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Self-Editing One Step at a Time: One Final Chore

For those writers who will be sending manuscripts electronically at any time during the submission or publication process, there is one more little housekeeping chore to be done: eliminate extra spaces and other formatting errors inadvertently added to the manuscript.

On your Microsoft Word toolbar there is an icon that looks like the editing symbol for new paragraphs. If you click on that icon, your text will indicate spaces in your work as dots. You may have a perfectly formatted manuscript, but if you are an old-style typist like me, you’ll probably find a lot of extra spaces at the end of paragraphs and sometimes at the end of sentences within paragraphs.

Since many manuscripts are now submitted electronically, and publishers/editors often require print-ready formatting from the authors at some point in the process, it’s wise to add this step to your self-editing procedures.

If your publisher wants one space after a period instead of two (common when using fonts other than Courier New), first use the Find/Replace function to search out two spaces and replace with one.

After that, check every page of the manuscript and eliminate extra spaces, being careful not to delete periods. Click on the icon again to hide the formatting symbols.

Note that page breaks, hidden text, paragraph, and indent or tab characters will also be visible and may be added, corrected, or deleted in this final editing step.

Patricia Stoltey is the author of two amateur sleuth mysteries, The Prairie Grass Murders and The Desert Hedge Murders. Originally published in hardcover by Five Star and paperback by Harlequin Worldwide, both are now available as e-books for Kindle and Nook. Her November 2014 novel from Five Star/Cengage, Dead Wrong is a standalone suspense. The novel has been described as “…lightning paced…” and “…a fantastic combination of suspense and action…”

You can learn more about Patricia and her fiction at her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


  1. I'd become very creative with my manuscript, adding one space in some spots and two in others. It was not easy getting rid of the extras. It's best to really try to do it right the first time.

    Morgan Mandel

  2. Hi Patricia,
    Control + H gets you quickly into Word's search and replace. If there is any possibility an ms might actually have three spaces, simply search for two spaces, replace with one, and then repeat the process.

    Merry Christmas!

    Bob Sanchez

  3. I also search for "space/paragraph break" to catch those paragraphs that have extra spacing. The search function is much better than going through the entire manuscript manually.

  4. Glad that you included this in your list of things to do in self editing, Patricia. It works to also do a search and replace for sentences that end in a question mark or some other punctuation besides a period. Going through 3 or 4 hundred pages of a ms looking for those extra dots can really be a challenge. :-) And like Morgan, I have found that I am better about not inserting the extra space from the get-go.

  5. Yesss! I am guilty of this and like Morgan, add one space in some places and two in others. So frustrating! :)

  6. These tips are very helpful, thanks!

  7. That's great advice. I've added this page to my favorites.

    Thanks for sharing :)


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