Book Trends Blog

March 11, 2011

Book Formating Problems and Treatments by Bob Spear

Whenever I get a manuscript to edit, I can often guess the author’s age range if a common formatting problem pops up. For those older folks who learned to keyboard on typewriters, they were taught to always hit the space bar twice at the end of a sentence. This is a big no-no for computer writing because it throws off page layout software, as far as spacing is concerned. The double spaces show up as white holes on the computer screen and hardcopy printouts. “Oh no !” you say. “I just typed my whole book that way!” Don’t despair. This is an easily fixed problem in Word. Click on Edit and go down to Replace. Enter two spaces in the Find box. Enter one space in the Replace box. Click on the Replace All button. In case you may have entered even more spaces, keep clicking on it until multiple spaces have been eliminated.

Similar to that problem is the typing of spaces to indent paragraphs. Don’t do that. A text paragraph Is best indented by using the Style description. Click on any text paragraph and then click on “Normal” in the style palate. Then go to the right of the style’s title and click on the arrow to modify the Normal Style. Click on Format and then on Paragraph. Go to the Special Box and click on 1st Line. 0.5 inches is a little big, so try 0.25, which is about 3 characters wide. Click on OKs and Apply until all the text paras now have automated indents.

If you want something centered, don’t move it manually over with space (fix this in the same way you did the double space problem) and by creating a new style for centered text by defining its type of paragraph in the style description.

I just completed my judging of interior book designs for the Ben Franklin Awards. Even in this highly competitive contest, the following problem still cropped up in several books–using sans-serif fonts. Serifs, the little tiddles on letters, are necessary for our eyes to see closure to letters and words. Without them, our eyes quickly tire. Some folks use them to separate the main text style from the text used in information boxes. Rather than use a sans-serif font, use a drastically different serif font to delineate the difference. Sans serif font do have a place–on computer screens.

Finally, if writing a book ms, you can save each chapter individually if that helps you keep track. I’ve been guilty of this myself on some of my earlier books; however, if you’re going to send it to an editor or designer, put all the chapters together in one file in proper order. Don’t make the editor or designer do it for you.

Not all line and copy editors fix these problems, but because I am a book designer as well as an editor, I see these problems often enough to know they needed to be addressed here.



  1. I confess: I am guilty of all those faults. And more. It’s helpful to me that you delineate them so clearly, and should help me take steps torward improvement.

    Comment by Peg Nichols — March 13, 2011 @ 5:00 am | Reply

  2. Hi Bob,
    These points you discuss in yet another great post make me realize just how much authros(this ou know) really need good editors and designers. I’m working my own way up the food chain in publishing as an author myself and it has become abundantly clear to me that an experienced pair of eyes is critical in the book process. Thanks for the selfless posts, many of which I have incorporated into my battle plan as a writer. I will also be discussing them in my little writer group. D

    Comment by Daniel Audet — March 14, 2011 @ 1:04 pm | Reply

    • ….someone yells…”Hey! We need an editor in here!”…..(laughing….)Kids: Don’t try this at home!

      Comment by Daniel Audet — March 14, 2011 @ 1:06 pm | Reply

  3. I’m glad I could help, Peg. Daniel, thank you for your kind words. For some reason your first comment disappeared when I approved it, but I really appreciate your kindness.

    Comment by bobspear — March 14, 2011 @ 2:31 pm | Reply

    • …just as well, a coupla pre-coffee typos….(laughing….)

      Comment by danielaudet — March 14, 2011 @ 2:39 pm | Reply

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