Posted On November 18, 2016 by Print This Post

Some Formatting Tips That Will Make Your Copy Editor Happy by Nan Reinhardt

Copyeditors are people too! Read Nan Reinhardt’s list of how to make things just a tiny bit easier for them!

nanreinhardtI realize that as you’re working away on your novel, making your copy editor happy isn’t high on the priority list, but you know, life as copy editor can be hard when we have to begin an edit by fixing all the formatting stuff that the author didn’t bother to do. I can get down to the nuts and bolts of editing your story much faster if you keep a few formatting tips in mind.

First, always start each chapter about one third of the way down the page. That’s how most houses like to see it and you’ll save me from having to take out or add hard returns. A third of the way down the page means hitting Enter about five or six times before you start your chapter. Easy right? Always use a readable 12-point font like Times New Roman and always double-space the manuscript. So far, not tough.

Here’s a biggie—one space between sentences. Just one, only one, do not hit your spacebar twice between sentences. If you put in two, then I have to go through and do a search-and-replace on all the double spaces in your 100K-word manuscript. An addendum to that is do not hit Enter after every line—yes, I know it’s hard to believe in this day and age, but there are still those writers who think they’re working on an old Smith Corona manual typewriter instead of a computer. You only need to hit Enter when you’re ready to start a new paragraph. Here’s another tip, learn how to start a new page in Word and use a new page when you begin a new chapter. Don’t just keep hitting Enter to get to one. It’s so easy. Hold down the Control (Ctrl) button on your keyboard and then press Enter. Voila! A brand new page ready for a brand new chapter.

Okay, so this one’s a little more involved, but I promise your copy editor will be eternally grateful and so will the layout folks at your publishing house. Learn how to style paragraphs so that you don’t have use the Tab key to indent at the beginning of a new paragraph. Do this instead. When you open a new document to start a new story, set up the paragraph formatting. On the Ribbon, in the Paragraph group, click the little arrow in the lower-right corner. This opens the Paragraph dialog box, which has all kinds of cool stuff in it. But you only need to pay attention to two things—the Special section and the Spacing section. In the Special drop-down menu, choose First line. Then in the Spacing section, make sure that both Before and After are set to zero. That’s it. That will assure that your manuscript is double-spaced with no extraneous space before or after paragraphs, and it will give you that indent at the beginning of each paragraph without hitting Tab. Pretty cool, huh? Here’s a picture what the dialog box looks like.

Some Formatting Tips That Will Make Your Copy Editor Happy


Got book formatting questions? Ask Nan!

Join us on Monday for Helen Henderson!


Bio: Nan Reinhardt has been a copyeditor and proofreader for over 25 years, and currently works on romantic fiction titles for a variety of clients, including Avon Books, St. Martin’s Press, Kensington Books, Tule Publishing, and Entangled Publishing, as well as for many indie authors.

Nan is also writer of romantic fiction for women in their prime. Yeah, women still fall in love and have sex, even after 45! Imagine! She is a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and a grandmother. She’s been an antiques dealer, a bank teller, a stay-at-home mom, a secretary, and for the last 20 years, she’s earned her living as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader.

But writing is Nan’s first and most enduring passion. She can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t writing—she wrote her first romance novel at the age of ten, a love story between the most sophisticated person she knew at the time, her older sister (who was in high school and had a driver’s license!), and a member of Herman’s Hermits. If you remember who they are, you are Nan’s audience! She’s still writing romance, but now from the viewpoint of a wiser, slightly rumpled, menopausal woman who believes that love never ages, women only grow more interesting, and everybody needs a little sexy romance.

Visit Nan’s website at, where you’ll find links to all her books as well as blogs about writing, being a Baby Boomer, and aging gracefully…mostly. Nan also blogs every Tuesday at Word Wranglers, sharing the spotlight with four other romance authors.


Twitter: @NanReinhardt

Talk to Nan at:



Similar Posts:

Share Button



13 Responses to “Some Formatting Tips That Will Make Your Copy Editor Happy by Nan Reinhardt”

  1. A nice refresher. Thanks, Nan!

    Posted by robena grant | November 18, 2016, 11:46 am
  2. Great post. I do have two question. I am one of those writers who has to double space. I can’t help it. I’m even double spacing now. How do I change in Word the two spaces to one? Also, how do I flip this ‘ backwards, for words like ’cause (because) ‘member (remember)? I’m trying, but can’t figure it out.

    Posted by Mercy | November 18, 2016, 12:52 pm
    • Hi, Mercy, thanks for stopping by!
      To answer your questions: To remove the double spaces, On the Ribbon, on the Home tab, in the Editing group, click Replace. In the dialog box that appears type two spaces in the Find what: section and one space in the Replace with: section. Then at the bottom of the dialog box, click Replace All. That’ll do it.
      For Question 2: you’ll need to type two apostrophes and delete the first one in order to get the apostrophe to face the right way. Quick easy fix. 😉

      Posted by Nan Reinhardt | November 18, 2016, 3:00 pm
  3. This is fabulous! In my years as a freelance garden writer, I learned that different editors had different requirements. One editor always wanted 1 1/2 spaces instead of double-spaces between lines. One editor like the Oxford comma; another didn’t. One editor absolutely loathed colons and/or semicolons. One editor liked white space between every paragraph, another insisted on an indent at the beginning of each paragraph.

    Thankfully, the formatting requirements for fiction seem more consistent. That doesn’t remember I always remember to follow them. I’m going to keep this post as a cheat-sheet. THANK YOU!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 18, 2016, 10:44 pm
  4. Oh Hey, I didn’t know that about the apostrophe trick. =) That’s been bugging me for years!

    What’s the secret to getting an em-dash?

    Great post Nan…thanks again!


    Posted by Carrie Peters | November 19, 2016, 12:11 am
    • Carrie,

      Ctrl Alt – (the “-” being the minus sign on your number keypad) will give an em dash in WORD.

      As an aside for others, if you move to straight quotes like I used above, you don’t have to worry about directionality of punctuation. Just sayin’. (See what I did there? 😉

      Thank you Nan for the shortcut trick for new page. I have always used the longer page break.

      Posted by Rose | November 19, 2016, 11:10 am
      • Rose, great tip, I think I just answered Carrie’s question here…before I read your answer. Duh!

        FYI, straight quotes do solve the directional issues, but all of my big pub clients insist on the curly ones in manuscripts, so I regularly do a find and replace on the straight ones. In indie-pubbed books it’s the author’s preference.

        Posted by Nan Reinhardt | November 19, 2016, 11:25 am
      • ey, Carrie, thanks for coming by! Ctrl+Alt+the minus sign on your number keypad will get you an em dash on a PC. That’s pretty quick, right?

        Posted by Nan Reinhardt | November 19, 2016, 11:27 am
    • Hey, Carrie, thanks for coming by! Ctrl+Alt+the minus sign on your number keypad will get you an em dash on a PC. That’s pretty quick, right?

      Posted by Nan Reinhardt | November 19, 2016, 11:21 am


  1. […] Some Formatting Tips That Will Make Your Copy Editor Happy by Nan Reinhardt […]

Post a comment

Upcoming Posts





Follow Us