So yew trust yaw computer to cheque yaw spelling?


Your computer can check the spelling in your fiction for you, but it won’t pick up your typos and it won’t pick up wrong gender adjectives, such as blond for blonde, where the owner of the hair is female.

But wrong gender adjectives are the least of your worries. The computer can’t pick up homonyms. What’s a homonym?

 A homonym is a word pronounced the same way as another, but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not. For example:



 Consider this:

The site of thee blond girl standing sunder the bow of a tree was to much four me. She was sew beautiful. I wood have liked to stroke her hare. She was standing on the sight of a demolished building. I boughed two her butt she did knot respond oar acknowledge my presents inn any weigh. Perhaps she wood right about me in her dairy at knight but that hat not bean my gaol.

Sure, I’m pushing it to make a point, but you get my drift.

How many mistakes do you think the computer picked up? 

1: boughed.

There are actually 26 spelling mistakes: 21 homonyms (in Italics), 1 wrong gender adjective (in Bold Italic) and 4 typing errors (in Bold).

There is no substitute for a dictionary. Just a small one will do.

Quote about computers

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Manuscript Layout for Australian Publishers

manuscript and pen

The advice below is meant to serve as help for writers trying to have their work traditionally published in Australia. It can also be used by short story writers entering Australian competitions. 

~ Do not align the RH margin — leave it ragged. The MS is easier to read when the space between words is uniform.

~ Indent paragraphs about 6 bar spaces — unless publisher’s style sheets indicate otherwise. Exception: when the paragraph marks the start of a chapter or a scene, it begins hard out to the LH margin. (This applies to dialogue as well as to narrative.)

~ Use a non-proportional 12 pt font that’s is easy to read, such as Times New Roman. But be aware that other typefaces may be the same size and not 12 pt. For example, Arial 11 pt is equivalent to TNR 12. Go by the size of the type; keep it at least the size of 12 pt TNR, which still seems to be the benchmark. (Don’t use Courier unless you are writing a screenplay for the USA market.) Never submit dot matrix print or draft quality print to editors/publishers.

To know whether a typeface is non-proportional, type:




In a proportional font, the space taken up by 5 of any identical letters would be the same. Thus Times New Roman, in which this page is set, is a non-proportional font. Non-proportional fonts are easier to read.

~ Number your pages in the top RH corner. If the MS is a novel, you can use chapter numbers as well, e.g. 2:13 means Chapter 2, page 13. However, chapter numbers are not obligatory.

~ Put the work’s title and your name as a header on the top LH side of the page. Use 10 pt, so the header is not obtrusive.

~ Remember not to put your name in the header for competitions, which (hopefully!) are judged blind, and always read the small print in competition forms.

~ Use wide margins. The following settings work well:

top margin:                   1.5 inches

bottom margin:            1.15 ins

left margin:                   1.5 ins

right margin:                 1.5 ins

header:                         0.4 ins

footer:                          0.5 ins

Psychologically, the MS is easier to read (all other things being equal), if there is roughly an equal amount of white space to text on each page. Also, wide margins make editorial changes easier for the writer and the publisher’s editor.

~ Use 1½ line spacing unless the publisher/competition requests double spacing. When in doubt, check with the publisher. Most publishers/ magazines have their guidelines on the web or will provide submission guidelines upon request, if the request is accompanied by a SSAE.

~ Use a 3-line space (in other words, skip 2 lines) to indicate a scene break. Don’t use asterisks, cute symbols or anything else. Just the space, plus the next line starting hard out to the LH margin is sufficient to signal a scene break in the MS.

~ Start new chapters on a new page. Put the chapter heading where the first line of text would normally go, leave a 2-line space (skip 1 line) and then begin the chapter. Use 1 bar space only, after a full stop — not 2.

~ Don’t use a wider spacing between paragraphs than the line spacing. Use either 1½ or 2 line spacing evenly throughout your submission. (Exceptions to this are the title page and the 1-page synopsis, which may be set in single spacing if you are desperate.)

