Writing - Rules of the Road
Contributed by Valerie Allen
Writers are always striving to be successful . . . to hone their craft.
Well to be successful, every writer needs to be aware of the most common standards in the publishing industry.
Here are some basic rules for clear text and easy reading:
1. Use a word processing program. You may enjoy the kinetic energy that comes from hand written work, but ultimately your manuscript must be in a word processing document to meet publication standards.
2. Use one inch margins on all sides; justify text. Chapter headings are typically centered.
3. Use 12 point type, simple fonts. Times New Roman is universally accepted but sometimes titles or chapter headings are done in a different font to add interest or focus attention for the reader.
4. Use one space at the end of a sentence. When typewriters were popular the rule was two periods at the end of the sentence due to differing sizes of letters.
5. Dialogue requires quotation marks.
(“Where are you?”)
6. Start a new paragraph with each different speaker. This is especially important when there are more than two speakers.
7. Keep the speaker’s action and dialogue in the same paragraph.
(“What are you doing?” Valerie asked, as she entered the kitchen.)
8. Use subject verb sentence structure.
(USE: “This is important,” Valerie said.)
(NOT: “This is important,” said Valerie.)
9. For time sequence use both words: and then.
(USE: She picked up a pen, and then wrote a note.)
(NOT: She picked up the pen, then wrote a note.)
10. Punctuation marks go inside quotation marks.
(“Here I am,” Valerie said. “Where are you?”)
11. An apostrophe replaces a missing letter (goin’, don’t. 'tis)
12. Use italics for internal thoughts of the characters.
(USE: That nasty old women!)
(NOT: That nasty old women!, Valerie thought.)
13. Limit the use of exclamation points (!) and dashes (-)
14. Use only one punctuation mark at the end of a sentence.
(USE: “You did what?”)
(NOT: “You did what?!!!”)
15. Avoid clichés.
16. Avoid over-use of fillers in your sentences: that, very, just, really, maybe, perhaps, got
17. Consider if a character is “asking” or “telling.”
(USE: “What time is it?,” Valerie asked.)
(NOT: “What time is it?,” Valerie said.)
Follow these basic rules to have your work appear professional and appeal to editors, agents, and publishers as well as to your readers.
Valerie Allen writes fiction, nonfiction, short stories and children's books. Amazon.com/author/valerieallen. She assists writers with marketing via AuthorsForAuthors.com. She hosts two major annual events in warm and sunny Florida. Meet the Authors Book Fair in the Fall and the Writers' Conference: Write, Publish, Sell! in the Spring. Vendor tables and presentations encourage networking and marketing to increase book sales. Book Display options are available for authors throughout the USA. Valerie loves to hear from readers and writers! Contact her at: VAllenWriter@gmail.com
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