You’ve typed “The End” on your manuscript. You’re about to send it off to your editor. But is your manuscript actually ready to send to your editor? In today’s post, I’ll be sharing four common areas of editing problems that authors can easily review before sending their beloved manuscript off to the editor.
A little background first on industry standards for editing and formatting. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) is the industry standard for book publishing and it has been around for almost 115 years (click here for a PDF of the very first version), serving as the quintessential guide for those in the writing and publishing fields. The current edition is over 1,000 pages long and it’s intimidating even for those of us familiar with the contours of the guide. But even with this comprehensive guide, publishing houses also operate with their own house style that’s been curated based on the type of manuscripts they publish. You can ask your editor if there are any house style rules that you need to be aware of.
To help navigate some of those confusing rules, today I am providing four helpful editing tips. This won’t cover everything that will come up in your manuscript, but it will provide guidance in common areas of editing that produce the most confusion. The reason this matters is because a manuscript is such a large document with potentially a lot of people working on it. Unnecessary errors or incorrect formatting can make the document behave badly and distract from the task of writing your amazing new book. And it’s great because these are all simple items you can actually address before sending your manuscript off to the editor.
And why is that something you should even attempt? Aren’t editors supposed to like, fix all that? While editors are going to catch the mistakes that your subjective eye didn’t catch, I want to encourage authors to not be lazy. You don’t (or at least I hope you don’t!) put off brushing your teeth a month or a week before your regular cleaning because “it’s the dentist’s job to catch all that.” No, that’s called being lazy, and no matter what your job is, you shouldn’t be lazy.
So let’s dive in! I’ll be providing a reference number for specific CMOS rules so if you decide to investigate the guide, you’ll know where these rules came from!
Do you spell them out? Do you use numerals? This is often the area that produces the most confusion. CMOS states that numbers 0-100 should be spelled out, but for 101+ you can use numerals. However, for large, even numbers, you can spell them out. This includes ages, amounts, numbers on addresses, etc. (CMOS 9.2)
Common errors on time:
- 10:00 a.m./ 3:30 p.m. There should be a space between the time and the a.m./p.m. designator. Letters should be lowercased with a period in between each letter. (CMOS 9.37)
- 60 BC but AD 33: BC comes AFTER the year, AD comes BEFORE. (CMOS 9.34)
CMOS prefers “down-style,” meaning capitals are used sparingly. (CMOS 8.1) Degrees, unofficial titles, or references NOT PRECEEDING a name don’t need to be capitalized.
But pronoun references to God/Jesus are capitalized.
Examples: a master’s degree, a bachelor’s in science, The president stated; but President Lincoln said. The pastor encouraged, but Pastor Billy Graham spoke. He gave us His son Jesus.
Formatting and layout come AFTER the manuscript has been fully edited. Do not waste your time manually putting in a table of contents before an editor has even looked at your MS because those page numbers are going to change. If you do insert a TOC using Word, it can be updated as you go, but it’s still best to leave page numbers, TOC, headers, etc. until the last stage.
Do not use the spacebar to make new paragraphs or to align things. Use the enter button, tab button, and the actual left/middle/right align buttons. You would be shocked at what I have to correct: (One author actually hit the space bar to center align subtitles…on every subtitle…in a 100+ page MS)
If you are a Christian author and plan to reference scripture, these are generally good examples to follow, but always check if there is a house style to adhere to when it comes to scripture.
- (Ruth 2:12) Short book names don’t need to be abbreviated, space between the name of book and chapter/verse, but no spaces around the colon.
- (Prov. 31:30) Abbreviate longer book names.
- (Phil. 2:3–4) When showing a range of verses, use the en dash, not a hyphen.
You can’t go wrong with double-spaced (it’s SO hard to edit single-spaced docs) 12-pt. Times New Roman. You can bold chapter titles or subtitles, but don’t get fancy. Now is not the time for that.
Don’t make it weird. Don’t double up the punctuation, don’t put spaces between the last letter of the sentence and the punctuation, and commas and periods ALWAYS go inside quotation marks. If you have an item that’s going to be repeated a bunch and you’re just not sure how to punctuate it, send your editor a message ahead of time, or can you leave me a message on Twitter!
And, as always, you will bless your editor if you can show you know how to use their/there/they’re and your/you’re.
Now get to editing!