Self Publishing for Writers blog

blog Home




Book Basics





I'm Charlie
Book Designer & Self Publishing coach

The Squeaky Clean Manuscript

Manuscript Prep.

July 3, 2020

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

A squeaky clean manuscript saves time, money, and hassle throughout the entire publishing process, from editing, design, and proofing to creating an ebook. When you strip your document of unnecessary noise like extra returns and spaces and use style sheets to add indents, bullets, and set alignment, it ensures a tidy book or ebook and 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 to manually restyle everything from bullets and block indents to italics and boldface. Restyling is a recipe for disaster. Worst case, things get lost. In the best case, you have more proofing to make sure the designer caught all the formatting. Either way, you have added unnecessary time, expense, and more chances for error for both you and your designer.

A squeaky clean manuscript…

  • makes your book easier to layout (whether designed by you, a publisher, or a contract designer);
  • creates a better ebook as well as making the transition to an ebook much smoother;
  • helps ensure formatting like boldface, italic, and numbering doesn't get lost when importing text into design programs;
  • saves design time;
  • saves you time and stress in proofing (see proofreading like a pro);
  • minimizes introducing errors when the designer has to remove the unnecessary formatting;
  • and a clean manuscript helps when submitting your book to a publisher.

12 things you can do to save time and money

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

  1. Combine all of the book’s chapters in one file and order them in the way 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 see them all when preparing the book.
  3. Use style sheets for all the different styles in your document.
  4. Create space between paragraphs with style sheets.
  5. Set chapter titles with heading one in your style sheet.
  6. Don’t use spaces to indent. Set indents in the stylesheets.
  7. Don’t use Word’s automatic numbering and bullet features and remove hyperlinks.
  8. Keep the document simple. Best to stick to one font family. And use a standard 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. Directional quotes are the quotation marks that curve in toward the quoted text.
  12. Always avoid typing text in all caps.

Most experienced designers will want to review your manuscript to determine how much cleaning up they will have to do before designing. There are times that I spend more time cleaning up a document than designing it.

Delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday!
Sign up now! 

Self-publishing for

Subscribe to my blog

Fast Track Your Book Design and Production Knowledge While Learning About Your Book's Genre.

Download one of My Powerful Self-publishing Tools to Get You Planning like a Pro.

Calculating Your Book's Page Count From Your Manuscript.

Perfect Timing!

What's best for me?
Print-on-Demand or
Offset Printing.

Yes, Please!

I Need This!

3 free tools to get you started!

I love happy subscribers!


This free and detailed workbook exercise will fast track your book design and production knowledge and get you planning like a pro.

Ready to Self-publish Your Book But Not Sure Where to Start?

I want you to be happy with the content I deliver, so I make it easy for you to unsubscribe at any time.

I love happy subscribers!


Use this estimating page count worksheet to calculate how many pages your designed book will be.

Have a manuscript, but can't estimate how many pages your book will be?

I want you to be happy with the content I deliver, so I make it easy for you to unsubscribe at any time.

I love happy subscribers!


This free worksheet, will help point you in the right direction.

When is it best to use print-on-demand over offset printing?

I want you to be happy with the content I deliver, so I make it easy for you to unsubscribe at any time.