Saturday, December 19, 2009

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 a mystery author, blogger, and critique group facilitator. Active in promoting Colorado authors, she also helps local unpublished writers learn the critical skills of manuscript revision and self-editing. For information about Patricia’s Sylvia and Willie mystery series, visit her website and her blog. You can also find her on Facebook (Patricia Stoltey) and Twitter (@PStoltey).

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  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 :)


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.