Writing and Publishing

What Does Your Formatting Say About Your Writing?

The Two Spaces Dilemma

I recently read some advice for older job seekers. The article warned of things not to do in their resume and cover letter that would tip off potential employers to their age and diminish their chance at an interview.

The number one item on the list is equally applicable to writers: Don’t use two spaces at the end of a sentence. Seriously. Whether job-seeking or submission-sending, using two spaces sends a message, and it’s not a positive one.

Like me, most two-spacers do so because they learned to type on typewriters in the dark ages, and using two-spaces was standard practice back then. Others learned to use two spaces when a taking keyboarding class taught by an old-school two-spacer.

As a magazine publisher, I receive submissions on a daily basis. When I first started, most writers used two spaces to end a sentence. Over the years, the number of two-spacers decreased, and about five years ago, the ratio became about fifty-fifty. Today, less than 10 percent adhere to the old style of two spaces. A single space is now standard.

As a publisher, I groan every time I see two spaces. Though easy to fix, it’s also irritating. Here are some thoughts that assault my mind when I spot two spaces at the end of a sentence:

  • This person isn’t a serious writer; their words will need extra editing.
  • This person is out-of-touch; I wonder if their topic is likewise dated.
  • This person is old school; will their writing sound like it, too?
  • This person resists change or doesn’t care; I don’t want to read their submission.

This may seem an intolerant attitude, but such is the mindset of many a publisher and editor with too much to do and not enough time to do it. So avoid making things harder on yourself and limit your chances of publishing success. Just avoid typing space.

By the way, it’s not a hard adjustment to make; I retrained myself in a couple of days. You can, too.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: Successful Author FAQs: Discover the Art of Writing, the Business of Publishing, and the Joy of Wielding Words. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book Successful Author FAQs for insider tips and insights.

Writing and Publishing

Six Book Submission Tips

Whether submitting your book to an agent or directly to a publisher, here are a few tips to follow to be viewed as professional, avoid being blacklisted, and increase your chances for success:

  1. Format Properly: The first step is to follow formatting conventions and expectations, which I covered last week in “How to Format your Book Submission.”
  2. Follow Directions: Most publishers and agents have submission guidelines posted on their website. Find them and follow them. Never email to ask what is already online.
  3. Avoid Demands: Don’t state that your words can’t be edited, require they use your title,or insist on a particular cover. Every demand you make lessens your chances and increases their ire for you.
  4. Be Patient: Reviewing submissions takes time and is seldom a priority; expect it to take months.
  5. Follow Up Cautiously: Be careful about following up. Once may be acceptable under certain circumstances, but sometimes no follow-up attempts should be made. Don’t expect that the “squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Instead, checking for status updates may just result in an outright rejection of your submission.
  6. Accept Criticism: If you are fortunate to receive feedback on your book, accept it as a gift. Only respond if the agent or publisher gives you permission. And, by all means, never argue.

Following these six tips will increase your chances of having your book published. Of course, the most important tip is to write a really great book!

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: Successful Author FAQs: Discover the Art of Writing, the Business of Publishing, and the Joy of Wielding Words. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book Successful Author FAQs for insider tips and insights.

Writing and Publishing

How to Format Your Book Submission

There are two main considerations for formatting your book submission: First, follow the basic criteria that almost all people agree on; failing to do this decreases your chances for success. Second, many publishers and agents post submission guidelines on their websites telling you what they expect. So, start with the basic requirements in all your work and then tweak it as needed for specific instances.

Here Are the Basics:

  • Times New Roman font: 12 points, black
  • Double-spacing between lines
  • Only one space to end a sentence
  • Flush left and jagged right (that is, left-justified but not right)
  • Indented paragraphs, usually a half an inch (Use the indentation setting in your word processor; don’t set a tab or use a certain number of spaces.)
  • One inch top and bottom margins
  • Equal side margins (usually either one or one and a half inches)
  • Don’t have a hard break (that is, a “carriage return”) at the end of each line.
  • Don’t add an extra line at the end of a paragraph (except for a scene break or transition).

Bonus Considerations

If you follow these basics, few editors will object and most will consider you a pro. Here are some bonus considerations:

  • Don’t format the margins differently on odd and even pages (as you would see in a book).
  • On the first page, include your name and contact information (email, phone, and mailing address) at the top, along with the word count. Some publications will specify that you put this information in the top right and others, the top left. Some will say to put this in the header and others will specify the top of the page, so expect some variation, but the key is not to omit this critical information.
  • For all other pages, add a header with your last name, short title, and the page number. There may be some variations on this, but the main thing is to have this information in a header, not on the page itself.

