Writers of any genre want to make a good first impression. However, if editors see typos or formatting issues as soon as they begin reading your submission, chances are they won’t read all the way to the end before rejecting it.
You’ve already spent a fair amount of time drafting and revising your work. The final step before you submit it should be to have a copy editor look at it. Of course, that costs money, unless you have a copy editor as a friend and he or she is willing to work for you for free. If it’s just not feasible for you to have someone copy edit your work for you, here are some tips to help you review your own writing before sending it to publisher. [As with any submission, be sure to check the publisher’s website for individual formatting preferences.]
- Eliminate double-spaces between sentences.
Inserting two spaces between sentences is a habit formed in the days when people used manual typewriters. With word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word, you only need one space following a period or other punctuation that ends a sentence. If you send an editor your story or article with two spaces between each sentence, that editor may make assumptions about you or your technological capabilities before they even read your first sentence.
2. Ensure consistency of formatting.
If you are submitting prose, check to see that your font size and type are consistent throughout the manuscript. This is especially important if you have been cutting and pasting quotes from outside sources, such as websites or emails.
Next, go through your manuscript to ensure that your line spacing and methods of indenting (be sure to use Word’s automatic .5 space indent) paragraphs remain the same from beginning to end. Are you using headers and sub-headers? Make sure you format all headers the same way, and that sub-headers are formatted in a way that is visibly different from the way headers are formatted.
- Confirm the spelling of names.
Whether you are quoting another writer, using an epigraph, or writing a journalistic article, confirm that you are spelling a person’s name correctly. Google it, even. If it’s a foreign name, it may contain special characters or accent marks. Microsoft Word allows you to insert characters from just about any language, so there’s no excuse for referencing Gabriel García Márquez without using the accent marks in his name.
This advice also applies to the names of companies, towns, states, and countries. An editor will suspect the veracity of everything else in a journalistic article or nonfiction manuscript if you misspell the names of locations or businesses mentioned in your piece.
- Don’t guess at the spelling and accenting of foreign words and phrases.
Many foreign words and phrases have found their way into everyday English usage. When incorporated into poetry or prose, it is often the practice to italicize these words. The first time I saw “Walla!” used instead of “Voilà!” I could not believe the author had not even bothered to check the word’s spelling. Here, too, Microsoft Word’s “insert symbol” feature enables you to use just about any foreign accent or symbol you could possibly need. Our editors will know immediately if you are just being lazy.