Manuscript Checklist 2006
These are common errors in writing for
publication. Do not do these things! (And
yes, certain of these will not apply to electronic submissions.
These assume you are preparing hard copy for an editor you don't
When you know of more specific style requirements or
preferences, naturally you should use them. In particular, various
academic disciplines and scholarly publications often have specific
style guidelines which may differ from these general guidelines and
from one another.
- Hard copy not sent with disk submission, contrary to
- Paper color other than white.
- Paper size other than 8 1/2" by 11" (or the standard size in
the publisher's country).
- Erasable typing paper. You are not likely to be tempted to use
this sort of paper in a computer printer, but the point is: ensure
the ink stays on the paper. This can be problematic with some
combinations of paper and ink jet printers.
- Runny or smeary pages. If your ink jet printer produces
documents that are still runny or smearable after a reasonable
drying time, send a nonrunny photocopy.
- Onionskin paper. You are not likely to be tempted to use this
sort of paper in a computer printer, but the point is: do not use
paper lighter than 20 pound (substance). Okay, you probably can use
18 weight copier-quality paper, if it is really opaque. The point
of very heavy papers, when retyping was the only acceptable way to
reproduce an MS, was to ensure that the MS would stand up to many
erasures and to the hazards of much circulation.
- Ink color other than black (do not use draft mode, but the
highest quality black your printer can produce; if you have an
impact printer or typewriter worn-ribbon gray won't do).
- Corrections made by striking over wrong letter (if
- Flaky, powdery cover-up corrections instead of lift-off or
Liquid Paper corrections (if typewritten)
- Less than one inch margins (top, bottom, right, left). Headers
(slug lines and page numbers)don't count against the margin, i.e.,
the header goes in the margin.
- "Camera ready" (desktop publishing) format.
- Wrong font (Use Courier 10 pitch, that is 12 point, or Pica).
Many publishers now find other fonts acceptable, but even they do
not welcome bizarre fonts. Stick to something safe like a
nonproportional font with serifs or your best roman proportional
font. You best font for paper may be unreadable on screen. You can
compose in any font you like and change fonts for printing.
- Proportional fonts are still unwelcome at some publications.
- Too small (more than 12 characters per inch).
- Too large (less than 10 characters per inch).
- Many more or far fewer than 250 words per full page of MS.
- Weird typeface (Impact, Script, Orator without true lowercase,
- More than one face or size used in MS.
- Right justified (right margin comes out even).
- Line ends in a hyphen or dash.
- Paragraphs not indented.
- Paragraphs indented other than exactly 5 spaces (or ½
- Other than exactly two spaces between sentences if using a
- Titles entered in font different from body.
- Titles quoted or italicized or entered in all caps.
- Other than double spacing between lines.
- Extra space between paragraphs (except for occasional breaks in
- Italic font used instead of underlining.
- Boldface font used.
- Dash formed with dash character instead of two or three
hyphens. (Publishers who want electronic submissions may or may not
want dash characters.)
- Slips or other nonstandard paper inserted in MS.
- MS stapled.
- MS bound (unless a script).
- Pages numbered somewhere other than upper right corner or top
middle of page.
- Author's true name and address not in upper left corner of
- No header (slug line) on pages after page one.
- Header not suppressed on page one.
- Text begins less than one-third down page one.
- Cover sheet on short story or article.
- Chapters do not begin on new pages.
- Text does not begin on page one.
- Many penciled corrections in short manuscript. If you are
submitting an electronic copy of the MS, the electronic version
must agree with the hard copy. You almost certainly are better of
reprinting the page.
- Penciled corrections not properly made.
- Printing on two sides of any page.
- Comma or period placed outside of closing quotation marks
- Frequent use of italics for no good reason.
- Inconsistent formation of possessives of plural nouns.
- "It's" written for "its" or vice versa.
- Trademark not capitalized or used as a verb.
- "Affect" and "effect" confused or similar blunder with common
words such as "lie," "lay," "set," or "sat."
- Submission not sent to editorial address.
- No cover letter.
- Cover letter more than one-half page long.
- Phony or pretentious letterhead.
- Name of editor or magazine misspelled.
- Obvious grammatical or spelling error in cover letter.
- Demanding or defensive tone in cover letter.
- Insufficient return postage.
- Inadequate return envelope.
- "Finished" art included with submission.
- Did not query when requested to do so in guidelines.
- Simultaneous submission to an editor who does not look at
- Does not observe taboos or length requirements given in
- No hook on first page.
- Second person.
- Present tense in narrative.
- Use of characters or universe owned by another.
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This page shows common errors in manuscripts.
The items are things NOT to do.
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