You may not feel guidelines are important, but they are. If you have done the work of writing an article or manuscript, than take the time to prepare it properly.

No matter how often this topic is covered, all writers need to remind themselves over and over again of its vital importance. Recently, I held a lengthy phone conversation with a good friend who has been working five years on her book. Unfortunately, her first proof from the publisher is a disaster. Even more unfortunately, much of this could have been avoided. My friend used a professional editor, but that was not enough.

Some of the necessary steps in preparation, frequently forgotten, include:

  • Read your work out loud. You may say you hear the words so you don’t have to say them. This is totally wrong. Believe me, it is because you know your own words that you are likely to miss things. When you read out loud, you stumble on errors no matter how good a writer you are.

Use a thesaurus before you submit. Frequently, when you get a proof, you will notice you used the same word over and over, as well as close together. When you are giving your manuscript or article a final read before submitting, look for this problem. If you can’t think of another word to replace, rely on a thesaurus. If you don’t have one, they are available online.

  • If you are using print-on-demand or a small local press, be sure your work is formatted to the publisher’s specifications. Insist on knowing their exact specifications, as it will save you time in the proofing process. This is especially important if you are including charts or photos. Formatting requirements apply to the following:
  • Margins.
  • Line spacing.
  • Paragraph indenting or not.
  • Only hit enter at the end of a paragraph. Using this command at the end of a line on your screen will cause a mess.
  • Use a font that is easy to read. I learned this the hard way. Pretty is not always clear.
  • Keep your layout simple. When you have more than one or two levels of indentations, they do not transfer easily to a different program. Frequently, a great deal of your copy will not be lined up properly. If you don’t have a choice, then it will be worth the hours of proofing to make adjustments due to program conversion. If you possibly can write so you only have two levels of indentations (like this article), you will be happier with the finished result.
  • Be sure your graphs, photos, charts, etc. are sized to fit the space available.
  • Prepare your chapter headings the way your want them. Be consistent, otherwise one will show up with all words capitalized and the next will have some of the words capitalized.
  • If you are being published by a traditional publisher, you may think the above doesn’t apply. It does. The more responsibility you take yourself for the material you submit, the happier you will be with the finished product.

    The above article was originally published in my “Successful with Words” column on The Big Blend Magazine as Preparing Your Manuscript for the Printer or Article for Publication. I have added a paragraph at the beginning.

    CityRoom, JustLuxe, Big Blend, Spa Review Magazine, Global Writes

    Finalist in the Writing and Publishing category of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, “$uccess, Your Path to a Successful Book,”