Manuscript Measles is a common disease, especially among young writers who haven’t built up a good immune system to harsh criticism. It is easily diagnosed when a manuscript is received back from an editor with red marks all over every page. These marks, however, are not the same as the biting, often scathing edits which demand a change of word choice, or fixing holes in the plot. Manuscript Measles are transmitted to manuscripts by the pesky Replace All feature used by editors to remove extraneous formatting.
There was a time, when typewriters ruled the world, that two spaces between sentences was mandatory. But in a world of eBooks, electronic submissions, and pdfs, formatting should not be done manually with extra spaces or tabs. The beauty of the word processors available on every computer lie in their ability to format every paragraph at the same time through the use of styles. From first line indentations to line spacing, to widow/orphan control, the might of a word processor lies in the style formats, and their ability to adjust an entire 100k word manuscript with a few mouse clicks.
Why are styles so important? Because every publisher has their own way of arranging the text, and consistency is required. If one paragraph is formatted differently than the others, it will stand out. And that’s fine, if you want it to stand out, such as a quote from a sign or a poem. However, the vast majority of the manuscript should use the Normal Style, and that style should be adjusted to generate the desired appearance.
Using a tab to indent a paragraph sometimes changes the style of the paragraph, and sometimes inserts a tab. Many authors are unaware of the erroneous formatting in their manuscript, as for most people, the spaces, tabs, and paragraph marks are invisible. In Google Docs, these important formatting characters remain invisible. But in Microsoft Word, there is a little button in the Home menu, which looks like this: ¶
By clicking the ¶ button, you can reveal or hide the formatting characters, such as spaces, tabs, and paragraph marks. If you dare to submit a manuscript without first looking at everything, your manuscript is likely to return with Manuscript Measles. No publisher wants to deal with extra spaces, erroneous tabs, or line breaks which are supposed to be paragraph returns. These can have disastrous results when sending a book to print.
Please, inoculate your manuscript from the Measles by removing all tab characters, extra spaces, and other inappropriately placed formatting characters.