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I'm Charlie
Book Designer & Self Publishing coach

The Squeaky Clean Manuscript

Manuscript Prep.

July 3, 2020

A Clean Manuscript Saves Time, Money and Hassle in All Steps of Your Publishing Project

A clean document saves time, money and hassle in all steps of the publishing process from editing, design and proofing to creating an e-book. By stripping your document of all unnecessary formatting like extra returns and spaces, and by using style sheets to add indents, bullets, and determine alignment not only ensures a tidy book or e-book, but also helps to maintain your formatting down the road.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to compare a typewritten manuscript to the text I have imported into my design software and manually restyle everything from bullets and block indents to italics and bold face. This is a recipe for disaster. Worst case, things get lost, best case you have more proofing, just to make sure the designer caught all the formatting. Either way you have added unnecessary time and more chances for error for both you and your designer.

A clean manuscript…

  • Makes your book easier to layout (whether designed by you, a publisher, or a contracted designer).
  • Makes a better e-book as well as making the transition to an e-book much smoother.
  • Helps ensure formatting like boldface, italic, and numbering does not get lost when the text is imported in to design programs.
  • Saves design time.
  • Saves you time and stress in proofing.
  • Minimizes errors that can happen when the designer has to remove the unnecessary formatting.
  • It also helps when submitting your manuscript to a publisher.

12 things you can do to save time and money

Following these tips can save you lots when sending your book to an editor or designer.

  1. Combine all of the book’s chapters in one file in the order you want them to appear in the book. 
  2. Remove all boxes and indicate boxed text with notes to the designer or editor. I like to highlight notes using square brackets [ ]. That way I can search for them and make certain I see them all when preparing the book.
  3. Use style sheet for the different styles in your document.
  4. Use styles to create space between paragraphs.
  5. Use heading one in your style sheet for chapter titles.
  6. Don’t use spaces to indent. Use stylesheets.
  7. Don’t use Word’s automatic numbering and bullet feature and remove hyperlinks
  8. Keep the document simple. Best to stick to one font family. And use a common font like times, arial, helvetica
  9. Remove extra spaces.
  10. Use dashes consistently: N-dashes for ranges, M-dashes for parentheticals, and hyphens for modifiers and phone numbers.
  11. Convert quotation marks to smart quotes also known as directional quotes.
  12. Avoid typing text in all caps.

Most experienced designers will request a file of the manuscript to determine how much cleaning up they will have to do before they start design. There are time that I spend more time cleaning up a document than designing it.

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