I read and edit a lot of writers’ works during the course of a month. Some plot lines need help, some need punctuation work, some need help with vocabulary. What I see most of is basic trouble with format. It’s not rocket science and formatting a document isn’t trying to use an architectural program to design a sky scraper or a complex wiring diagram. But formatting is just as important because a good format makes the work EASIER TO READ. I yelled that last part.
Perhaps the problem began with emails. People stopped indenting for paragraphs and went to a block format. That’s fine in email, but please, not in writing. Yes, yes, I know people are using it now in business writing. But it’s ugly and inelegant. Stop it.
And there are hosts of other issues. Today, I’m going to attempt to explain how to correctly set up a format that can be used and acceptable for most applications.
Most applications ask for 8.5 X 11 paper with 1-inch margins. This is done by selecting the PAGE LAYOUT tab in your Word document. From there you can select the margin size, page orientation, number of columns, and page size. You click on each one and use the drop-down list to make your selections.
Once your frame is set up, now to set up the text. This is the important part because this is what your recipient reads. Yes, you want the text to be quality, but if the format isn’t conducive to reading then it can’t be read. Our requirements are:
Font: Times New Roman – because a serif font is easier to read than a sans serif font.
Size: 12 pt. type – because it is a comfortable size to read. Too small (less than 11 pt) or too big (more than 14) is uncomfortable for reading for prolonged periods of time.
Spacing: Double space – because it makes reading faster and allows the eyes to see the individual lines for corrections that need to be made.
Indentation: First lines of paragraphs indented 0.5″ – because it indicates a new paragraph rather than a full pause or separation in the narrative.
Justification: Left justified (meaning it lines up evenly along the left-hand side of the page) – because it is easier to read and scan for line breaks.
All of these things can be done mostly in one place. From the HOME tab in your Word Document you can set the font and size. In the same HOME tab you can use the PARAGRAPH drop-down chart and set the rest of the parameters.
Just doing these simple few things will make reading your work easier for you to proofread as well as for any editor or agent to whom you are submitting your stories.
And not just for your stories. Try it with memos, letters, or anything that you need to write/type text. Your reader will thank you because it is easy to read. And it makes a terrific professional presentation.