Writer and Editor: 5 Housekeeping Tips

Some seemingly small things can make working with an editor easier for both writer and editor. Here are 5 tips that matter for 95% of all projects:

  1. document type—Please use the standard: Microsoft Word (MS Word) is the standard for manuscripts intended for publication and MS Word can be read by PC and Macintosh computers. For any other option you can imagine (e.g., PDF, PowerPoint if you have developed a presentation, Pages for Macintosh) check first with the editor and publisher; in other words, do not start drafting in a format other than MS Word unless you have confirmed with your editor and publisher that it will meet later requirements. In many author-editor situations, editors use MS Word’s Track Changes function and Comment function; editors then require writers to review edits using those functions. If you have questions about these functions, ask me. (For more about Track Changes, Comments, and responding to the editor, watch for coming posts.)
  2. document and version identification—Each document needs to be identified with a clear, logical title and each version of that document needs to have a distinct change in title. Some publishers have distinct styles that must be used for manuscripts; other publishers are less rigid but ALL situations require titles that are clear and distinct for each version. (For example: compare these two titles:
    Chapter 1rev.doc
    The second title is unlikely to be confused by anyone.) This might seem fussy, but there have been many times when the wrong version has been saved or checked or (even) printed because of problems with what the tech people call “version control.” Addressing issues with version control can be scary, time-wasting, and expensive.
  3. page numbers—Unless you are submitting a really short manuscript (say, 1000 words), please  number your manuscript pages using the automatic page-numbering function. (Sure, I can add page numbers when I receive the ms. really easily, but it will be easier for us both if we can start referring to page 11 or 211 right from the start.) In Microsoft Word for Mac 2011, this means choosing Document Elements, choosing Page #, and selecting any option within this.
  4. formattingStandard formatting is best: 12-point serif type, running text with single spaces after periods, with hard returns only for paragraph breaks, and with chapter titles and other headings clearly identified, but no other special formatting. When in doubt, check beforehand. Line spacing should be consistent (and automatic). (The number of pages does not matter; see a coming post about word counts.) Fancy formatting or anything that is non-standard in Microsoft Word is likely unnecessary and will need to be removed; removing the formatting takes time, which costs money.  For tables, charts, maps, other visuals, layout, etc., talk to me about your ideas; we can sort out the best way to handle needs and wants.
  5. sources—Please, please, please note all sources for any quotations or paraphrases, and err on the side of caution. Ideally, confirm in advance about the source citation style you will use. However, if you do not do this, note everything you can about a source—for example, not just the web site but also the web page title, any cited author, the URL or DOI, and the date accessed. If it’s a print book, note the author(s), title (and subtitle), publisher, year and location of publication,  any special edition, and the page number. Please do not leave until later noting sources from your web search History option or note only “United Nations web page, most recent data” or hope that the book will still be on your favourite  shelf at the reference library.


© Laura Edlund 2010