Tech Luv Thursday: Word Formatting Tips For Writers

Hello and welcome to another Tech Luv Thursday! This is place where I love to talk tech. Sometimes this features tech intersects at Writing Avenue and sometimes it doesn’t. Today’s one of those days where I just had to focus on my writing friends. Keep in mind, though, that any Word user might find a gem in here. So read on.

A little housekeeping, before we get started. This will be my last post of 2015! I’m taking time off to spend those precious holiday minutes with my family. So, see you in 2016! Now, onto today’s post…

Lately, I’ve been getting manuscripts sent to me to critique with major formatting errors in them. Does it matter? Well, to an editor or agent it might, so why not make your work appear as polished as possible? Here are some common issues I see in manuscript formatting in Word and how to correct them/

Skip The Extra Space

I get it. Really, I do. We were all taught to put two spaces after a sentence. We can argue about which is correct until everyone is blue in the face, but there is a very good reason for including one space after each sentence. E-READERS. If you enter two spaces after each sentence, an e-reader will invariably interpret the space so that there are odd gaps in the text, which is jarring to a reader. Why does this matter?

Many agents and editors upload manuscripts they receive to e-readers. If I had a nickel for every time I heard that!

Yeah. That’s the biggest reason. Again, make your work look as fabulous as possible! Now, if you are bemoaning how to correct this in Word, it’s a simple fix using Find and Replace. Here’s how:

  1. Open your manuscript.
  2. Save a copy of your work in case you aren’t happy with the changes.
  3. Paragraph MarkerTurn on the Paragraph Marker icon. It will cause every space, return, page break, tab etc. to display in the document.
  4. Notice that the empty spaces appear as dots at the end of our sentence.Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 1.48.38 PM
  5. Now choose the Edit menu, Find, and Replace.
  6. Click on the Find field and press the spacebar twice.  Click on the Replace field and press the spacebar once. All of the results will display below. Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 1.46.31 PM
  7. Click the Replace All button to correct them.
  8. You now have a document with single spaces been sentences.

Stop Running A Tab

Do you like those indents that appear at the beginning of paragraphs? Many of new Word users think these are tabs, but they’re not. They’re First Line Indents. Bad news if you’re a tab-lover from way back: Many publishers specify “no tabs” in their submission guidelines. If that’s making you freak, no biggie. This, too can be fixed.

Clearing Tabs

clear tabsMake sure your Paragraph Marker is on. This will display all tabs as a right arrow, so you can see if you even have any of them.

  1. Choose CMD + A (MAC) or CTRL + A (Windows) to select all of the text in your document.
  2. Choose the Format menu and Paragraph.
  3. Click the Tab button.
  4. In the Tabs dialog box, click the Clear All button.
  5. Click OK

Setting An Indent

  1. Highlight the text that you want to add an indent to. Do not select text that you don’t want to have an indent, like chapter headings.
  2. Choose the Format menu and Paragraph.
  3. Under the Special dropdown select First Line.
  4. The By field should automatically default to 0.5″.indents
  5. Click OK to apply the changes. Once you’ve set up this formatting, all new paragraphs should have indents. If the formatting disappears, follow the above steps to apply the indent again.

Keep in mind that the chapter headings should not be indented, so you might want to perform this task for all text and then correct the Chapter Titles one at a time. Or, you may want to select the supporting text for each chapter and correct one chapter at a time.

Fix Your Fonts

The truth is, a manuscript with different font sizes and styles–unless you have sections that need to be formatted differently (i.e. journal entries, social media posts)–aren’t visually flattering. The good news is, you can fix font issues with a few clicks.

  1. fontChoose CMD + A (MAC) or CTRL + A (Windows) to select all of the text in your document.
  2. From the Home tab choose your font from the Font drop down. This is usually Times New Roman or Courier.
  3. Click on the Font Size drop down and choose 12. This is the generally acceptable font size for manuscripts.
  4. There you go!

Your fonts are fixed!

Get Your Doc Out Of The Gutter

marginsMargins matter in document formatting. Never try to change the margins and cram more words on a page! To make sure your page margins are setup correctly, follow these steps.

  1. Choose the Format menu and Document.
  2. Make sure your margins are set as follows:
    • Top, Bottom, Left, and Right: 1″
    • Gutter: 0.”
    • Header, Footer: 0.5″
  3. In the Apply To drop down, make sure the Whole Document option is selected.
  4. Choose OK to apply any changes you’ve made to the document, or Cancel if yours is set up correctly.

So there you have it. These are just some of the common formatting mistakes I’ve come across in word. I hope these tips help you as you format your own manuscript. What ones are challenging for you? Tell me in the comments.

Happy writing!