by Vivian Zabel
The best way for a writer to help his/her editor and/or designer is to be consistent. I hope everyone understands what consistency means. According to the dictionary, consistency means agreement, harmony, or compatibility, especially correspondence or uniformity among the parts of a complex thing. Synonyms found in The Random House Thesaurus include harmony, unity, uniformity, agreement. Antonyms are inconsistency, disharmony, disagreement. Therefore, how are some ways to create consistency in writing? Let's examine a few, even if not all, ways.
- Use correct verb tenses and subject/verb agreements. Don't use the wrong form of a verb with a subject. Don't switch from present tense to past or past to present.
- Use correct point of view. If an author uses first person, then only what is seen, heard, or felt by the narrator can be revealed unless another person gives the narrator the information. If third person limited is used, then only the sounds, words, actions, feelings experienced by the character whose POV is used can be expressed: again, unless told to that character by another. If third person omniscient is chosen, then changes between different characters' perspectives shouldn't be quick back and forth. That action could cause whiplash in a reader's mind. Changes in perspective should occur with scene or chapter changes.
- Indent paragraphs with the tab key, not the space bar. Indent anything with the tab key, not the space bar.
- Number chapters the same: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc.; Chapter One, Chapter Two, etc.; CHAPTER 2, CHAPTER 3, etc. For example, we don't use Chapter 1, Chapter Two, CHAPTER THREE.
- Avoid double spacing one place and single spacing others, unless necessary for a particular reason, such as single spacing a block quote.
- If asterisks or some such symbol are not used to show time or scene changes, leave extra spaces between the last paragraph of the first time period or scene and the next time period or scene. Use the same procedure for each and every change.
- Avoid fancy fonts. It is better to use a common font, such as Times New Roman, and size, usually 12, for the majority of the manuscript. If something should need to appear "different" from the rest of the manuscript, still don't use a font not commonly found in Word.
- Use files in the program requested by the publisher. Usually MS Word is needed. Different programs result in someone not able to open a file or strange symbols appearing.
- Follow directions and guidelines.
- Be sure your writing is concise, clear, coherent, and has correct grammar. In other words, write well.
Those tips above are just a few of the common problems editors and designers find when they try to work with manuscripts. Yes, more exist, but let's begin with these.