Editor’s Tip: Cleaning Up Your Manuscript Can Save You Money

by Corina Koch MacLeod

Image by Tax Credits (CC BY 2.0)

Did you know there are ways to save money on editing costs? If your editor charges by the hour (and many do), every extra task she or he has to do to get your manuscript ready for editing takes time and costs you money.

That’s right: there are some tasks editors need to complete before beginning an editing job. You can save money by handling those “before editing” tasks yourself, and instead spend your money on what editors do best: polish your writing.

So, what do editors do to get a manuscript ready for editing? They “clean up” the manuscript by removing extra and incorrectly applied formatting, such as

  • Extra spaces after end punctuation (one space, not two)
  • Excessive use of the space bar
  • Manual tabs (use the paragraph style in your Word processor to indent paragraphs)
  • Extra spaces between paragraphs
  • Underlining
  • Boldface and italics, used incorrectly
  • Excessive use of “fancy fonts” (try to stick to two fonts for your entire book; choose ebook-friendly fonts)

So, how can you address these items on your own? Take a page from the copyeditor’s book!

  • Use Word’s Show/Hide feature to help you see tabs and extra spacing in your document. You can use a copyeditor’s trick to delete these extras automatically by using tools like the Editorium’s File Cleaner or the Wiley Publishing Cleanup Tool (free). You can also use Word’s Find and Replace feature along with Find and Replace codes to clean up extra tabs and spaces. Access the Find and Replace Codes in the Special Menu by typing Ctrl + H>More>Special and selecting a feature from the list. The code will be placed in the Find box.
  • Remove underlining using Word’s Find and Replace feature: Find: Ctrl+U. This will take you to an underlined word in your document. Double click on the word to highlight it and type Ctrl+U to remove underlining.
  • There are specific rules surrounding the use of italics. You can refer to a style guide to learn the rules. If that’s way too technical for you, err on the side of not using italics. Your editor will add italics correctly when she copyedits your manuscript and not have to spend time removing them where they don’t belong. The same is true for boldface type.
  • Remove fancy fonts and replace them with one font for now: Times New Roman is a safe choice, especially if your manuscript is ebook bound. If you’ve styled your document using Word styles, change the font in your paragraph style to Times New Roman.

If all of this is too technical for you and you’d rather eat dirt than hunt anything using a Find and Replace code, that’s okay. Paying an editor to clean up your manuscript might be a good investment for you.

At Beyond Paper Editing we don’t charge by the hour. We’ve created an itemized price list to help self-publishing authors decide how they want to spend their money. In doing so, we’ve also shed light on what exactly editors do when they copyedit a manuscript, so you know what you’re getting for your money.

Once you know what’s involved in a copyedit, you can decide what you’d like us to handle, and what you’d like to handle yourself. And here’s the best news of all: anything you decide to do yourself will save you money. You can consult our website for more details on our services and prices.

Related Posts

Manuscript Preparation: Lines and Spaces
Formatting Principles for Ebook Authors
Use CrossEyes to Prevent Ebook Formatting Problems
How to Keep Track of Your Elements of Style*

9 thoughts on “Editor’s Tip: Cleaning Up Your Manuscript Can Save You Money

  1. I love this post, Corina. During the course of my proofreading work with a number of independent authors, I’ve spent a lot of my time (and their money) correcting hundreds of tiny mistakes that could have been dealt with in the self-editing process using the tools you mention. I’ve added this valuable article to my Guidelines for New Authors.

  2. Unlimited budgets are few and far between so this is great advice to do as much as you can before passing your work on to an editor. You’d be surprised how much time is spent cleaning up these tiny mistakes.

  3. Help! I opened a navigation pane in Word and did the Headings thing which was great because now I have a table of contents, but, someone told me to use the first line so that I could easily edit later, sounded good.
    So I backspaced my first line up to then end of say Chapter 1 and it now made it part of the heading and I can’t figure out how to get rid of it. When I downloaded to Kindle using your formula from another blog I found large print at the start of the chapter that I obviously don’t want.
    Also a couple pages later I found big spaces. One line then,

    like this,

    Is this because of the spacing issue you tell us about above?
    Thanks, sorry to be a pain,
    Jacquie Biggar

    1. Jacquie,
      Once you style your headings, they’ll show up in Word’s Navigation pane, and you can then use the heading in the Nav Pane to move around your doc efficiently. Later, these styled headings can be auto-generated into a TOC. I think you’re with me so far, right?

      The problem, as I understand it, is what’s happening between those headings. I suspect that you’ve got hidden formatting in the background. See the CrossEyes post on this blog to see what I mean.

      One solution is to apply paragraph styling to every paragraph. For ebooks, you’ll want to do that, anyway. You’ll need to click on each paragraph, go to the Styles menu in Word, and select Normal. This is a simplistic description of what needs to happen here, but Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide can fill in the gaps.

      A second, solution is to do a nuclear. Again, the Smashword’s Style Guide will be of assistance, here.

      Good luck!

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