I’m Starting a New Manuscript! Where’s my “Formatting Genie?”

Welcome to Techie Tuesday here at More Cowbell! Last Tuesday, I promised to let out my inner geek more often and share some software trainer magic.

Naturally, the question I get asked the most came to mind.

How do I get freaking 25 lines per page in Word???

I hate to tell you, but the easiest way to get the “Formatting Genie” to wave a magic wand at your manuscript is to learn a program like Scrivener and hit the “Compile” button so it does all the work for you. If you want to use “regular old Microsoft Word” be sure to stick around and read the whole blog.

Formatting Genie can't do ALL the work! (from Toonpool.com)

This all came up when someone in my writing chapter asked me if I could “please, please, please write a blog about how to get 25 lines per page,” I responded “of course I will” even though I’d never done this setting in my life.

I thought, I’ve been teaching Word since 1995, I can do a pesky Paragraph setting. Right? Not so much.

Why had I never done this before, you ask? Mostly because I’m half blind. Times New Roman, for example, makes me crazy because when there is an “r” and an “n” next to each other, to me they look like an “m.”

[Of course, I secretly believe that if my manuscript is in an easy-to-read font like Arial or Tahoma, the editor (that poor soul who reads thousands of pages a week) will be more kindly disposed to buy my book.]

Still, Line Spacing is in the Paragraph dialog box…and this is one of my favorite places in Word. There is so much to do here!

All you have to do is select the text you’d like to change (hit Ctrl + A on your keyboard to select the entire document ~ Command + A on the MAC [no you don’t type the “+” sign]) and go to the Format Paragraph dialog box. 

Or, you can also set line spacing with the following key strokes:

Ctrl + 1 = Single space
Ctrl + 2 = Double space
Ctrl + 5 = 1 ½ space]

And what about that crazy beast, “Widow/Orphan control?” This feature lives in the paragraph dialog box too! It drives most writers CRAZY.

Do you know what this Widow/Orphan business is? This setting makes all the lines in a paragraph stay together, even when you want them to separate to help you get 25 lines on a page.

I have people tell me all the time that they can’t find this sucker. You, my friend, are now in the know that it’s located on the second tab in the Paragraph dialog box, titled “Line and Page Breaks.” It’s at the very top and by default it is ON. (Obviously no one polled us writers when they were deciding which features to keep in Word.)

Are you catching on that Paragraph is the party place for us writers??

The last thing you need to know about before I give you “the 25 line secret” is that margins and font size – even font type – matter when you are trying to get your manuscript formatted to have 25 lines on a page. That being said, all of my examples use Word’s default margins of Top/Bottom – 1” and Left/Right = 1.25 inch because I like the extra white space.

[Yeah, yeah…the rules that date back to 1980 say one inch margins only. Once you learn how to use your Paragraph settings, you can be the Word Dominatrix and MAKE your margins work for you.]

Note: For anyone who has never changed their margin settings:

  • In older versions of Word – click on the File menu and choose Page Setup
  • In newer versions of Word – choose the Page Layout tab and click on the Margins button in the second grouping
  • OR double click on the vertical ruler to the left of the document when you are in Print Layout View. [p.s. You won’t see the ruler to the left unless you are in Print Layout View.]

So, back to the Big Formatting Secret

I figured there must just be a quick Paragraph setting (get to the Paragraph dialog box by clicking on the Format menu in the older versions of Word OR on the Home and Page Layout tabs in the latest versions). I expected it would be a snap – four or five steps at the most.

SIX steps later…the easiest way for writers to achieve the 25 lines per page nirvana:

  1. Select all the text in your document that you want to change (for example, you’ll probably omit your title page)
  2. Open the paragraph dialog box (tips given above by version)
  3. If you haven’t turned off the Widow/Orphan control, do it now
  4. On the Indent and Line Spacing tab, go toward the bottom of the dialog box where it says “Line Spacing:” – click the drop down arrow and choose the word “Exactly”
  5. In the “At:” field to the right of where it now says “Exactly,” type in “25 pt”
  6. Click OK

I used the following font combinations:
Courier New – 14 pt
Arial – 12 pt
(The dreaded) Times New Roman – 12 pt

Follow the six steps above to achieve manuscript formatting perfection. I hope you’ll let me know if this makes one small part of your work in progress easier.

All of you who walk around feeling technology challenged:
Please keep in mind that everyone has to muddle around until someone trains them. This column is dedicated to writers like you.

Do you have trouble with formatting your manuscripts or are you a Formatting Genie? Do you use an application like Scrivener that does your formatting for you? Enquiring minds always want to know these things here at More Cowbell!

Happy Writing!
Jenny

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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54 Responses to I’m Starting a New Manuscript! Where’s my “Formatting Genie?”

  1. Thank you so much for the help…🙂

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  2. Thank you, Genie … um, I mean, Jenny! This is all very helpful to the technodork I am. I keep looking at Scrivener but it seems intimidating. Could you give us a post on that one day?

