Friday, May 14, 2010

Editing Tip #29: Polishing Tips

Kathy Ide’s Editing Tips
© Kathy Ide, 2010

In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on self-editing your manuscript.


Style Guides. Most American book publishers use The Chicago Manual of Style. If you don’t have one, I strongly encourage you to purchase it. (The current edition is the 15th, but the 16th is scheduled for release in fall 2010.) The Associated Press Stylebook is used for newspapers and journalistic magazines. If you’re writing for the Christian market, get The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style by Robert Hudson (2004 edition).

Dictionaries. Book publishers use Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition). For articles, use Webster’s New World College Dictionary.

Sentence Spacing. Put one space between each sentence, not two. If you’re used to two, it can be a tough habit to break. There’s an easy fix, though. Just use “find and replace” to find two spaces and replace with one space. Click “replace all” until the count gets down to zero.

Paragraph Indent. Always indent each paragraph with the Tab key to 1/2 inch. Do not use the spacebar. Don’t add blank lines between paragraphs. And take out any automatic paragraph spacing your word-processing program may add.

Italics or Underscore. Underlining of text that is to be italicized when the book goes to print used to be the standard. But typesetting has become computerized to the point where most publishers now want italicized text to be italicized in the author’s manuscript.

Scene Breaks for Fiction. Insert a blank line to signal a change in time, location, or point of view. Skip an extra line between scenes and place a pound sign (#) centered on the skipped line.

Dashes. An em dash is formed using two consecutive hyphens without spaces before or after. Most word-processing programs can automatically change this to an “em dash”—which is perfectly acceptable and preferred by some publishers. For book manuscripts, an en dash should be used between consecutive numbers, such as in Scripture references or dates. (Articles don’t use en dashes; use a hyphen in these instances.) Just be sure your entire manuscript is consistent one way or the other. Either use hyphens throughout or use em and en dashes throughout.

Ellipsis. The ellipsis (. . .) consists of three dots with spaces before, after, and between each period. If the ellipsis occurs at the beginning or end of a quotation or parentheses, there’s no space between the first or final dot and the quotation mark or parenthesis.

NOTE: It is an infringement of copyright law to reproduce this
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Kathy Ide has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. Her books include Polishing the PUGS and Fiction and Truth. Kathy is a full-time freelance editor, offering a wide range of editorial services for authors and publishers. She also speaks at writers’ conferences across the country. She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network ( and the Christian Editor Network ( To find out more, please visit

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