Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the tag “55+ community newsletter”

12 Common Format Problems in Manuscripts Submitted for Publication

Many of you know that I edit a bi-monthly newsletter for my 55+ community. It is a fun job, but at the same time, it can be quite frustrating. Common formatting problems creep into manuscripts submitted for publication, and these can be quite distracting to the editor or proofreader (ME!).

Editors consider many factors when reviewing an article for publication (grammar, punctuation, word use, and correctness of facts, and so forth), but an article’s format grabs our attention first.

A Hodgepodge of Formats

Imagine the problem in publishing a 24- to 28-page newsletter with 15-20 articles and committee reports, when each article or report has its own mix of formatting:

  • all capital letters or first letters of words capitalized on titles
  • titles centered by spacebar
  • authors’ names italicized, bolded, or underlined
  • article subheads italicized, bolded, or underlined
  • mixed fonts and mixed font sizes
  • block text with whole article in one huge paragraph in bold or italics
  • randomly added extra spaces or omitted spaces between words
  • two spaces added after periods instead of the standard one
  • right margins justified
  • no paragraph indents or line spacing between paragraphs
  • article submitted in body of email (throws off all formatting)
  • “scare quotes” (using quotes around commonly used words or phrases)

The most difficult-to-read submission for our current issue had one huge, unbroken paragraph with both left and right justification (block text), typed single space in bold. And it was loaded with spacing and punctuation errors. This article was so hard to read that I almost gave up on it. Alas, since it was from a neighbor, I persisted and corrected the format.

Another writer submitted his article in the body of an email which completely threw off all internal formatting, creating awkward line spacing and chopped-up sentences. Comprehension of this material was almost impossible.

You get the picture: a hodgepodge of formats among the submitted articles. Format decisions affect readability. Some of these listed items may seem picky to you, but when you have twenty articles to publish, all with differing formats, and your deadline is fast approaching, well, Houston, we have problems.

How to Help Your Editor: A Baker’s Dozen of Tips

Use these suggestions and your editor will love you:

1. Use a consistent format. Research the editorial preferences of the newsletter, newspaper, or journal for which you want to write and use that format consistently.

Forget the fancy fonts, the bold type, the italics, the underlining on the titles and in the body of your article. These are not only distracting to your editor (and ultimately your reader), but they slow the editing process down. An editor, proofreader, or publication formatter must take out all of these extra features before they can put in the publication’s standard format, and all this before they get to your writing content.  (Use italics at the direction of your editor to indicate only words that must be italicized in the final product.)

Note: Newspapers and journals vary on their formatting, so you must ask for a “style sheet” which outlines the publication’s desired format.

2. Use only one font throughout your article (Times New Roman or Courier are good). Avoid fancy fonts when submitting articles.

3. Use 12-point type throughout your article. Smaller type is more difficult to read.

4. Double space your article. This allows your editor or proofreader to write in minor corrections or other notes.

5. Use one-inch margins all around.

6. Use capital letters on first letter of words in title (newspapers capitalize only the first word of an article title).

7. Use one space (not two) after periods. This is standard.

8. Use left justification with ragged right margins. The extra white space on the right side helps the reader keep their in place while reading. Block text is difficult to read. Right justification also creates awkward spaces as it attempts to evenly distribute the words on each line.

9. Show paragraph breaks by indents (use the tab key, not the space bar), or by a blank line between paragraphs. It seems popular for many writers to eliminate indents, but personally, I prefer them. Once again, find out what your editor prefers.

10. Left justify titles and bylines on separate lines. This enables the person formatting the publication to more easily add the publication’s preferred formatting.

11. Write shorter paragraphs. These are easier to read.

12. Do not use “scare quotes” on generic words. Some writers want to emphasize words by using quotes around them, but quotation marks should only be used on quoted material and on words used in non-standard ways (irony, made-up terms, or quoting someone else who uses a word incorrectly).

13. Submit your article as an attachment to an email. This will keep your format intact and sentences will flow as you present them.

Well, if you are wondering, our newsletter is on its last round of proofing, and I expect it to be finished and off to print by noon on Wednesday.  Then I am off on my vacation: a cruise in the Mediterranean. I hope to write some posts while on my trip. First stop: Venice.

Janice Hall Heck, retired educator, blogger, wannabe photographer, and nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ, is quite possibly a grammar geek.

logo 2.2 Oh Heck! Another Writing Quirk: blog posts that suggest ways to improve our writing by avoiding and/or eliminating troublesome bug-a-boos that cramp our writing style.


A to Z Challenge 2014: A is for Ampersands. Right or Wrong?

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

A to Z Challenge: Oh Heck! Quirky Errors in Writing

ampersand 2

Pretty, aren’t they? Ampersands can be artsy and fanciful depending on the fonts you use and the purpose you have in mind.

But beauty aside, how useful are they? And why do I call the use of ampersands  a quirky error in writing?