Don’t let formatting paralyze you. In most cases, editors will overlook a minor deviation or two. Following conventional formatting (along with great writing) will help get your book published.

[This is adapted from Peter’s post How to Format Your Submission.]

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: Successful Author FAQs: Discover the Art of Writing, the Business of Publishing, and the Joy of Wielding Words. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book Successful Author FAQs for insider tips and insights.

Writing and Publishing

When it Comes to Writing Submissions Are You a Rookie or Professional?

Consider these traits that separate a rookie and professional writer.

When you submit your writing, do you come across as a rookie or a professional? Consider these rookie traits to avoid and these professional characteristics to pursue.

Rookie or Professional:
You May Be a Rookie Writer If You…

  • Forget to spell-check your work: This is simply inexcusable.
  • Leave “Track Changes” on and include your reviewer’s edits: This means you were in a hurry or haven’t yet mastered your word processor.
  • Submit the wrong version: This error tells me you’re not organized.
  • Assume the submission guidelines don’t apply to you: Guidelines are for the writer’s benefit. Therefore, learn them and embrace them.
  • Insist no editing or require approval of all changes: All submissions will receive a robust edit. That’s a reality of periodical publishing. The only exception is publishers who don’t care about quality 0151and do you really want to be associated with poor quality?
  • Think artistic formatting equals creative writing: The use of italic, underline, bold, and all caps to add emphasis is not a sign of writing creativity but a lack thereof.
  • Insert needless self-promotion: If you do this once, I may edit it out; if done too much, I’ll simply reject your submission.
  • Argue to have your work accepted: No means no—and there’s no discussion.
  • Beg for feedback: A writer who needs help with his or her craft should seek it from a different source prior to submission.

Rookie or Professional:
You Are a Professional Writer If You…

  • Produce articles that require few edits: You do whatever it takes to submit your best work.
  • Do what you say: When you promise a piece, you always deliver.
  • Meet deadlines: Deadlines keep a magazine’s production schedule on time. Therefore you respect deadlines, always meeting or exceeding expectations and never requesting an extension. You also understand that merely submitting your piece on time doesn’t guarantee a place in the next issue.
  • Know your target: Be familiar with the publication you’re submitting to, understanding its style and content.
  • Understand how the industry works: You comprehend periodical lead times and space limitations; you accept edits and deferred publication.
  • Minimize non-work-related communication: You keep your communication focused on business and don’t engage in superfluous interaction.

I’m not expecting perfection, but striving for excellence is a worthy goal all writers should pursue.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: Successful Author FAQs: Discover the Art of Writing, the Business of Publishing, and the Joy of Wielding Words. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book Successful Author FAQs for insider tips and insights.


Successfully Submit Press Releases and Informative Articles

Adhere to Best Practices, Follow Guidelines, and Write for Your Audience

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Consider this: “ABC Company, a strategic provider of advanced business technology applications to facilitate organizational utilization of game-changing convergent networks, announced today the release of its unprecedented Widgetizer solution, which is guaranteed to revolutionize existing technological infrastructures overnight.”

This is a fictitious example of an all-too-common press release. It’s a lesson in how not to submit press releases. On any given business day, I receive multiple news announcements and an article or two. Only a small percentage ever make it into print or get posted online.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Although the practical restriction of limited space in a printed medium is one reason, the reality is that most submissions were doomed from the start—much like the above example of verbosity.

Whether submitting a press release or trying to place an article, when you seek publicity, understanding how publishing works is the first step toward successful placement.

Target Your Submissions

When submit press releases or content to a periodical is not like shooting a shotgun, where pellets disperse in a general area with the hope of some hitting the target.

Rather, getting published is more like firing a rifle, where a single, carefully aimed bullet has a good chance for success when you submit press releases. True, not every shot will hit, but the chances are much greater than just blasting off a shotgun in all directions.

With email, the temptation is to fire off hundreds of messages at every possible target, regardless of how relevant. Doing so, however, reduces your thoughtfully composed prose to spam, earning it a quick end and damaging your reputation as an email marketer.

A carefully targeted approach is a better way to go.