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL…very cute, Patricia! I’ve been poking around Scrivener with the intention of doing some posts. There is a link up in this post where I mention Scrivener that take you to a tutorial that Raelyn Barclay found. They’re pretty marvy but I want to put out something a little more brass tacks.

      Like

  3. K.B. Owen says:

    Wow, Jenny, you are quite the Word Sensei! I’m confused, though – why is 25 lines per page so important? I’ve never run across this as a requirement anywhere.

    First candle-hugging, now widow/orphan settings…you rock my world, Jenny!
    😀

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      The 25 lines is often considered important to agents, editors, etc because it gives you a true word count. 25 lines per page is nearly always about 250 words per page so you could reasonably say “X” number of pages would equal “X” number of words. It’s nearly always different than Word’s word count.

      We could argue that it’s old school and with e-pub, less necessary, and it would all be true. But what about when you have someone you want to sell to REQUEST it? It’s a little embarrassing to not know how.

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  4. Nancy J Nicholson says:

    Jenny, I learned these trick a long while ago, thanks to a writers loop I was on and wonderful gurus like yourself. The new version of Word does make it challenging in keeping this new format as the default format. Ah, well, if we weren’t comfortable with change, change would make us crazy. But thanks for sharing, now just tell me how to make my changes default, all the time.

    Oh, and what about going for One Note to Word, wish I could format One Note the same way I do my word documents.

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  5. I’ve never even worried about getting exactly 25 lines per pages. And if you plan to self-pub, all this is moot anyway, at least for the Smashwords meatgrinder. Thanks for the shortcuts though!

    I read somewhere that the widow/orphan feature should be left on for query letters and synopsis, anyone know?

    I love Scrivener. Still learning it but loving it. Even with the compile feature I suspect there will be some edit/formatting going on in Word🙂

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Widow/Orphan control does make all letters look better. For synopses, it can stay off because those get formatted just like a manuscript. I understand what you’re saying for Smashwords…read my comment to Kathy above for more on the who and why of the 25 lines/page setting.

      I love Scrivener too!! And I used that link you put out on Gene’s blog treasures in this post…it ROCKS. Thanks!

      Like

  6. Sherry Isaac says:

    I’m on a Mac, my issue is the lost formatting when converting to .rtf, a requirement for contests. But, that is a quest for another day. Or not. I may have hung up my contest hat for good.

    Great advice, but Genie or no Genie, we only cross the finish line if we… (wait for it…) … WRITE!

    Ugh. Where do I find a Genie for that?

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  7. Stacy Green says:

    One thing to remember on submitting: many places require different formatting. They all want standard, but some epublishers will ask for just enough difference you have to go into the doc and make separate changes. One thing I’m trying to figure out is indents. Tabs are a no-no, but how do you set it so that each new para auto-indents .5?

    Like

    • Paragraph dialog box, click Special near center of page, click First Line on drop down menu, and .5 will be the default.

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      • Stacy Green says:

        David, is that for a Mac? Because I have Word 10 for Mac, and I’m not finding it…

        Thanks!

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        • Jenny Hansen says:

          Stacy, I went and Googled to see if the Paragraph dialog box is called something different and it looks like you have to go in through Styles. It will change your default template, but it sounds like you’d like to do that.

          Here’s the MacWorld tip:

          Change the ‘after’ default paragraph spacing in Word 2008
          Feb 12, ’08 07:30:00AM • Contributed by: rooster

          For some unknown reason, Microsoft decided to set the Word 2008 spacing “after” a paragraph to 10 points by default. This makes it look as though you have pressed Carriage Return twice after a paragraph. To remedy this, do the following:

          1.Open Word.
          2.Go to Format » Styles…
          3.Highlight Normal in the Styles selection window, then press Modify.
          4.In the new window that opens, check the Add to Template box (lower left).
          5.Now choose Paragraph from the pop-up menu in the lower left corner of that same window.
          6.In the new window, change the After setting to 0.
          7.Click OK twice to close windows, then press Apply in the main Style window.
          8.Quit Word and re-open.
          The default paragraph style should now have an “after” spacing of zero.

          [Another way to do this is to leave the “after” spacing as-is, and just check the box that reads “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style” on the Paragraph box (it’s just below the After pop-up menu). If you set it up this way, you’ll only get the large gap if you change the style. Note that I added the bit in the instructions above about marking the ‘add to template’ box. If you don’t do this, then the default template won’t be updated to reflect your new settings.]

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        • Stacy Green says:

          Thanks so much, Jenny! Yes, I do want to change the default template. I’ve just been too stupid to figure this part out:)

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        • Jenny Hansen says:

          You know I’m not a fan of that stupid word. You just have had other things that were a higher priority, but you’re gonna rock it now.🙂

          Like

  8. Julie Glover says:

    Scrivener – my new and wonderful friend. I’ve been using it for a few months, and I love its features. I’m glad it does the main formatting work for me, although I’m sure I’ll need to tweak in Word eventually. Thanks for the information. You really are a techie!

