Not Just Another Grouchy Grammarian

Musings about language, books, grammar, and writing in general

Your Grammarian is Particularly Grouchy Today…

I have spent much of this week editing a manuscript. Sadly, not one of mine, but when you get paid to edit, you edit.

However, it was rough going, largely because the author, who shall remain nameless, had no clue about how to format it.

It was not double-spaced. Some paragraphs were indented, others not. Some of it was right & left justified, some of it ragged right (which is, btw, the correct way). The writing was wooden and full of said bookisms. The three parts of the novel bore nothing to show how they were related. The characters did not engage the reader. Chapters did not begin on a new page. Oh, and instead of putting the page numbers in a header, the writer inserted page breaks and manually typed in the number at the top of each page.

So, what I want to talk about a bit is manuscript submission.

In the event you are planning to submit a manuscript to a publisher, there are a number of conventions that you should follow.

  1. Double-spacing. the manuscript should be double-spaced.
  2. Identification and Numbering. The first page should contain the author’s name, address, phone number, and e-mail address in a header, right-aligned. Pages two through the end of the manuscript should contain the author’s last name – title – page number in a header, also right aligned. If you don’t know how to set this up, go to headers in your word processing program, and set up for right aligned headers, with first page different, and type in the page two to end header, then go back to the first page and add your first page header.
  3. Spelling and grammar. The manuscript should be spell & grammar checked, even if you ignore some of the grammar changes the program suggests.
  4. Thoughts. When your characters have thoughts, they should be set off from the regular text. Some people choose to italicize the thoughts; others set them off in either <> or [] brackets.
  5. Said Bookisms. There are so many ways to treat dialogue that putting “he (or she) said/he (or she) noted/he (or she) replied/etc.” should generally be avoided. Have your character complete an action, walk away, pick something up…anything but using said bookisms over and over.
  6. Justification. Manuscripts should be submitted left-aligned (also known as right-ragged). The only exception for this is when a poem relies on the shape of the lines on the page.
  7. Chapters. Each chapter should begin on a new page. Chapter headings should be centered and in bold.
  8. Foreign Words. These should be italicized the first time they are used. Also, if your novel is set in 17th Century France, you should not use the Italian word for an object. Find the appropriate French word, or just use English.
  9. Page Breaks. Only use page breaks when necessary: between sections and at the end of chapters. So: Title Page, page break, Table of Contents, page break, Section Title (if used), page break, Chapter One, page break, etc., page break, Epilogue, page break, index (if any), page break.

That’s about all I can think of offhand, but I am sure there are other points  to remember, and — if I think of them — I will do another post.

See everyone next time.



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2 thoughts on “Your Grammarian is Particularly Grouchy Today…

  1. turtle on said:

    I disagree with points 4, 5, and 8, but with the caveat of if you aren’t breaking these rules intentionally because you really know what you are doing, you should probably be following them.


    • Point 4 is convention. Points 5 & 8 are stylistic, and have some leeway. Still, I would not immediately exclude a manuscript from consideration for one of these errors. However, the manuscript I was dealing with had *ALL* of them, and more.

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