Know Your Target

My first article submission was published. This gave me a false sense of success. I assumed getting published was easy. The reality was that I knew the target publication. I’d been a subscriber for years. I faithfully read each issue and understood the content and style of the articles they used.

The same applies when you submit press releases.

Tap Online Resources

Most periodicals have websites, which often post useful information for aspiring contributors. The first step is to check their website for direction.

My publications’ websites, for example, give guidelines for writing and submitting articles and press releases, including the preferred length, the method of submission, writing style, and so forth.

Limit Communication

In today’s publishing world, some editors will respond to emails about submissions, but most do not. Contacting them when you shouldn’t will just irritate them. Only reach out when needed and according to their online submission guidelines.

At best, hope for a brief response. Today’s editorial staff must do more, in less time, and with fewer resources. Don’t take it personally if they ignore your email or send a terse reply. Make the best of any communication and move forward.

Know Your Subject

My first article was “All About Pagers.” I knew the topic well, working for a paging company and with several years of experience. You’d think my writing would have flowed easily. It did not.

As I began to write, I realized how much I didn’t know. Fortunately, I was able to find the missing pieces and fill in the gaps. The result was an informative submission that clicked with the editors.

It’s easy to spot—and dismiss—authors who write about things they don’t understand. Don’t be one of them.

Follow Directions

The quickest way for you to be ignored when you submit press releases and articles is to assume the rules don’t apply to you. Editors more readily use material that follows their guidelines and needs less editing.

They don’t make rules just because they can, but to make the process easier for everyone.

If they request your submissions via an email attachment (my preferred method), then do it. Other publications avoid attachments and prefer the text be in the body of the email.

Also, if a piece is too long, the publication will edit it for length. The reality is, when an editor is on deadline or pushed for time, content requiring significant editing will often be delayed or deleted.

Increase your chances of publication by simply following directions.

Don’t Miss Deadlines

Deadlines exist for a reason. Without them, a publication would never make it to the printer. Be aware and follow submission deadlines (usually posted online and printed in each issue).

If you promise an article by a certain date, don’t miss it. If you want your hot news item to be in a specific issue, get it in on time; sooner is better. Weekly papers—and especially magazines—have a much longer lead-time than most people imagine, so be aware of it and adhere to it.

Third Person Preferred

Writing objectively in the third person gives your piece integrity. It’s more credible. First person is never acceptable in news releases as it comes across as self-serving, bragging, or unnecessarily introspective.

Always write press releases as an impartial third party. Articles generally work best in this same style. Notable exceptions are how-to pieces and first-hand accounts—such as this book. If you have any doubt about which style to use, act like a reporter and write in third person.

Proofread Carefully

Too often, I receive press releases and articles that have serious errors. Some writers didn’t even bother to spell-check their work. This is a sure way to lose credibility and frustrate an editor. Make their work easier by double-checking yours.

Enlist the help of a coworker or hire your own editor. It’s not realistic to successfully proof your own work. This is because you know what you intended to write, so that’s how you read it, easily overlooking errors and mistakes.

Expect Edits

It’s tough to work hard on a piece only to have someone else change it. Similarly, it’s easy to become enamored with what you wrote, wanting to see it published verbatim. But this is unrealistic.

Even the most experienced authors have their work edited. This can be for many reasons. A common one is length, another is style, and a third is content suitability.

Sometimes giving a piece a different slant makes it better fit a publication’s focus. Or an editor may remove a section because it doesn’t work well with the issue.

Although some publications have a reputation for twisting, manipulating, or even corrupting an author’s work, most make a good-faith effort to retain the writer’s intent and present their work in a positive way.

Avoid Hyperbole

The more spectacular the language, the less believable it is. Overused words include “unique,” “revolutionary,” “leading,” and “premier.” Avoid them in your writing.

Exaggerated copy and unsubstantiated claims only serve to push away readers and weary editors. Yes, clever wording has its place, but when it surpasses the message, something is wrong, and clear communication doesn’t occur.


There’s no guaranteed way to get your news item or article published, but implementing these ideas will increase the chance of that happening.

Marketing Tactics Success Tip

The more effort you put into crafting a professional and engaging piece for a publication or website, the greater the likelihood of having it published.

Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Sticky Series books, including Sticky Customer ServiceSticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Leadership and Management featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Common themes at every turn have included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.

He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books to encourage, inspire, and occasionally entertain.