    Like

  9. Roni Loren says:

    I don’t worry about the 25 lines thing. I’ve never had a submission or editor require that. BUT that window/orphan control used to drive me nuts. I had a crit partner show me how to fix it when I first started writing and I wanted to buy her a puppy I was so happy.

    Like

  10. Terry Odell says:

    I just got a new laptop. It came with Windows 7. I’ve used XP forever. I need to find where everything is hiding. Thank goodness I do 90% of my ‘real’ work on my trusty old PC with Office 2003.

    Of course, then you decide to indie publish your back list and have to gather an entire new bag of formatting tricks.

    Terry

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  11. Thank goodness for you, Jenny. You’re like the Kristen Lamb of the techy world!😉 I currently use Pages. When I convert my docs to Word format, the formatting gets messed up—including how many lines appear on each page. I’m thinking of giving Scrivener a try because my genie lamp is definitely broken. (Or maybe non-existant…)

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL, August. What a tremendous compliment! Thank you!!

      There’s lots of tricks for Word formatting…I might have to bring back my Webinars in the new year. And EVERYONE has a Genie, sometimes she just has a little drinking problem and falls down on the job.🙂

      Like

  12. Carrie says:

    eeek, Word makes my head hurt. I’ll have to save this post🙂

    Thanks!

    Like

  13. Thanks, Jenny. Now if I could just remember how to change my template . . .

    BTW, thanks for helping me hate Times New Romans. People tell me writers HAVE to use it, but I can’t read it. I change everything to Arial.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      HATE IT! And all the accountants I work with think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Plrbbbrrttt! I’m an Arial, Tahoma, Calibri, Century Gothic girl. But always Arial for a manuscript.

      Like

  14. Good for you, taking on the dreaded 25 lines! I personally love Times New Romans, but struggle with making it work. Now this should help! Thanks Jenny!

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  15. Fabulous. I filed this little ditty away for later. And am off to read about Scrivener!🙂 Love Techie Tuesdays!

    Like

  16. Like August, I’m a Pages girl, but I’ll figure out what all this means over there and fix stuff. I keep hearing great things about Scrivener, so maybe it’s time to look into that. Well, after I finish editing the beast. Changing mid-stream might be enough to cause a permanent tick in one eye. The right one, not the left, that would just be weird.

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  17. Oooh! Good stuff. I’m using Scrivener right now and loving it, but I also still use Open Office (which is like Word, I think). I love learning all this formatting stuff. Thanks.

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  18. Hi Jenny. Good info.

    I love Scrivener. I have to use Word at work and at home when I have to, but Scrivener is so much easier to handle structuring documents and generating a suitably formatted output.

    One thing I do use Word for is columns. For me its easier to read text in short lines and it prints out in less pages. I output from scrivener in rtf then import it into Word for printing.

    Cheers!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Ooooh, Nigel….columns! *eyes glazing over shiny lovely columns*

      Yep, Scrivener is where it’s at, but when you have to do anything snazzy in Word, it’s really nice to know how.🙂

      Like

  19. tomwisk says:

    Templates next week. Holy moley. if I could figure out headers and be able to create a template I’d be in happy posting land.

    Like

  20. Great post, Jenny. I just learned the 25 lines trick this year, despite teaching Word for years too. Never needed it before I guess.

    Anyway, thanks for linking to my Scrivener page!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL, Gwen…no one gives a rip about the 25 lines outside of the Big Six. And do they show the poor newbie writers how to do it?? Um, no. (Sadists.)

      I love your Scrivener page! When I do a post on it, I’ll be all over the links at your place.🙂

      Like

  21. Jane Sadek says:

    I’m with you on the Times New Roman thing. Why DO all these agents demand it??????

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Not a clue, Jane. I mean, could there BE any two fonts uglier than Courier New and Times New Roman?? They swear it lets them get through as many pages as they do, but I have my doubts about it being better than Arial.

      Like

  22. Fabulous step-by-step instructions, Jenny. Thank you. I will definitely try that🙂
    Oh, I got the free 30 day trial version of the Scrivener but I haven’t tried it yet. Gotta do it really soon since so many writers recommend it.

    Like

  23. Marcia says:

    Jenny, I want to tell you how impressed I am with your dedication to your readers. I love that you go research a question a commenter has so you can come back and give them a proper answer.Your follow-through and courtesy is obviously one of the reasons your blog has become so popular—not to mention your sense of humor and great content.
    I guess there are a lot of us who have just typed on Word and have been intimidated about playing around with its features or reading a tutorial. So your Techie Tuesdays are a lifesaver. Soon I will take my laptop in for a cleanup so i can download programs again and Scrivener will be the first.
    Thanks for the help with Word. You’re an awesome trainer!

    Like

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