remove all of my spaces...

Juneta Key said...

Great tips.
Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

H.R. Sinclair, Southpaw said...

Another wee tip if I may...once you search and replace two spaces for one, do it again. I've noticed on stuff I've looked over for others that sometimes there is a triple space in there!

Great tips for everyone. I suspect it would make editors/proofers/publishers happy too.

Bish Denham said...

Great tips! I cured myself of the double space habit years ago, but I know little extra spaces can creep in.

Hart Johnson said...

This is a good list--a few of these things I do automatically anyway, but a few I've never thought about.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great tips, Diane. I'm apparently making a lot of mistakes that I need to fix. At least I know not to do them in the future.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Elizabeth, good. I still can't break my husband of the double-spaces.

Holly, good point about triple spaces.

Arlee Bird said...

I guess I do almost all of it wrong. These are such good points that I should probably take more seriously. If I ever start writing I guess I'd better.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Chrys Fey said...

Extra spaces are killer with formatting. I always set my tab/indent. Great tips! This will definitely help out all the book formatters out there. :)

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Yup, already decided I would hire a formatter and now I'm completely sure that's the correct decision. Already knew about the tabs thing. Yay. Still hiring a professional though. Thanks for the tips Diane.

Jo said...

A very helpful article Diane. It applies to blogs as well as books although blogs are not as critical.

Sandra Cox said...

This was great, Diane. I'd love to see more posts on formatting. The one that often snags me is headers. Name on one side, title on the other, numbers at the bottoms, section breaks.....And....heh heh....if you take a document that has been reviewed: getting all the correction marks out of it:)

Chemist Ken said...

Hadn't thought about the spaces at the end of a paragraph before. Food for thought.

I still double space after periods when I type, so I know I'm going to have a lot of cleanup to do there.

Melanie Schulz said...

Great suggestions! Best compliment about my writing? That it made them think.

Jemi Fraser said...

Excellent tips! I've seen those extra spaces cause issues in my Kindle when I sent my wips to it!
Love the idea of questions for the IWSG!

Cherie Reich said...

Yes, your formatter will thank you for doing these things. That's so, so true. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I check all those things before I send a final draft to my publisher. I think she really appreciates that.

Mary Montague Sikes said...

What a great post! I need to remember about the paragraph indent because I've caused my publisher problems with it.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Thanks for the advice. I didn't know this. Saving it for future reference. Maybe next time my manuscript will be easier to format. :)

Dean K Miller said...

The paragraph/spacing symbol search is so key to a cleaner format. I use that on everything I submit to anyone, critique group, publisher, beta reader. A great tool for more eye appeal.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

We editors of the world applaud you for this article!

dolorah said...

My thumbs love those double spaces after a period. When did the formats change, lol!!!

I like the question of the IWSG month. Nice.

Mason Canyon said...

Great tips, Diane. It was hard for me to stop the double spaces at the end of each sentence. I'm like Dolorah and wonder when that format changed.

Patricia Stoltey said...

When I submitted my first manuscript to my editor, I was totally ignorant of all these details. It was embarrassing to see how much I didn't know. You are doing a real service to rookie authors when you provide this information, Diane.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'm glad this is helpful.

emaginette said...

Wonderful tips, Diane. I would love to know how to set up the front and back matter as well. If you want to give us more formatting tips that is. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

J E Oneil said...

I feel so proud of myself for doing all those things :).

Karen Lange said...

I did not know all of these so I appreciate you sharing. Bookmarked the post for future reference. :)

Sandra Cox said...

Ah, now I know what those arrows are:)

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

I had no idea about any of this. Thanks so much, Diane. I will likely re-visit when I need to.

Ella said...

Thank you, Diane! You are always sharing so many wonderful tips with us~ I hope life is treating you well! You share a wealth of insight-thank you for all you do!

Sherry Ellis said...

These are very useful tips. I did not know about the manual indents. I've always done manual indents. I'll have to go back and fix those in my manuscripts. I'll also have to clean up the spaces. Thank you!

Loni Townsend said...

Excellent tips! You rock!

Lexa Cain said...

All very puzzling. The only thing I'm sure I do is auto para indents and I never use the tab. I've never taken the spaces off ends of sentences. I'd be afraid all the lines would run into the next ones. *sigh* I'll never be a decent formatter. :(

Crystal Collier said...

It's such a little thing, but those extra spaces can definitely wreak all kinds of havoc in a book. =) It definitely takes close attention to detail though.

Rhonda Albom said...

Great tips. I don't understand number four. Are you getting rid of all spaces at the end of a sentence? Should there be one? And didn't we take care of that at step 2?

Medeia Sharif said...

This was really helpful. Editors often ask me to clean up and I'm sure I miss a few things.

Elsie Amata said...

I made several of these mistakes before I published my book. I'm bookmarking this article. Thank you for these invaluable tips!!

Sandra Cox said...

Search and destroy (for all spaces). Heh heh.

Denise Covey said...

Great formatting tips, L Diane! I guess that's why it costs a tidy sum to hire someone to do the formatting for you! When I was sweating through it, I decided a formatter earned every dollar, but I kept on just to learn!

Sandra Cox said...

Hope your weekend was a good one:)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Good stuff, Diane! I just recently realized I shouldn't have been using the tab key! oops.

Tammy Theriault said...

You're too smart!!

J.H. Moncrieff said...

Thanks for the tips! I haven't self-published yet, but I know I will someday.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Thanks so much for this, Diane. These are excellent tips. I'm late because my computer and blog has issues. Even my Word isn't responding properly. Crossing my fingers I can find the fix. Thanks for these tips.

Sandra Cox said...

Have a productive and pleasant day....And watch out for those spaces.

M Pax said...

Proper formatting will save so many headaches. I write in proper format from the get-go these days.

Trace L Hentz said...

Diane, I have nightmares about this. I mean screaming. Where did my page numbers go - why is there a blank page - how did that get there? Thank you. I appreciate this.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Thanks for the advice, Diane. I'll be self pubbing my first book in a few months and will make sure to refer to this post! :)

Sandra Cox said...

Happy 4th, Diane:)