5 Do’s and Don’ts for Formatting, Grammar, and Spelling

At Outskirts Press, our passion is helping you publish the book of your dreams. And you can help us. Even though we will strive to ensure that your book is perfect when it is done, there are little things you can do with your manuscript prior to the publishing stage that will go a long way toward helping us publish a perfect book later. Just five little things…

#1. Don’t insert hard paragraph breaks after every line. You can see where hard returns are in your Microsoft Word document by holding down CTRL-SHIFT-8. That bold “paragraph symbol” shows you where the hard returns are. They should be only at the ends of paragraphs.

#2. Don’t manually insert hyphens. Your word processor should hyphenate words automatically, unless you have that function turned off. But even turning off auto-hyphenation is preferable to manually inserting a hyphen yourself. A manually-inserted hyphen will cause all sorts of problems during interior book formatting, so be sure to remove them from your manuscript before submitting it to us (or to any publisher, for that matter).

#3. Don’t use ALL CAPS. You may be tempted to capitalize words for emphasis, or for book titles. In both instances, italics are preferred.

Readers appreciate error-free books.

#4. Do spell check your work. All word processors have built-in spell checking. Even if you plan on having us professionally edit your manuscript before publication (which we STRONGLY recommend; oops, I mean strongly recommend), it is a good idea to run your spell check program over your manuscript prior to submitting it to us, just to fix all the “easy” errors.

#5. Do check your grammar. Most word processors also have built-in grammar checking, although they are admittedly poor. There are better (and free) alternatives on the Internet. Our favorite is Online-SpellCheck.com. Simply cut and paste your manuscript, a chapter at a time, into the online form and Online-SpellCheck will not only identify spelling errors your word processor probably missed, but it will also catch other common grammatical errors such as contextual misspellings, commonly switched words, typographical errors, and more.

Even if you plan on ordering our optional editing service to have your manuscript professionally edited, this procedure with Online-SpellCheck is an important one to complete prior to submitting your manuscript. And if you choose to forgo our optional editing services (which we recommend against), this step with Online-SpellCheck.com is basically mandatory. It’s quick and free, so do your future readers a favor and double-check your manuscript now.

Special Note: Be sure to bookmark Online-SpellCheck.com when you are there, so you can access it during the production phase at Outskirts Press. You will be entering information into your Publishing Center (like your synopsis, back cover copy, and online sales copy). It’s best to run those paragraphs through Online-SpellCheck.com before submitting them during the pre-production process.

Additionally, there is a popular Chrome extension to consider: Grammarly (at www.grammarly.com). This browser extension runs in the background on the Chrome Internet browser and checks spelling and grammar “on the fly” as you enter words into online forms. This is very useful for completing your publishing process error-free.

Obviously, there is no substitute for a professional human editor, but complementing our professional editing services with Online-SpellCheck and Grammarly is the perfect hat trick to almost guarantee an error-free book.


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