EDITING 101: 15 – Self-Editing Part 3…

Originally posted as the Dun Writin’—Now Whut? series on this blog, EDITING 101 is a weekly refresher series for some of you and brand new for others.

Courtesy of Adirondack Editing

Self-Editing Part 3

If you missed them, you can find Self-Editing Part 1 HERE and Self-Editing Part 2 HERE.

This interim series offers other, specific self-editing tasks that can be done when a manuscript’s completed to help polish it. Since there are many of these odd jobs, this specific post will continue over time.

Today I’m going to review two tasks that I automatically perform on each manuscript I edit.

The first is to eliminate double spaces. Some of us learned to type a long time ago when the standard for spacing after the end of a sentence was two spaces: period, space, space, new sentence. This was originally implemented as a “rule” because of monospaced fonts, also called fixed-pitch, fixed-width, or non-proportional fonts. These are/were fonts whose letters and characters each occupy the same amount of horizontal space. (This contrasts with variable-width fonts, where the letters differ in size from one another, as do spacings in between many letters.) Since typewriters, in the beginning, only produced in one font, a double spacing was left between sentences to aid in reading ease.

With the implementation of proportional fonts in computers, a double space after a period was no longer necessary. So, if you’re a dinosaur, like me, whose thumb automatically puts two spaces after the end of a sentence, you can remove them all quite easily when you’re done typing by replacing <space space> with <space> using the Find/Replace feature. (Official typesetting in the publishing industry always used one space after a sentence.) Or you can retrain your thumb…whichever you find easier.

Using Find/Replace in this way also will remove any accidental double spaces between words. WARNING: If you have *deliberate* multi-spaced areas in your book (such as charts or graphs where you used spaces instead of tabs or a table), using this Find/Replace operation will mess up your spacing.

The second task I automatically perform is to use the Find/Replace option a second time to replace all “ (quote marks) with “ (quote marks), and ‘ (apostrophes) with ‘ (apostrophes). Why in the world am I replacing a character with the same character? Because Microsoft Word does not always insert a “smart (curly) quote” in place of a “dumb quote” when you’re typing.

A curly quote mark curves toward the material it’s enclosing. I don’t think I can demonstrate it here, as The Story Reading Ape copies and pastes this information into WordPress, and if I deliberately put in a “dumb” quote mark, I believe pasting it will turn it into a curly quote. THIS SITE contains a very good illustration showing the difference between smart and dumb quotes in various fonts.

Microsoft Word is supposed to automatically change all quote marks to curly if you have that option turned on, but it doesn’t always work. Replacing them all using Find/Replace at the end of writing your book ensures they’re all curly; not half one way and half the other—very unprofessional. This is another feature of the publishing industry that the typesetting department used to take care of, but now you’ll need to ensure it’s correct to have a professional-looking manuscript.

Next week we’ll discuss ‘Homonyms, Homographs, and Homophones’

To see the index and catch up with missed episodes of this series – CLICK HERE


This series is not meant to be (nor will it be) simple static information.

I’ll be here for each post to answer questions, offer suggestions as necessary, and interact with you.

If there’s something you specifically want (or need!) to see addressed in terms of self-editing, please let me know in the comments under this, or any of the articles of the series.





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46 thoughts on “EDITING 101: 15 – Self-Editing Part 3…

  1. Such a fantastic series Susan. I remember when I was publishing my first book and I spoke with my editor for the first time, it was her that reminded me about the one space instead of two at the end of the sentence. I had never heard of that. Great tips from you to help other new writers. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jemima – thanks for taking the time to respond, I had worked out how to ‘force’ it to face the other way after finding ‘word’ was facing end quotation marks the ‘wrong’ way when a character’s speech is interrupted and the cut off is shown by an em-dash. What I was clumsily asking is am I right in thinking an apostrophe at the beginning of a word should ‘face’ the same way as an apostrophe at the end of a word?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t know if I can show you the answer to your question here, Lindsey. When there’s an em dash at the end of speech in Word, yes, it can be tricky to force it to make the ending quote mark face the right way. If you (being UK-based) want a single quote mark, that’s easier than a double one! On a Windows machine, Ctrl+Apostrophe(2x) will force an apostrophe to go “backwards” so it’s a closing single quote mark. That’s also useful to know if you need a backwards apostrophe in an abbreviation with missing letters, like “I told you I don’t like ’em.”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My cousin was a brilliant speed typist 75+ wpm whereas I have always been abysmal. However this went in my favour when the X 2 space after punctuation was dropped while my cousin never did succeed in retraining her thumbs! The piece on apostrophes is interesting but could you tell us which way an apostrophe should ‘face’ when it comes at the beginning of a word when this is where part of a word is ‘missing’ – I’m thinking words like ‘cos (replacing because), or in historical fiction you find words like ’tis (it is) and ’twas (it was). *Word* keeps presenting these apostrophes with the fat bit at the top and the tail pointing to the left – to my eyes this looks _wrong_ , shouldn’t the fat bit be at the bottom and the tail pointing right because of the reason given above?

    Liked by 2 people


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