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Tips on Cleaning up your Manuscript

Here are some tips to clean up your manuscript before submitting it. Instructions are for Word® documents. Word is the industry standard. Agents and publishers will expect you to be using Word. Even if you normally write using other software, import your manuscript into Word before submitting it. The principles are the same for all manuscripts, but the specifics on accomplishing the steps will differ with the word processing software you are using.

  • Show hidden characters or codes. This will make it easier to correct the document since you can see everything there. If you send your manuscript to an editor or reviewer in Word® format, they will see many errors when they show hidden characters. This is a good reason to clean it up before releasing it.

  • Turn on the Word® feature that displays spelling and grammar errors. This will show many things to consider fixing. Don't just accept the changes. Not all of the recommendations are correct.

  • Have a backup plan as you work. This provides a recovery method if something with global replace fails or has an unexpected result. One method is to Save As your file with a number, as File1, then before the next step, save as File2, then File3 and so on. If something goes wrong, you can just open a prior file.

  • Many of these tips use the Find tool. Where instructions indicate "type space," this means to hit the space bar, not type the word space. This also applies to paragraph mark which is entered in the Find or Replace boxes as ^p. So if the instruction is to "type paragraph mark," this means to either choose Paragraph Mark from the Special dropdown or to type the characters ^p which are the code for paragraph mark. It also applies to tab, which is typed as ^t or chosen from the Special dropdown list.

  • Many of the cleanup tips below involve using global replace. Keep in mind that this is a mindless program doing the work. It does not know the difference between his or history. If you use Replace All to change his to her, it will also change history to herstory and histogram to herstogram. There are workarounds but, for safety, use the backup plan and test your Find before clicking Replace All.

  • If you realize you've made a mistake, remember Control Z, or undo. Sometimes this will save the situation. You can do multiple undos. Keep making numbered backups.

  • General rule is to be consistent in format and text choices. If you format dates month day, year; don't vary format to day month, year except inside a direct quote. These are the kinds of things a reader notices unconsciously and uses as clues to know "where they are," "who is speaking," and to form other opinions about your work.

  • Industry standard for submitting manuscripts is all fonts should be Times New Roman, 12-pt. Check the agents or publisher's sites for any rules they may have.


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