~ Use double quotation marks, not single in your MS — even though you know the publisher you are aiming for prints their dialogue in single quotation marks. This is a matter of readability at the MS stage and economics at the printing stage.

~ Always use a title page, even for short stories. On this needs to appear:

  1. Title of work, situated slightly above halfway down the page. Try 18 pt . Not Bold.
  2. Under the title, put a 2-line space — (skip 1 line) — then put the computer word count in brackets in 12 pt, lower case.
  3. As far down the page as possible, on LH side, place your name, posta address and contact details, including your web site if you have one. Make the link to your web site live, if submitting by email.

4.   On RH last line of page, put Copyright © Jane Jones 2019.

The copyright symbol can sometimes be obtained — depending on the program you are in — by holding down ALT + CTL + c, while an em dash — can be obtained in some programs by holding down ALT + CTL and hitting the minus sign on the numbers keypad

Title pages are never numbered.

~   At the end of the ms, skip 2 lines, if space permits, and place END, centred, in 12-14 pt Caps. If there is no room at all on the last page of the MS, and it’s a document you’re printing, place END in the bottom footer space and print the last page separately.

NB If you write short stories for competitions, and you are fond of ellipses, when you are in trouble keeping under the maximum word count, remember that the computer counts every bar space as a separate word. That means that the ellipsis shown here . . . is counted as 4 words. For writers fond of ellipses, this can amount for as much as 500 words in a MS of 70,000 words.


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Submitting Manuscripts to Agents/Publishers

AgentI fell over this image while looking on the web for a suitable image of an agent. It’s actually an ad for a typewriter. The one shown here is so old they’re calling it ‘a writing machine’ in the sales blurb. Amazing, I couldn’t resist it.

On to the blog: Below, literary agent Margaret Kennedy gives her advice on submitting a book proposal. Ms Kennedy writes:

Your manuscript is complete. You’ve had it read by your writing group, or professionally appraised, and that seventeenth redraft seems like the one, the finished product.

What now? You want to approach agents and publishers, and get your work read. Before you send it out there, here are some important tips to help you make the most of the submission process.

Before you start

1. Check what types of work the agency or publisher represents before you send anything.

2. Contact them and ask for their submission guidelines – follow these carefully.

3. In your proposal, send a cover letter, a synopsis and a sample of your manuscript.

First impressions – the cover letter

The cover letter of your book proposal will be the first impression you make, and it’s almost as important as your manuscript. Editors and agents are extremely busy, so a good, professional and informative cover letter will greatly improve the chances that your work will be read.


  • Introduce yourself (briefly), outline your writing (briefly), and tell them why you think they should represent you or take your work.
  • Keep the description of your work to two or three sentences; save the details for your synopsis or chapter outline.
  • You can mention some book titles you think are similar to your own (three at most), especially if these titles or authors are represented by their company, to give them an idea of the genre and audience you’re aiming for.
  • Alternatively, you can distinguish your title from others on the market that might appear to be similar, e.g. you have new information or a new angle.
  •  Mention that reviews of your other books, articles or competition pieces are enclosed or can be sent on request.

Style & Format

  • Follow a style guide for the proper formatting and layout of a professional letter. Include your name, address, contact phone number and the date on the right hand side.
  • Use a plain font, size 12, single spacing, with plenty of space in the margins.
  • Try to keep your letter to one page.
  • If you’re not a good speller, don’t rely on a spell-checker; have someone else proofread the draft for errors.
  • Do your research and address the letter to the right person by name. This is always better than ‘To whom it may concern’ or ‘Dear Sir’.
  • If sending out a standard form letter, personalise it and double-check that the details are correct. Take care to exclude information not relevant to the company.

 Other tips

  • Include personal information only if it’s relevant. Don’t include your life story, how much you love writing, or how much all your friends love your writing.
  • Avoid ingratiating comments like ‘I know of your Agency’s high reputation’.
  • Be enthusiastic and confident about your work, but don’t be pushy.
  • Let the agency or publisher know if the manuscript has been submitted anywhere else.
  • Say what you would like them to do with the material if it is unsuitable, e.g. return postage enclosed or discard.
  • Conclude with an invitation to call at their convenience. Don’t say you’ll call in a few days to discuss it or check your manuscript has arrived.

