Manuscript Format

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charlesforgues
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Manuscript Format

Post by charlesforgues » June 3rd, 2010, 5:51 pm

I have recently joined an on-line critique group, and in the critiques some ot the reviewers have said I should not underline actual thoughts, but put them in italics. When I questioned this, I was told that, becasue of everything being sent via e-mail, manuscript format has changed over the years. Is this true?

What about em-dashes instead of double hyphens? Two spaces between sentences? Double spacing the manuscript? And font?

I'm rather confused about all this. Could someone please help?

Thank you in advance.

Charles Forgues

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polymath
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Re: Manuscript Format

Post by polymath » June 6th, 2010, 11:26 am

Digital submission formatting standards are still emerging. The main distinctions emerging for Standard Digital Manuscript formatting are inline block paragraphing, single line space, no indents. The main complication caused by e-mail correspondence is application-dependent formatting for rich text and HTML and plain text standards. An indent code in one e-mail application might be ignored by another or result in missing text following an unrecognized formatting code, same with line spacing, italics, underlining, etc. Plain text inline block paragraphing with paragraphs separated by an empty line is the surest way to eliminate those complications.

My rule of thumb is if it's not on a standard keyboard, one of the 127 ASCII glyphs, it's likelihood of causing complications is sure to run afoul of Murphy's Law.

Underlining, italics, em dashes, sender selected typefaces, other special formatting codes, etc., don't translate consistenty across platforms and applications. Two main styles used for unequivocal formatting in plain text formats are bracketing italicized text strings with underscores, _italicized text string_, and asterisks bracketing for bold, *bold text string*. A double hyphen for an em dash is also a plain text glyph that is universally recognized by all e-mail applications. Any given word processor application's em dash might not translate into a recognized character on a recipient's end.

If a sender knows a recipient's e-mail application is compatible, what's compatible, then any paper Standard Manuscript Format formatting should be fine.

My rule of thumb, plain brown wrapper for paper submissions, plain text for e-mail submissions, ideally PDF in SMF for Web submission submissions, or preferably RTF over DOC, or DOC if that's what they accept.
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polymath
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Re: Manuscript Format

Post by polymath » June 6th, 2010, 11:37 am

The question of italic formatting for thoughts, either in italics or underlining, is a subjective one with wide variation. Some consensuses say always, some say only for Direct thoughts, some say bracket with quote marks, some say add thought attribution tags and omit formatting for Indirect thoughts, some say never do any of the above, recast into Indirect or Free Indirect Thought.

Direct thought;

Today's the day that will be different.

"Today's the day that will be different," he thought.

Indirect thought;

He thought today's the day that will be different.

Today's the day that will be different he thought.

Free Indirect Thought

Today's the day he knew would be different.
Last edited by polymath on June 6th, 2010, 11:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Holly
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Re: Manuscript Format

Post by Holly » June 6th, 2010, 11:43 am

charlesforgues wrote:I have recently joined an on-line critique group, and in the critiques some ot the reviewers have said I should not underline actual thoughts, but put them in italics. When I questioned this, I was told that, becasue of everything being sent via e-mail, manuscript format has changed over the years. Is this true?

What about em-dashes instead of double hyphens? Two spaces between sentences? Double spacing the manuscript? And font?

I'm rather confused about all this. Could someone please help?

Thank you in advance.

Charles Forgues
Go to Nathan's home page, look under Essentials in the left margin, and click on the manuscript format topic. It will answer many of your questions.

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Em!
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Re: Manuscript Format

Post by Em! » June 8th, 2010, 9:51 pm

Underlines replacing italics, double hyphens instead of em dashes, and double word spaces between sentences are basically relics from the days of typewriter text. Those were the workarounds because you didn't have the option to do it correctly.

Of course you should always follow submission guidelines and, like Polymath said, it's better safe than sorry on the text encoding. But I have to imagine all of these old conventions will eventually fade away as we get farther from typewriter days.

If you only stop one of these formatting habits, I would suggest trying to unlearn double spaces between sentences. I know they sometimes teach people to do that in school even now, but it isn't needed in an overwhelming percentage of cases because your application is already adjusting the spacing for you. So it ends up looking funny to people who notice these things, and the extra space just gets taken back out if your work is professionally typeset.

Edited to add: If you're really going all out to make your MS look as much like it came off a typewriter as possible by using Courier, that would be the exception where you might as well leave the double spaces between sentences if you prefer it. (Then again, the agent may still reformat to use the font they like and you're back to looking over-spaced again.)
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