Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More on Manuscrips (mss)

The question continues on the 'single' or "double" quote marks for dialogue in UK mss. I asked UK writing guru, Nick Daws, his opinion since he is my "go-to guy" and head moderator of writer's forum.

Nick said:
Both single and double quotes are used in Britain. I would say that single quotes are still more common, but double are widely used as well. Of course, quite a lot of books we get here are by US authors originally. I guess their UK publishers don't think it's worth bothering to change all the quotes from double to single!

In the end, a lot of it probably comes down to house style. An independent UK publishing house I've had some dealings with, Tindal Street Press, uses single quotes in all of its books. Large, multi-national publishers often use double, though. I suppose it's more convenient for them to apply one style in all the countries they operate in.

I followed up with asking what he would do if he was submitting an ms to a UK literary agent and here is his answer:

Personally, with a UK publisher, I would use single quote marks unless there was good reason for using double. But really, I don't think it's that important, as long as you're consistent.

So there you have it.

I've thought more about formatting mss, since I don't want to short sheet the information that I can share.

It is far easier to set up your word processing software in the beginning than to go back and fix everything after the fact. If you are the hands on type of learner, here is an easy tip:

Paste a page of your ms into a new document. Then go through the menus at the top of the page (or ribbons if you are using MS Word 07). Go through each drop down menu item, even if you know what "print" and "save" is. Take your time and when you get the print window, explore each thing that you can click on to customize the features. You don't have to waste a ton of paper, but do look at each item and explore what it does.

Continue methodically working your way though each function until you come to something new. Learn it. If it is a simple task, move on to the next item. It is a waste of time to go through this quickly and not really learn the new functions.

This will take a week or maybe two, but you should know a whole lot more about your software and be able to command the functions you need to produce a professional looking ms after you've mastered your software.

I use WordPerfect and can customize my tool bar. One of the things I did was to change "save" to "save as" so that I would be prompted rather than accidentally overwrite something in haste...or fatigue. Most likely you can do this with MS Word, though I am only aware of the small tool bar at the top left that can be customized. However, you need to learn and master the software you use.

Tomorrow I'll make a more comprehensive list than I mentioned last week.

Meet Nick Daws, professional writer and contributor to the Blog Party:


  1. Thanks for quoting me and mentioning my blog, Nadine.

    I suppose I could just add, if you are targeting a particular publisher, it would be worth checking their authors' guidelines to see what their preference might be - many publishing houses publish these on the web now.

    Overall, though, I don't think it's worth obsessing too much about this. If an agent or publisher likes your book, the last thing they are going to worry about is whether you have used single or double quotes!

  2. I agree, Nick, obsessing is pointless. The competition is fearce, so slopping through submissions is pointless too. We do judge a book (or people) by its cover, so a good edit and neat appearance can help promote a writer as worth a serious look.

    I read a lot of mss and when I'm getting tired, I will sort through for one that has a great beginning and doesn't look like work to read though a sloppy mess.

  3. I've copy-pasted and printed these posts and put them in The KB Journal (which has become my writing journal). Thank you for doing this, it's wonderful to have all these in one place instead of scatthed around several blogs.

  4. It's a starting place. Carefully follow the submission guidelines for your query target. At least this way, you'll have most of it done before hand and only have to make simple changes.

    I guess I should write about synopsis...