You let out a sigh of relief. You’ve written that last word to complete your book. You’ve self-edited and maybe had friends or family review. You are ready for the next step in self-publishing. The next step may be a professional editor or you may be ready for the interior design process. Either way, these tips will help you make a few final tweaks to your manuscript to get it ready for editing and/or design.

Use Styles, Especially If You Have Single- or Multi-level Headings

If your document includes single- or multi-level headings, we need to know so we can set them up properly in the formatted document. The preferred method for designating heading levels is to use the built-in styles of Word. Just formatting the heading’s font a certain way won’t help. Use the styles for Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, and so forth. To apply a heading style, put your cursor in the line you want to signify the heading then click on the appropriate style in the Styles menu. The shortcut for bringing up the Apply Styles menu is Ctrl+Shift+S.

Best Practices in Word

When we first receive your manuscript, we complete a document clean-up. This process includes replacing two spaces with one, replacing two paragraph marks with one, removing tabs, and other clean-up steps. The following is a list of good practices to assist with our document set-up:

First-line Paragraph Indentation
Avoid using a tab or multiple spaces to create a paragraph indentation. Instead, use Word’s First-Line Indentation. Best practice would be to set up your Normal Style to have first line indentation.

Scene Breaks
Avoid inserting a double space as a scene break as we remove all of these during the clean-up process and will lose the space you intended to be the scene break. Best practice is to always use *** to signify a scene break in your document. During the interior design process, we will change the *** to whatever style you choose.

Page Breaks
Avoid hitting the Enter key multiple times to go to the next page. Best practice is to use page breaks. A shortcut for entering a page break is to hit Ctrl+Enter.

Manual Spacing
If you are typing your document in block paragraphs (paragraphcs without first line indentations), avoid hitting Enter twice to space out your paragraphs. Best practice is to use Word’s Spacing After in the Paragraph menu where you tell Word to insert a certain amount of space after each paragraph.

Avoid Using Soft Returns (or Manual Line Breaks)
A soft return is when you hit Shift+Enter to go to the next line instead of just using the Enter key. Soft returns keep an entire paragraph together instead of inserting a true paragraph break. Best practice is to avoid soft returns at all costs as they can cause many issues when your manuscript is formatted.

Avoid Hitting the Space Bar Multiple Times
If you are trying to position text in a certain location, whether you want it centered or pushed towards the other side of a line, you may find yourself hitting the Space Bar multiple times. Best practice is to use center or right justification. If you are trying to put a line in a certain spot, use the indent feature. If you are trying to space out words, use the Tab key.

Avoid Typing in ALLCAPS
Visually, you may want to see your chapter titles and headings in all capital letters. Typically, all caps takes up more space and looks messier than title case when it’s in printed form. Your readers may also think you are shouting at them. Your formatter may choose an interior design that uses title case or small caps in which they would need to change your chapter titles and headings to be match. Best practice is to type your chapter titles and heading in title case. If you prefer visually to see the text in ALLCAPS, you can set it to all caps in the style but type it in title case.

Use Tables Instead of Tabs to Signify Columns of Data
Tabs often change with page size, font size, and other formatting changes, causing the information to not align properly. When you are trying to line up text and numbers, best practice is to set information in a table instead of tabbing over.

Avoid Large, Complex Tables
When the document size changes from letter to whatever your book size will be, tables containing a lot of data may need to be extremely small to fit on the page size. Best practice is to avoid using complex tables or consider splitting the table into smaller tables. Need help? We can consult with you to ensure you’re presenting your tables in the best way possible.

Avoid typing footnotes manually. Best practice is to use the Insert Footnote feature.

If you have a document already written that has some of the issues in the section above, you can easily clean up most of these issues using Word’s Find/Replace menu.

TIP: If you are using Jera Publishing, there is no need to add page numbers to the table of contents. This is part of our interior design service.

“Raise the Hood” to Reveal Underlying Issues in Your Document
When I first made the transition from WordPerfect to MS Word (yes, I’m dating myself), I had a hard time finding my way around. The Reveal Codes feature in WordPerfect was my best friend. If there was something wacky going on in my document, I knew by “raising the hood,” I would be able to find the culprit. Although I don’t think Word has quite mastered showing us the underlying elements in our documents, the program does have some useful tools to see what really is going on. If you find yourself wondering why something is happening in your document, use these two tools to discover what is lying underneath:

  1. Show/Hide
    This useful feature will show you where you have hit the Space Bar, the Tab key, the Enter key, Shift+Enter to create a soft return, Ctrl+Enter to insert a page break, and more. It does take some time to get used to seeing the special characters and realizing they are not visible in your final document. This odd view is worth getting used to! The shortcut for this tool is Shift+Ctrl+8. You can use the shortcut to toggle the view.
  1. Reveal Formatting
    This tool shows the font and paragraph information for a particular line as well as the section information (if sections were used). To view this tool, press Shift+F1.

We’ve created a helpful video to go along with this article:

Stephanie Anderson

Stephanie Anderson

Book Designer at Jera Publishing
I have determined that my mission in life is to design books. Why? Because we should love what we do, and I love designing books! My love for design came in high school, where I was the layout editor for the yearbook.I received my Marketing degree from Kennesaw State University and then spent many years on the marketing and design side of the financial industry. My favorite part of my job is working with the authors. I love taking the stories that they’ve poured their blood, sweat, and tears into and bringing them to life.
Stephanie Anderson
Game Plan to Self-Publishing

Get Your FREE Game Plan to Self-Publishing!

Thinking about self-publishing? Then our free Game Plan to Self-Publishing guide is for you. This 6-play book will help bring your manuscript to life, taking you from a document of words to a printed and bound book, or an eBook, in just 6 easy steps.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive the Game Plan to Self-Publishing: 6 Plays to bring Your Book to Life for free today.

Thank you for signing up! Be sure to check your email to confirm your subscription.

Pin It on Pinterest