Wednesday, September 21, 2011

5 Mandates for Preparing a Manuscript

Got yourself a book deal, eh? Excellent! Here are a few tips you'll need to keep in mind as you prepare your work for an editor. Well, I call them tips, but really, they're mandates.

Do 'em.

Mandate #1 No underlining!

You know that little underline icon  on your toolbar? (Alternately, you know that Control/Command-U keystroke?)

Ignore it. Don't click it. Don't touch it. Make like it never even existed.

That's right, the underline doesn't exist. If you want to underline a heading, book title, or pretty much anything else in your manuscript, use that little italics icon  instead. (Alternately, that Control/Command-I keystroke.)

The underline was used a long time ago, back in ye olde typewriter days, to indicate italics. Nowadays we've actually GOT italics, so use them.

Mandate #2 Stop making things look pretty on the page!

Your job as author is to present clinical content. Our job is to make that content look pretty on the page.

So don't be mucking things up with tabs in the middle of sentences and multiple spaces after a bullet so the text lines up on your screen. The reader won't be seeing your screen, number one, and number two, your editor will have to strip all of that extraneous garbage out of the manuscript. So don't put it in to begin with.

Mandate #3 No All-Cap Headings!

Please don't make your chapter title or any headings all capital letters. I know that all-cap headings are common but they're not universal.

Far better to use title case, which we can always and easily make into all caps if needed. But it's a huge pain to go the other way, from all caps, typed in on a keyboard, to title case.

So do everyone a favor: Use title case for all headings.

Mandate #4 Pay attention to heading levels!

If all of your headings are Times New Roman 12pt Bold, how will your editor be able to tell which headings are main headings and which are lower level headings?

There are several different ways of formatting head levels but I recommend the following:
Bold and Centered for the Chapter Title

Bold and flush-left for first-level headings

Italics and flush-left for second-level headings

Roman (not bold, not italics) for third-level headings

NOTE: Always check your publisher's author guidelines, though, for specific instructions.

Mandate #5 No more double spaces after a sentence!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Stop using two spaces between sentences.

Doing so is a leftover of the typewriter. It's archaic and insanely annoying. Plus, someone later has to delete them all anyway, so why put them in?

I'll bet you've got some mandates of your own. Let's hear 'em!