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  • Colleen Sheehan

Three Formatting Hacks To Save You Money (And Make Your Editor Happy)

There are two things you and editors have in common:

  1. You're both used to looking at a ton of words for hours at a time. πŸ€“

  2. You're both cross-eyed by the end of the night. 😴

You can't help that. Novels are as novels do, which is to use tens of thousands of words. And believe it or not, it's not the number of words that are the problem.

It's your formatting.

There are a ton of formatting details that I could teach you, but frankly, that's not your responsibility as an author. Instead, I isolated the three most important formatting tricks to give your Word document the upper hand and change your life and make your editor's job easier.


(Making your editor's job easier is good for you. It helps them catch more important mistakes, which makes them happier to accept work from you. It also means fewer editing and proofing passes. And fewer editing/proofing passes means less money spent. And less money spent on editing means more room in your budget for kick-ass book interior design so you can sell more books later. πŸ€‘ )


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Hack 1: Use the Header 1 Option in Styles

Easy, right? In Word, drop your cursor onto your chapter headers or select the entire chapter header, open your styles panel, and select 'Header 1'.


It gets bigger. It turns blue! Now we can clearly see when each chapter starts.

The first level of organization: complete!

Hack 2: Separate Scene Breaks With Asterisks

You may be doing this already, but you'd be surprised how many people don't!

Have you switched POV? Use a series of three asterisks ( *** ) to separate them.

Started a new scene? Do the same.

Sometimes I get the question: "I have two kinds of scene breaks. Big breaks and... not so big breaks. Sometimes a little bit of time passes so I want a slight break, but not a full ***, y'know?"

I do know. πŸ€“ This isn't as rare as you're afraid it is! Let's make your life easier, though, and instead of using multiple carriage returns and hoping they don't get lost, let your editor and I know there's a purposeful slight break with a single asterisk. ( * ) When I'm designing, I'll make sure to maintain that break, even if we just use empty space above it.


Easy peasy.

Hack 3: STOP USING ALL CAPS!

Do you know what I have to do when you use all caps to signify shouting?

I have to make the all caps into small caps. That's a lot of manual work, reverting all caps and then applying a small caps style. Some editors change it for you, and that's more work for them, too.

Instead, use italics if someone's being especially loud, or bold to let us know this sentence needs emphasis! That erases half the work for me and keeps reading smooth as slightly melted butter spread over toasted bread.


Have you already integrated any of these into your post-writing edit? Let me know in the comments πŸ‘‡πŸ»

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