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View Full Version : Standard Manuscript Formatting: Let's go there



CrastersBabies
03-16-2015, 11:23 PM
I'm sure many of you are aware of what this is. Here is a handy LINK (http://www.shunn.net/format/story.html) to refresh memories.

Essentially, it's the courier format where you underline instead of italicize. And other things . . .

And, why? Why is this promoted anymore? I get that once upon a time, it might have had something to do with editing and typesetting and whatnot, but today--don't most publication houses use digital design?

I feel like we're moving out of a phase where this is necessary--especially since many publishers, magazines and whatnot have gone to a digital system. Some places still require physical printed pages that you send in a big, manila enveloped (with a return envelope inside). Yes, we can all still walk to the post office with a plastic crate full of these envelopes. Or box. Or whatever.

What is keeping the standard manuscript formatting alive? Can we gently escort it out of the building? Why are some genres so gung-ho about SMF? (e.g. SFF in particular)

Do YOU submit in this format?

I have. Once, a publisher yelled at me for submitting in this fashion. He told me I needed to "get current" or I'd experience more rejections.

Then, another chewed me out for NOT using SMF.

(Keep in mind, that in both of these cases, the only instructions given on the website were: "Double-spaced, printed on one side.")

So, what gives? Where are we with this? Most websites I find about SMF are from 2005. Or 2008. And some of them even say things like, "Welllllll, we are trending more toward Times New Roman and italics, buuuuuut, here is how you format a manuscript anyway....."

Zoinks!

amergina
03-16-2015, 11:39 PM
I submit in TNR, using italics rather than underline, now-a-days unless the submission requirements specify Courier (and then I use underling because italic Courier is hard to see).

This is pretty much only for shorts, since longer stuff goes through my agent and agent and my editors prefer TNR.

But in the end, if a pub rejects you *just* because you used TNR or Courier... you probably don't want to be published by them.

Just don't submit in comic sans. ;)

slhuang
03-16-2015, 11:42 PM
I always sub in SMF, unless the guidelines specifically tell me not to. Reasons I hear cited for it:



Editors are still used to reading in it.
Because of the above, they can glean all the data they need quickly and easily. Like a sense of the length of the story, etc.
Which also helps mentally compare works.
Along with comparing hard data between works (like length), having everything in a single font -- whatever that is -- helps strip away everything else. Typeface can accidentally give "voice" to things in ways that distract from the content. In publishing it can be used to enhance content, but you wouldn't want subs that way because it won't be pubbed in that typeface, yah? (Makes sense to me, at any rate.)
Underline is way easier to see than italics, which helps for fast reading. I notice this myself when I switch to SMF.
Related to the above, Courier has, if not a readability, a clarity to it, IMHO. Errors jump out at me in Courier, and problems in flow are suddenly much more apparent. I don't know if editors feel that same way, but I always reread my mss in Courier even when I'm self-publishing them (I started doing this because my freelance editor requests Courier, but I do it by choice now, because I see everything). Everything from grammar to overly-repeated words to typesetting errors (like flipped apostrophes or whitespace errors) leaps out to me in Courier, which I can then easily fix before subbing / self-publishing.
It may help with the sub-reading "mindset" to have a certain set sub font, regardless of what that is, and Courier just happens to be standard thanks to type history.

Personally, as a writer, I like that there's a standard, no matter what that standard is, cuz I can pop it into a template. :) I actually hate it when sites specify something other than SMF because it's more work for me! Hurr.

slhuang
03-16-2015, 11:43 PM
But in the end, if a pub rejects you *just* because you used TNR or Courier... you probably don't want to be published by them.


Oh, yeah, also this. ;) I've seen most editors say that as long as it's in something approximating SMF, it's just fine and they wouldn't ever issue an R just for that. :)

Jamesaritchie
03-17-2015, 09:19 AM
I'm sure many of you are aware of what this is. Here is a handy LINK (http://www.shunn.net/format/story.html) to refresh memories.

Essentially, it's the courier format where you underline instead of italicize. And other things . . .

And, why? Why is this promoted anymore? I get that once upon a time, it might have had something to do with editing and typesetting and whatnot, but today--don't most publication houses use digital design?

I feel like we're moving out of a phase where this is necessary--especially since many publishers, magazines and whatnot have gone to a digital system. Some places still require physical printed pages that you send in a big, manila enveloped (with a return envelope inside). Yes, we can all still walk to the post office with a plastic crate full of these envelopes. Or box. Or whatever.

What is keeping the standard manuscript formatting alive? Can we gently escort it out of the building? Why are some genres so gung-ho about SMF? (e.g. SFF in particular)

Do YOU submit in this format?

I have. Once, a publisher yelled at me for submitting in this fashion. He told me I needed to "get current" or I'd experience more rejections.

Then, another chewed me out for NOT using SMF.

(Keep in mind, that in both of these cases, the only instructions given on the website were: "Double-spaced, printed on one side.")

So, what gives? Where are we with this? Most websites I find about SMF are from 2005. Or 2008. And some of them even say things like, "Welllllll, we are trending more toward Times New Roman and italics, buuuuuut, here is how you format a manuscript anyway....."

Zoinks!

I submit in whatever format a publisher asks for. Period. Doing anything else is both arrogant and foolish.

I will say this. All the digital format in the world doesn't mean jack shit. As an editor, I still have to read manuscripts with my very human eyes, and SMF helps me do this.

But it all comes down to rtfg, ftfg, wherein "g" stands for guidelines. If they as for SMF, then give them SMF. If they ask for pink crayon on yellow paper, along with a digital copy that matches exactly, then give it to them. If you don't like the way a given publish er wants something done, then go find another publisher.

And whatever publisher told you to get current or face more rejections was either a complete moron, an amateur, or had very specific guidelines that you ignored.

Having said this, I always, without exception, submit if SMF, and not once, ever, has an editor objected. No good editor ever would.

But with writers, it's always a matter of rtfg, ftfg.

Namatu
03-17-2015, 06:08 PM
I go with whatever the guidelines say, and if they say merely "double spaced, printed on one side," then I go with TNR 12 pt. Because Courier is flat-out ugly and as an editor, I never want to see it.

Whenever I receive manuscript, if it's not in TNR, I change it to TNR. I'm not in trade, but it seems a good example of how manuscript typeface is as linked to personal preferences as anything else.

Sage
03-17-2015, 10:20 PM
If there are guidelines, I follow them. If not, I submit in CN, 12 pt, double-spaced...but with italics.