Top 10 Tips to Format a Book: A Complete Guide for Authors

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To make your writing look well-organized and reader-friendly, you need to know the basics of formatting. It makes it easier for your editor to understand your manuscript and helps grab their full attention. The stated recommendations here are standard for most editors, while some might have their formatting stipulations. So, surf through the websites for proper information before attempting anything. 


You will find the following formatting recommendations standard for both fiction and non-fiction manuscript. Let’s go through the writing to understand what your editor might expect from you as a standard manuscript formatting.


Using Standard Font

Use black color. The standard size is 12-point. Make sure you are using the Times New Roman. Though this font design may appear to be uninteresting, it is the default font on every computer ever built. 


Don’t try applying cool fonts for effect. It is the work for your interior designer that comes much later after your editing process. There might be some exceptions for some specific journals or newspapers. So, keep that in mind for a better impression.


Using Standard Page Size 

For book formatting, the standard page size for your file is 8.5×11 inches. Generally, you will find it as a default if you are using Word. But when you are using a word processor of your choice, make sure you do a double-check. The same goes for when you export your file from some other processors to Word. Ensure the output is of correct page size and margins.


Go to File>Page Setup if your page size is not correct. Then look at the drop-down menu, and select the standard one. To set margins, go to Format>Document and correct it.


Setting Alignment

You need to set the alignment to left-justified. The text is called left-justified text as well as ragged right text as the right side remains non-uniform. To set it in Word, first select the whole writing. Then select Format>Paragraph to choose “Left” in the Alignment drop-down box. Or you can do it by clicking on the left-justified icon in the Home tab. 

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Adding Single Space

If you’ve been trained to use two spaces, you’ll need to retrain yourself after a while. It is standard to use a single space in this digital age. If you have two spaces in your document, use your word processor’s Find and Replace feature to fix it. First, type two spaces into “Find” and then one space into “Replace”. Now hit “Replace all” and ensure your manuscript looks standard.


Using Double-Spaced Line Spacing

If you want to help your editor, make sure you use double-spaced line spacing. Ensure they are checking your every last word by giving your words room to breathe. 


Have you already written the manuscript with different line spacing? Nothing to worry about! Select all the text in Word and click Format > Paragraph. Now look into the drop-down box under “Line spacing” and select “Double” to correct all.


Indenting Paragraphs

Editors find it most annoying. Hitting tab and setting tabs are not the same things.

If you are a tab hitter or use many spaces, you need to set indentation. First, select all the text in Word and then click Format > Paragraph. Now, under “Indentation,” type .5 by “Left” under “Special” and from the drop-down menu, select “First line”. Remember, after a subhead, the first paragraph of any chapter or following a number or bulleted list is not indented.


Formatting Paragraph

Formatting paragraphs correctly is necessary when it comes to writing books. But the standards might be different for each purpose. Nonfiction authors, for example, can choose not to indent paragraphs if there is a complete paragraph break between them, but fiction authors must indent paragraphs if there are no full paragraph breaks. If you are confused, crack open a book in your genre. Check out the paragraphing conventions and emulate as per to edit correctly.

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Using Page Breaks

When you are beginning a new chapter, use page breaks rather than just keep hitting return until you generate a new page. If you are working in Word, first place your cursor at the end of a chapter and then click Insert > Break > Page Break. You will find it in Word’s top menu.


Adding Page Number

You need to avoid numbering on the title page. Make your book look better and standard by starting numbering from the page where your story begins. In Word, you can place page numbers from the page your story starts by double-clicking within its header area. Click Insert > Page Numbers to select your preferred options. The perfect place to place your page number will be at the top left of your page. 


Sending the Manuscript

Although it may not be required to write your masterpiece in Word, your editor will undoubtedly enjoy having a word file. Because the “Track Changes” option in Word is still the go-to editing tool. Remember, you should never send your editor separate files. All individual chapters should be in one file to deliver proper convenience. 


If you want to show proper respect towards your craft as well as the editor, make sure you are not skipping over the basics of formatting your manuscript. When you deliver an editor a badly formatted manuscript, it is difficult for him to understand and reformat it. It can make your editor annoyed and frustrated, which might lead them to poor performance. 


To Conclude

Make sure that you prepare your manuscript properly and follow the tips above to incorporate the standardized basics of formatting to have a better output.


All the best!