If you are serious about writing, then this collection of 20 top tips will give your submissions a fighting chance on the busy editor's desk.
Whether you are submitting work to a parish magazine, a glossy national, or a competition entry, here is where you start and learn tips from experienced writers.
Layout of work
Although it is fascinating how many paper sizes are available to the more artistic (and concrete poetry is positively encouraged by a pc with a staggering range of formatting options), experimenting with your work in this way is not likely to impress many editors. Remember, editors avoid typing by scanning in your work. If you don’t believe what a computer can do, just run a thesaurus check over your list of favourite names (or less favourite editors’ names) – good for a laugh. The layout you have carefully created may look completely different in another font size, layout, tab positions, etc.
Wide margins always help when you are submitting your work. Single line spacing is usually requested for poems, double line spacing for many prose submissions. If in doubt, 1.5 spacing is very readable, especially if your font size is 12 point. Easy fonts include Times New Roman or Arial.
Editors often don’t like staples (the pain of trying to find a staple extractor among all those submissions). If your work is held together with paper clips most editors will be happy – until the fan sends them flying across the room. If you have not included a reference on every page (name, title, page number), your work may gain a new creative layout (page 10, page 3, page 7). Remember, the less work for your editor to sort, the more likely your work will be used.
To keep your document clearly readable and beautifully presented, always check your punctuation. Editing out commas, exclamation marks (screamers) and inverted commas (one apostrophe or two) is very time-consuming. It means your editor must read every word to correct your errors – life is too short. Editors like to skim text, it’s much faster.
For a basic guide to punctuation (rules have changed nowadays), try Writers’ Bookshop (Writers’ News) for the latest books for writers. Modern journalistic style breaks a lot of older rules, particularly with abbreviations and titles. You could also try Eats, Shoots and Leaves… or was that Eats Shoots and Leaves?