Preparing a Professional Manuscript

The most important thing to remember when preparing your manuscript is to keep it clean and simple. The editor or agent needs to be able to read it quickly and easily, and a professional format is the best way to make a good impression.


  • Print black on plain white paper.
  • Print on one side of the page.
  • Use double line spacing, not single or 1.5.
  • Print in size 12 or 11 font.
  • Use a plain font, like Times New Roman, Arial or Courier, even for headings.
  • Use wide margins, greater than 2cm.
  • Align your text to the left, leaving the right-hand margin jagged, i.e. not fully justified, centred or aligned right.
  • Make sure each page is numbered.
  • Include your name and the title of your manuscript in the header or footer of each page.
  • It’s best to submit consecutive pages, but if you do send a number of excerpts, it’s a good idea to link them for the reader with a few sentences.
  • Send submission by email only if requested.
  • Send via regular mail or express post; don’t make them sign for the parcel.
  • Follow the guidelines of the agency or publisher as closely as possible; if you do need to deviate, make it worthwhile and relevant.


  • Handwrite your manuscript – word process and print it.
  • Write in capital letters.
  • Illustrate or include graphics, unless asked.
  • Bind your manuscript in any way, but hold it together with a plastic band.
  • Send the original of your work. Always send copies.
  • Deliver your manuscript in person, even if you live just around the corner.


  • Include a synopsis of the entire book – about four to six paragraphs will do, and don’t refuse to give away the ending. The agent or editor needs to know the shape of the story.
  • Include chapter summaries, but keep them short – three to four sentences per chapter.
  • If you are submitting non-fiction, include a chapter outline.
  • Include your publishing history and competition experience.
  • Only include current employment details and previous employment if it is related to your writing or the content of your work.
  • For a professional look, keep consistent styles throughout your proposal including the font, text size, headers and footers, etc.
  • Include a stamped, self-addressed envelope (SSAE) if you want your work returned. Make sure you include enough postage to cover the entire cost of the return of your work. Don’t try to send an SSAE separately to your submission.

Always refer to the guidelines of the agency or publisher you are submitting to. Contact them by email or phone to request a copy.

Thanks to: Margaret Kennedy of the Margaret Kennedy Agency,, The Australian Literary Agents’ Association, William Shunn Proper Manuscript Format

[First published in the 2007/08 edition of The Australian Writer’s Marketplace.]

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Ten Ways to Make Certain Your Novel Won’t be Published Traditionally

A SHELF OF BOOKS1.   Don’t redraft on the grounds that you don’t want to lose the spontaneity of your work.

2.   If you do decide to do the 8+ drafts necessary to make someone take you seriously, you insist on doing them online, instead of printing out each draft after the first 3 and editing on the hard copy, which would give you the objectivity you need.

3.   Don’t join a writers’ centre – what could they possibly do for you?

4.   If you do decide to join a centre, don’t take any workshops they offer to improve your writing, in case you ruin your ‘special voice’.

5.   Don’t join a work-in-progress group. I mean to say, what do other people have to contribute to your novel?

6.   When your tome is finished, send it straight off to the publisher without getting a manuscript appraisal – gotta get it out there quickly; besides, appraisals are too expensive.

7.   If you do get an assessment, don’t take any notice of the assessor’s appraisal. After all, they didn’t seem to appreciate your genius.

8.   Don’t read fiction (if you’re a fiction writer). Some of those bestselling authors’ styles might rub off on you and ruin the unique and remarkable style you have.

9.   Don’t take the trouble to research what publisher publishes what, so you send your MS to a publisher who doesn’t deal with manuscripts of this genre.

10.   Having done the right thing in all the above, you send the manuscript off to no one in particular at the publishers. Genius will out, you reckon.

Aah, yes . . .

Posted in advice for writers, editing, editors, fiction editing, getting published, manuscript appraisals, manuscript appraisers, manuscript assessments, manuscript assessors, traditional publishing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments