If you want to submit your manuscript to an editor, an agent, or a publisher,
If you want to self-publish, and want to be ready for all the ebook & print formatting that come next,
I’ve got some good news!
You can stop googling and ripping your hair out now. Just follow these simple steps to clean up your manuscript.
1. The following things have no place in a manuscript, and must be removed
Many people use Tabs to indent paragraphs, completely unaware that Word has an automatic setting for paragraph indentation to do that for you. They also don’t know that an inserted Tab is like an extra character, a transparent brick that smacks the reader in the head before each paragraph. All ebook & print book formatters will reject your manuscript if you have Tabs inside.
- Double spaces
A remnant of old-school formatting akin to typewriters. Some writers still insert a double space after each sentence. Stop that. We’re in the 21st century now.
- Empty lines between paragraphs
You’ve probably read too many hideously formatted company newsletters to want that extra line there.
If you want your paragraphs to be spaced out while you’re getting your creative groove on, fine, but use Word’s paragraph spacing function, don’t just hit [return] like a spastic monkey.
- Multiple punctuation
Why would you even do that?! It’s fucking annoying!!!!! It’s also a pain to clean up……
If your document is riddled with those, it might look something like this (Comic Sans font intentional; paragraph marks shown to make Tabs & extra spaces visible):
How do you go about removing all this dead wook from your document?
Find & Replace
I love this little function.
Copy paste the thing you want to remove* (like a Tab, a double space, a tripple hyphen (what? I use those instead of em-dashes in Scrivener because that’s why, shut up)) and paste it into the Find field, using Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V on your keyboard.
Enter nothing in the Replace field if you want the pesky item removed.
Hit Replace All.
Rinse and repeat if need be.
* You can also use special characters as stand-ins for Tabs & empty paragraphs in the Find & Replace function.
– for Tab, type ^t in the Find field, and leave the Replace field empty;
– for an empty paragraph, type ^p^p in the Find field, and ^p in the Replace field.
2. Strip all wonky formatting from your text without losing your italics
I’ve read dozens of articles online telling writers to copy-paste their entire novel into a plain text editor (like Notepad) to remove unwanted formatting, then to paste it back. DON’T DO THIS! It will also remove your italics, and going through a 100K manuscript to italicize names again, or swearwords or whatever, is insanely hard. You don’t need that migraine.
The easiest way to clean all wonky formatting from your text, is to use Word’s “Clear Formatting” function, in the Home tab, under Font settings. It looks something like this:
Here’s how you avoid losing your italics along with everything else.
Word’s Clear Formatting function erases all formatting from a text, ALL of it, except highlights. So all you have to do is replace all your italics with highlights. How?
Find & Replace
Told you I love this function. 🙂
1. Open the Find & Replace dialog, and click on >>More. You’ll see something like this:
3. In the Font style section, select Italic. The AaBbCcYyZz thingy at the bottom will now be italicised. Click OK. You’ll be returned to the Find & Replace dialog.
4. Now click into the Replace field, and tell Word what to replace your italics with, i.e. highlights. Click on Format / Highlight at the bottom. Click OK. You’ll be returned to the Find & Replace dialog, but now, under the Find field you’ll see “Format: Font: Italic,” and under the Replace field you’ll see “Format: Highlight.”
5. Hit Replace All.
All your previously italicized words are now also highlighted*.
* If you want to remove the italics in the same move, you must select Format / Font / Font style = regular in the Replace field. It’s unnecessary though, because the next stept will un-italicize your manuscript anyway.
NEXT, select your entire manuscript text by hitting Ctrl+A and click that magic button I told you about: Clear Formatting.
Your manuscript will now look like this (remember we removed all the dead wood like Tabs and multiple punctuation in the previous step):
6. Now you open Find & Replace again, and, following the steps above, replace all your highlights with italics again.
3. Clean up Word’s annoying in-house paragraph formatting
Oh, Microsoft, Microsoft. Why you be such a pain, eh?
The Clear Formatting fucntion does indeed remove all our formatting, but then it slaps Word’s in-house formatting preference on top of our text. To eliminate it, we must reset the paragraph formatting by hand.
No, not by using Find & Replace! What are you smoking?
Select your entire text using Ctrl+A. Then go to your Home tab, and open the Paragraph Formatting dialog. It should look something like this:
Now make sure paragraph spacing before & after are both zero; line spacing is Single, there’s no special indentation, no checkbox selected, no anvils lying around and no naked ogres. Hit OK.
Your manuscript is now all clean and shiny, and ready to be formatted for submission & publication.
You’re welcome. 🙂