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A rant on proper manuscript formatting
Bella
ellen_datlow
Recent reading and editing has brought to my attention the fact that some writers have suddenly (well, since using computers and email) decided that the usual rules of mss preparation are no longer necessary.

Three examples:
1) I have received print submissions without PAGE NUMBERS (not often, but still, this should never happen).

2) I have increasingly been the recipient of manuscripts that don't underline words meant to be italicized in the story's final, printed form. The reason editors/copy editors/and whoever does the production on a mss need to see underlines is that some typefaces don't show italics very well, and even if they did--it's quicker to "see" underline than italics

3)I have been receiving mss without anything indicating space breaks. What happened to ###? I'm in the middle of reading a printout that seemed to be missing at least two pages because there were no transitions...When I checked the efile, lo and behold, the sentence breaks were in different places so I could actually see that there were supposed to be space breaks. Writers--new and pro--please please show your space breaks by putting in hash marks.

4) Paragraphing--before online publishing, paragraphing was shown by indenting margins...Guess what, folks? Most publishing (especially of books) is still print, which means that paragraphs are indented.

Rant over

And that's precisely why I don't submit anything to you. If I can't be trusted with sharp objects, then why should I be trusted with manuscript formats?
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formatting

(Anonymous)
(from Steve Tem)

I feel your pain. Just to give you an author's perspective, I've gotten notes from more than one copy editor lately asking me to convert my underlines to italics throughout. And more than one editor has asked me not to use underlining in submissions. I assume this is because more publishers are using electronic copies, but I hate the trend. My eyes have a hard time distinguishing courier italic--it gets confusing.
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Re: formatting

(Anonymous)
This is true. I've had many editors tell me not to underline and that ### means the end of the story, not paragraph breaks. The "standard" formatting is now so muddled I get afraid to submit anything, because I'm going to end up screwing up without realizing it. (I get over it.) Now I go solely by the submission guidelines - if it doesn't say to underline italics, I don't. Particularly since in some of my work, flashbacks are in italics, so you'd have pages and pages of underlined material - that could get really old fast.

I get how this can be annoying, though.

There is no excuse for not numbering pages.
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thank you, ellen datlow.
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You're very welcome.
From one editor to another ;-)
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(Deleted comment)
You mean you don't like the 7-point light pink Lucinda with lipstick kisses on the 3rd page?
*SOB*
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I'm truly surprised by the paragraphing one!
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I think that paragraph thing might come from screenwriting, where a treatment is written in big non-indented blocks. I recently had some newbies give me "stories" to read, and they looked just like screenplay treatments.

In fact I suspect they WERE treatments (these kids wanted to write both prose and screenplays). I confess I was a bit brusque when I hurled the manuscripts back and told the poor quivering things to please learn proper formatting.
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(Deleted comment)
thank you :-). Some of these are by writers from whom I've bought stories before!
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I've seen scene breaks denoted by both ### and #. Are both correct?
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My lame excuse for the Haunted Legends MSS which may or may not make it to you, is that it had proper indents before I turned it into an RTF file.

I shake my fist first at myself for not doing the right thing and turning off auto-indent and damn well using tabs, and second at the sorry state of RTF exports for not letting me get away with less-than-optimal formatting.
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Yeah (and not that I got a haunted legend story done, but) conversion to .rtf tends to lose my page numbers as well as my indents. And of late, my line spacing too. Don't know why; it all shows up fine on my screen.

That's where I think hard copy wins over an e-sub: you know what it'll look like on the other end.
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Will, I've always said that I prefer Times roman but I finally realized that I'm not sure I even notice the difference in print mss. It's only in the efile that I hate reading courier...
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I live in fear that when I convert a .wpd doc to .rtf format, an editor will open it in Word and I'll lose my headers or it will look otherwise strange...

I know, I know. I need to get with the program and just buy MS Word already. *shakes tiny fist at Bill Gates* But I don't wanna.
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Courier vs time roman for novels vs stories

Aha! See? Be careful re: times roman vs courier--it depends on who you're submitted to and what for...novels are different from short stories in that way.
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"The reason editors/copy editors/and whoever does the production on a mss need to see underlines is that some typefaces don't show italics very well, and even if they did--it's quicker to "see" underline than italics"

Funny thing - I actually stopped doing underlines a few years back because I got a submission from Nick and he didn't use underlines, and I figured he knew better than I did and this was no longer a technical requirement.

My god, I am so confused.
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I was going to comment that as a copyeditor I see more and more manuscripts with italics instead of underlining, but I see from the comments in this thread that some writers are being told to do this. I didn't know that. It's definitely a pain in the ass when copyediting.
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My last novel manuscript was an e-sub. I was told to change my underlines to italics, and italics are damned hard to pick out in Courier 12. But that's what they wanted, so that's what I turned in.

It still feels strange for me to use italics, as though I'm cheating or something.
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I don't know how people edit or copy edit manuscripts in italics. It just seems wrong to me--and a lot harder on the eyes.
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As one who recently forgot page numbers on a MS I recently submitted to you, I bow my head in humble remorse.
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And as one who used the word "recently" twice in that recent sentence, I kick myself for my redundant redundancy.
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