Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tip o' the Day

When doing a revision late in the game (i.e., not the first or even the second or probably even the third revision), Ive discovered that if I print out my manuscript to look as much like a book as possible and read it on paper, I catch global problems (contradictions, weak story arc, lack of character development, etc.) much better than if I read it on-screen yet again with it looking like a typescript: double-spaced with ragged right margins, etc. I figured out how to format like a book after some trial and error and am sharing this knowledge with you today. These instructions are for MS Word (from Office) on a Mac; if you have some other program, you're on your own.

1. Open your document (duh). Notice that at the top of the screen you have a row of words headed by the symbol of an apple, followed by “Word File Edit” etc. I have no idea what the technical term for this is but I refer to as the “Apple row.” Ignore this row until Step 11 below. Right above your document is another row headed by the symbol of a house, followed by “Home Layout Document Elements” etc. This will be referred to as the “Home” row.

2. Enter Command-A to highlight your entire manuscript, which will turn blue as soon as you do this. If at any point from here through step 11 the blue disappears, enter Command-A again so that the entire ms. is highlighted.

3. On the “Home” row, click on Layout. In the Page Setup section on the far left, click on Orientation and then on Landscape. Don’t exit the Layout menu. (If you do exit it, just click on Layout again.)

4. In the Margins section, change all the margins to 0.8.

5. In the Text Layout section click on the down-arrow next to the little box that has two columns outline in green. Click on the word “Two.”

6. Click on the word “Home.” A new set of choices will appear. In the bottom row of the Paragraph section, there are four buttons that show left-justified text, centered, right-justified, and full-justified. Click on the button on the far right of this group of four, the one that shows full-justified text.

7. In the font section, choose a typeface that looks like a standard book font but that isn’t what you’re currently using. Even a subtle change between what you currently use and something else will make a difference. I usually choose Book Antiqua.

8. In the font section, change the type size to 11 pt.

9. In the typography section, check the box next to the last option, the one that has AV with little arrows above and below the letters (sometimes it won’t let you check that box. I have no idea why, and it makes very little difference. This is just fancy-schmancy stuff known as “kerning”).

10. Click on “Home” to close the ribbon.

11. In the Apple row, click on Format and then on Paragraph. In Line Spacing, click on the box with the up and down arrows (it will probably say “Double”) and click on “Exactly.” Then move to the box to its right and enter 14 pt. While youre there, make sure there's a check in the box next to “Don't add space between paragraphs in the same style.” Click “OK.”

12. At this point it doesn’t matter if the text is highlighted in blue anymore. Click on Edit in the Apple row. Hover your cursor on “Find” and then click on “Replace.” A dialog box will open on the left. Click the cursor in the first box and type ^t (exactly like that, no spaces, no capitals). Click the cursor in the second box and hit the space bar five times. Click on “Replace all.” Click on the “X” near the top of the dialog box to close it.

13. If you want it to look even more like a book (and also save a piece of paper or two) make sure that there are no huge gaps between the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next one. I do this by searching for the word “Chapter” and seeing if there’s a huge amount of white space above it. If there is, I backspace until the new chapter starts at the top of the previous page.

Now you’re ready to print. If you don’t want these changes to be permanent, don’t save the document. Leave the document up until you’ve finished printing and then exit without saving. It will revert to the shape it was in before you made all the formatting changes.

To print double-sided like a book, click on File in the home row. Click on Print. Click on Copies & Pages. Click on Duplex Printing & Margin. Click on Duplex Printing. Click on Short-side stapling (Top). Click on Print.

Et voilà!


  1. Okay this is VERY cool. Smart idea. However, I'm so clueless, you lost me after "open document." Will have to remember to try this next time!

  2. I think it's like a knitting pattern--it make sense only if you do it one bit at a time and don't look ahead.