Ampersands are twisty little symbols that look somewhat like the salty pretzels (Auntie Annie’s Ampersands?) that you buy at the mall.

The ampersand is shorthand for the word “and.” Blame this funny little symbol on the Roman scribes of the first century AD who chiseled lofty inscriptions on their blocks of marble, joining two letters to save a bit of room on their fine craftmanship. After all, you wouldn’t want to shortchange an emperor would you? The consequences could be deadly!

Despite its noble and historic beginnings, the ampersand  has persisted through the centuries to modern times even though we rarely write on marble these days.

Today the ampersand has its friends and foes, each arguing eloquently for why or why it shouldn’t be used in writing. That little mark has blogs, books, and websites dedicated to it. Who would have guessed that this little squiggly would have such power?

Well, friends and foes of the ampersand, there are times to use the ampersand correctly and times when it should not be used at all.

Now the ampersand is fine on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest;  in thank-you notes to your mom or loaded missiles to your significant other; on attention-getting T-shirts and tattoos on your pecs and abs; and even on the doodles you draw in the margins of your notebook in your boring stimulating English class. But, please, don’t use ampersands in more formal writing of term papers, journal or newsletter articles, or fiction or non-fiction books.

Being a picky newsletter editor, I get irritated when I see the ampersand in articles repeatedly substituted for the perfectly fine “and.” Why bother to reach up and hit shift and the number 7 key to type an ampersand (&) when you could type the word and just as quickly and be done with it.

Yet, to be fair, there are times when the ampersand may be desired and even required!
1.  On book titles:
**  Marty & Me,
**  Eats, Shoots & Leaves,
**  Simon & Schuster Handbook for Writers
The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent the Eager, & the Doomed

And now a book whose characters are influenced by the ampersand:Sons-David Gilbert
**   & Sons,
by a novel by David Gilbert about a reclusive writer who wrote a YA novel called Ampersand. (It’s a bit tricky doing a search on a book title that begins with an ampersand! Hint: Put in the author’s name and the title.)
2. On movie titles:
**  “The Truth about Cats & Dogs”
**  “Fast and Furious”
**  “Batman & Robin”
3. On the legal name of companies:
**  AT&T,    Johnson & Johnson,   New Haven & Hartford Railroad, Ben & Jerry’s, Barnes & Noble
4. On names of clubs and institutions:
**  Texas A&M, Boys & Girls Club of America
5. On movie credits where the use of the ampersand attempts to show levels of input each scriptwriter has had in the development of the screenplay. Look for it in the credits the next time you go to the movies.
6. In bibliographies in cases where the & is part of the official title or publisher’s name (as in the examples above).
7. In trendy graphics designs. (Trend-setters can get away with almost anything. Let them have their fun!)

Hungry now? How about a nice salty pretzel ampersand? Mustard or cheese with that ampersand?


ampersands pretzels

Your turn:  What quirky errors do you find in writing? Which ones annoy you the most?

Janice Hall Heck is a retired educator and now nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ.

N is for Newsletter

Once every three months, I publish a twelve to fourteen page newsletter for our 55+ community.  I have been working on the current edition for the past few days and hope to finish it tonight before midnight, my self-imposed deadline.

When I work on the newsletter, I have to set everything else aside, and that includes writing blogs for the A to Z Blog Challenge, reading blogs, Tweeting, house cleaning (good excuse for a not-so-neat house, yes?), cooking, and socializing. However,  tonight I took a break for dinner and went to Chili’s for fajitas with my down-the-street friends. Delicious.

One proofreader, my picky husband, has already had his chance to catch errors on the first draft of the newsletter. My second proofreader will get the newsletter in her mailbox in the morning. I’ll do corrections tomorrow, then take it to the printer on Thursday.

I enjoy working on MS Publisher to produce this newsletter, but every time I think I have mastered the software, I run into a new problem. (Something like blogging, I think.)

For this issue, one advertiser sent her ad as an Adobe pdf file. Try as I might, I could not save that ad to the right folder in my pictures files. When I finally found it lurking in another folder, I couldn’t get it to budge out of there to go to the spot I had selected in the newsletter.  After thirty minutes of frustration, I realized I could just scan a print copy of the pdf and insert the ad using my normal procedures. There’s more than one way to place an ad!

Now, in the final production stages of  this issue (Vol 6, Issue 2), I can begin to think about other things coming up: a visit from my brother and sister-in-law this weekend. Dang, I’d better get back to the house cleaning. What? Dear husband, you did it already. Awww, aren’t you the sweet one!

Oh, now my blogger buddies tell me I am one day behind on the A to Z bit? Oh dear. Oh my. What will I write for the letter “O”?  Don’t worry, I have been saving a special “O” for the challenge. Maybe I’ll even catch up by midnight. Or maybe not.


How are you doing on the A to Z Blog Challenge? Are you able to keep up the blog-a-day challenge?

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