Home > Expert Advice > Editorial Guidelines > Layout and Formatting
Layout and Formatting
Formatting refers to the way you enter paragraph and line breaks, indents, spaces, typefaces and punctuation marks. By observing a few basic text-formatting rules, you can help us transform the pages of your manuscript into a final book that looks attractive and professional.
Paragraph Breaks and Indents
To view all of the spaces, hard returns and tabbed areas in your manuscript as symbols, select the Show All character (¶) in your Microsoft Word toolbar. If you can't find this character in your toolbar, hold down the Ctrl and Shift keys and press the 8/* for the same results.
Paragraphs are separated with one paragraph mark (¶). This is also referred to as a hard return, usually accessed by pressing Enter on your keyboard. Lines within a paragraph must continue (or wrap) at the margin; lines should not be broken with paragraph marks or manual line breaks.
The first paragraph in each chapter or part should not be indented. However, the first line of all other paragraphs should be indented with one tab.
To indent a block of text, such as a passage from a referenced source, highlight the section of text you want indented, select "Format" in the toolbar and choose the "Paragraph" option in most word processors. Indent the paragraph on the left and right each by one-half of an inch (0.5").
To indent individual lines, such as in a poem or a recipe, use two tabs.
Dashes, Hyphens, and Ellipses
Dashes, ellipses, and other special characters are found under the "Insert" menu of your word-processing program, under "Symbol/Special Characters." (See the punctuation section of Part III to learn more about when to use these marks.)
Do Not Use Double Dashes (--) to express a pause in a thought or duration of time. Instead, use the longest dash, called an em dash (—) or an ellipsis (…) to separate thoughts or clauses within a sentence. To type an em dash, hold the Ctrl and the Alt key and type a hyphen, or hold down the Alt key while typing 0151. See instructions below for typing an ellipsis.
Use En Dashes (–) (the longer dash) to separate periods of time or numbers. To type an en dash, hold the Ctrl key and type a hyphen, or hold down the Alt key while typing 0150.
Use Hyphens (-) (on your keyboard) to separate two words that are usually linked with a hyphen.
Ellipses Hold Ctrl + Alt + the period key.
By going to the font settings in your word-processing software (under "Format" in the toolbar), or by holding down Ctrl + i, you may apply italic type for the following reasons:
- Titles of books, magazine articles, movies, plays, television shows, and other titles of major works
- Words with emphasis (use sparingly)
- Foreign words and phrases
Formatting to Avoid
Do not use all caps for emphasis, for titles or for contents pages. WORDS TYPED IN ALL CAPS ARE DIFFICULT TO READ. Use italics instead.
Underlined text usually looks old-fashioned. Use italics to express emphasis or to indicate key terms instead, but even then, use sparingly.
Limit the use of centered text. It looks overly formal and can be hard to read.
Do not manually hyphenate words that break at the end of a line. Both your word-processing software and our book-design software will automatically hyphenate words when necessary.
Straight quotation marks (") are not acceptable substitutions for traditional quotation marks (“). When straight quotes appear, please exchange them with “curly” quotes (called smart quotes). Microsoft Word may be set to display smart quotes by default through the AutoCorrect menu. Please consult the Help menu of your word-processing software for more information. Or correct individual straight quotation marks as follows: for a smart open quote, press Alt + 0147. For a smart closed quote, press Alt + 0148.
Back to Top