Did you ever stop to think that the way you visually arrange words and sentences on a page amounts to clothing your stories?Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.— Mark Twain
Before you read further, I invite you do to download my free e-book, Make Your Pages Picture Perfect and take a look at eight “before and after” examples of the difference layout can make in attracting readers’ attention and easing the path of their eyes as they dip into the words.
Move your mouse over the small pink stars on each page. Each has a formatting tip about that aspect of the page. If you see a page you like, use the tips to copy the settings in Word or OpenOffice. Those pages have a mixture of simple and sophisticated tips. If you are just getting started, use these basic tips to make your manuscripts look professional and easy to read. Add others as accessories, depending on your interest, level of skill and interest.
- Single-space, or use 1.5 line spacing. Double-spacing is fine for editing and mandatory for submitting manuscripts for publication, but not the standard for finished copy. A little extra space does make it easier for eyes to track along, so adding an extra half-space is easy to do and works well. When you feel adventurous, try the customized line spacing options, for example, Multiple, 1.16.
- Do not double-space between paragraphs. This is the standard for business letters, not for text. It is proper and standard to use an extra line or two to indicate a break in the action or a change of scene. When you add extra space between each paragraph, your story feels choppy. Use paragraph indentation instead, either a tab or by setting the Normal style to indent automatically.
- Use page numbers if your story is longer than two pages. It doesn’t matter where you put them, but make it easy for readers to reassemble the stack if they drop pages on the floor.
- Include your name. It can go below the title on the first page, or at the end. It’s a nice touch to also include the date at the end.
- Use a header on all but the first page. Include the title in the header. The page number can also go here. This second level tip is especially helpful for keeping things in order if you have a pile of several stories.
Write now: open a file for one of your finished stories and apply these simple formatting tips if you haven’t already done so. Try a couple of more advanced techniques if you feel ready.