How To Get Your Word Document Ready For Your Editor

Get our Word document ready for your editor


When your document is ready to send to your editor you’ll want to have it set out to look as professional as possible. This isn’t just to make it look good. It’s to make it easy for your editor to navigate the manuscript and not have to deal with any niggly little issues that can add hassle for them and time to your bill. Fancy fonts, lots of colours and a teeny weeny font size will only have your editor swearing when they open up the document. They won’t tell you they’re swearing, but believe me, they will be.

The easiest thing is to set up your document properly to begin with but, if like me, you prefer to write in anything other than Times New Roman (TNR), it’s easy to change afterwards using Word’s styles.

For this post I’m going to take you through how to set up your Word document. You’ll learn how to:

  • set margins
  • add page numbers
  • add headers and footers
  • set the document language
  • use Styles to set font, font size, spacing and alignment.

When you send your manuscript to an agent or publisher make note of how they want the document set out. Check out the guidelines on their website. Not everyone is the same, so it shows that you are a professional and not just firing off your writing willy-nilly to anyone you think will take it.

For the sake of this post we’ll take the industry standard set-up. You will want your document to be set in:

  • Times New Roman
  • 12 pt
  • 2.54 cm (1 inch) margins
  • double spaced
  • text aligned left
  • page numbers added

You will also want to have a line space between each section or scene break, and have each new chapter set on a new page using page breaks. I won’t show you how to do these just now, but if you want that I may use it for a separate article. Let me know in the comments.

Even if you’re self-publishing, it makes sense to set out your document correctly when you send it to your editor. You can get all fancy with the formatting once you design your book.

I’m working on Word 2007 (because I like it), but if you have another version the basic principle is the same. And it’s the same whether you’re changing the set-up for a document that has already been written or a blank page – but remember, if the document has already been written any changes will alter the look of the whole document so it’s best to check that everything looks right. And remember to always save your work!

So, let’s get started.

start button

Set your margins

Margins not only make your document look good, they make it easier to read and give space for notes to be added if the document is printed out.

  • Go to the Page Layout tab and click on Margins in the Page Setup area.


Here you’ll see a whole load of pre-set margin styles. Here my ‘Normal’ style is 2.54cm all round, which is an inch, so this is the one you want to click on.

Margins tutorial 2

Once you click on it, that’s it. The margins for your document have been set.

While you’re at it, click on ‘Size’ and make sure your paper size for the UK is set to A4.

margins tutorial paper size

Add page numbers, headers and footers

Now, different publishers and agents will want different things (so always check), but using a header and footer will keep your name and title on each page. Page numbers will make sure that if the document gets printed out the pages are kept in the correct order. If the document is read onscreen page numbers are still useful for navigation.

Some editors may prefer a header, some may not, but page numbers should be added.

To add page numbers only

If you don’t want to add headers, adding page numbers only is simple:

  • Go to the Insert tab and click on Page Number in the Header and Footer box.

Let’s say you want the page number in the bottom centre of the page. Click on Bottom of Page and you will see some pre-set choices.

  • Click on Plain Number 2 and your page number will be added at the bottom centre of each page.

page number tutorial 1

When you’re finished, click on the ‘Close Header and Footer’ button (or double click in the body of your document).

page number 2

To add headers and footers

Headers and footers are added in the same way.

Let’s add a simple header:

  • Go to the Insert tab and click on Header.

Header tutorial 1

Choose Blank and it will take you to the header area of the page.

Header tutorial 2

Type your chosen heading in the area that’s highlighted [TypeText], e.g. the title of your book.

When you’re finished, click on the ‘Close Header and Footer’ button (or double click in the body of your document).

header tutorial 3

There you have a simple header that will appear on every page of your document.

If you want to align the header so the title appears in the middle or justified right, when you are in the header area, go to the Home tab and click on the alignment in the Paragraph area. Once the header looks correct, double-click in the body of your document to leave the Header area.

align header2

If you want your name, title and a page number to appear in the header here’s what you do:

Go to the Insert tab and click on Header.

Choose Blank (thee columns) and it will take you to the header area of the page.

header tutorial 4

Type in your name and the title of your book in the first two columns that are highlighted [TypeText].

Now, to get the page number in the third, right-hand column:

Click on the right-hand column where you want the page number to appear.

header tutorial 5

Click on Quick Parts.

Click on Field.

header tutorial 6

Scroll down  the Field names area and click on Page and how you want the numbering to look in the Format area.

Click OK.

header 7

When you’re finished, click on the ‘Close Header and Footer’ button (or double click in the body of your document).

Now your header will show your name, title and every page will have its page number in the heading.

Let’s have a blank first page

You probably won’t want the header or page number on the first page if you’re submitting to an agent or publisher and have a title page. Here’s how to leave the first page header blank:

Go into your header (double clicking in the header is the quickest way).

Check the Different First Page in the Options box, then come out of your header.

different first page header

If you look at your first page your header or footer will be blank.

Now that you have your margins set, and you have your header and footers sorted out …

Set the document language

There are two ways to set your language:

Go to the Review tab

Click on Set Language

set language 1

Click on English (U.K.) or whichever language you use. Then click OK.

set language tutorial 2

You can make this the default for all documents you create by clicking on the Default button, but be aware that if you open a document created by someone else the language will be the one set by them.

The language used in the document should also appear in the bottom bar of the document. Clicking on this will also open up the Language box. If it doesn’t appear on the bar, right-click anywhere on the bottom taskbar and a menu will appear. Make sure Language is checked, and it should now appear.

set language tutorial 3

Finally – Styling your writing

Finally you’ll want to use Styles to make your writing the best it can be. I won’t reinvent the wheel – I’ve written a post all about Styles which will help you do this.

You will have already given your manuscript a nice set of margins and page numbers.

For a professionally styled industry-ready document you will want to set your document like this:

  • Times New Roman
  • 12 pt
  • double spaced
  • aligned left

So, there you have a tutorial on how to set up your Word document ready for your editor.

Each step can be done in whichever order you want: for example, you might want to Style your text first, then add headers and page numbers and finally alter the margins. It’s really very easy and once you get used to it you can quickly sort out a document to look the way you want. You might even set a template so you only have to do it once.

I hope this is helpful. And, as usual, if you need an editor for your project, please consider me. Contact me and we can talk it through.

7 Comments on “How To Get Your Word Document Ready For Your Editor

  1. Oh bless you, Sarah … may you live one thousand years! This is superb advice — as are your instructions for putting the advice into practice.

  2. Pingback: 35 Easy Keyboard Shortcuts To Improve Your Workflow In Word | Northern Editorial

  3. oh you are a god-send sara, I have been fearful to approach these boxes wondering if they might explode[well you know what I mean]..thankyou.meg

    • Don’t worry Meg, it’s actually very difficult to make a computer explode. Don’t be afraid to try things 😄

  4. Pingback: 10 small things that will make your document ready for an editor | Northern Editorial

  5. Pingback: What to Expect from the Editorial Process | Northern Editorial

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: