The Extra Space

My mother insisted I learn how to type when I was in high school. Since I didn’t plan on becoming a secretary, I failed to see the necessity of the class. She assured me that no matter what field of study I ended up pursuing, I would never regret learning how to type. When I think about all the reports and papers I typed in high school, the subpoenas, notices, and letters I typed as an office manager of a court reporting firm, and the short stories, flash fiction, novels, and blog posts I type as a writer, well, I’m glad I listened to Mom.

I learned on different models of electric typewriters in high school. They were very high tech at the time. The college I attended also used electric typewriters, but it wasn’t long into my education that the school transitioned to computers. Imagine how thrilled we students were. From that day forward, technology has progressed to the point where I’m now typing on a laptop. Things sure do change rapidly.

But one thing did not. My brain and fingers were trained to hit the space bar two times after any punctuation ending a sentence and after a colon. I’ve done it for thirty years, and no one ever said boo about it. Until recently.

It was pointed out to me that I needed to stop this practice. I failed to see the urgency of retraining my brain and fingers, so I continued to let the memory ingrained in my ten digits go about business as usual. Another person pointed out that my long-practiced habit may be viewed as a problem when submitting my work for publication.

I’m going to forgo my thoughts on how this minor detail could cause a major upset in the lives of those who would publish my writing and go straight to helping anyone who may still be placing the extra space after their punctuation. And in case you were wondering, the reason this has changed is because every letter among the fonts one can employee these days receives an appropriate amount of space negating the need for two spaces at the end of a sentence that used to improve readability. Below is an example of what I’m talking about.

The monospaced font required the extra space. Proportional fonts do not.

Correcting the problem is easy. If I can learn to retrain my fingers to hit the space bar once after punctuation, so can you. As for the documents you already have saved on your computer, there’s a quick fix for that, too.

Open your document

On the Home tab, in the Editing group, choose Replace. Or press Ctrl + H on your keyboard.

In the Find what box, type a period and two spaces

In the Replace with box, type a period and one space

Choose Find Next and click Replace All

Every instance of two spaces after a period will be corrected to only one space. The same steps can be used to remove the extra space after question marks, colons, and exclamation points.

I hope this was helpful to anyone out there who may still be placing two spaces after a period. In closing, let me say one small thing: yes, using two spaces after punctuation may reveal a person’s age, but that does not give anyone the right to point out what has now become an error with anything but tact and grace.

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the TradeAt this month’s Critique Group, a fellow writer said that he thought he’d done everything correctly when writing his novel only to find that it had to be double spaced with one-inch margins, Times New Roman 12 point, starting a third of the way down the page—

“Wait, wait, wait,” I said when I noticed panic widening the eyes of another new member. “What you’re talking about is a manuscript submission copy.”

We had a discussion on how to write a story and touched on plotting versus pantsing, writing by hand versus typing on a laptop, etc. The first point I want to make is just write the story. As Will Shetterly said, “It is better to write a bad first draft than to write no first draft at all.” I’m also fond of “Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head.” There are many such encouraging quotes, but I’m sure you understand what I’m saying. Get that story written.

With that being said, the second point and true purpose of this post is to offer another resource where new writers can find the information they require to turn their manuscripts into acceptable submission copies. I’m all about giving back the information I discovered and/or processes I learned.

These steps are for formatting a novel:

  1. Set 1″ margins on all sides.
  2. Prepare a title page with your name and contact information in the upper left-hand corner of the page (some sources say include the word count here), title in ALL CAPS about one-third of the way down the page, skip a line, followed with a novel by, skip a line, and your name.
  3. Don’t number the title page. Begin numbering (1) with the first page of the text of the manuscript, usually the introduction, prologue, or chapter one.
  4. Use a header on each page, including your last name, the title of your novel in ALL CAPS, and the page number. Remember to make the font of the header match the font of your manuscript.
  5. Start each new chapter on its own page, one-third of the way down the page.
  6. The chapter number and chapter title should be in all caps, separated by two hyphens: CHAPTER 1—THE BODY.
  7. Begin the body of the chapter four to six lines below the chapter title.
  8. Indent fives spaces for each new paragraph.
  9. Double-space the entire text.
  10. Use a standard font, 12-point type. Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier is fine.
  11. Alignment should be to the left, not justified. The right edges will not be uniform.
  12. Indicate scene breaks with a blank line and five centered dashes or number signs.
  13. End your manuscript with the five centered dashes or number signs or simply type THE END.
  14. Use 20-lb. bond paper.

The guidelines for a manuscript submission copy may vary a titch based on which websites you reference and/or who you talk to. The steps presented above are the basics and will ensure that your manuscript doesn’t get rejected because it is sloppy.

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