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5-2 Expedient Word Processor Functions

(c) 2010 by Mona Vanek

As surely as your unprotected files vanish in a power-outage, certain things turn an editor off.
  1. Using language inappropriate to the grade level used by the magazine
  2. Exceeding word limits for submissions
  3. Redundancy
  4. Misspelled words
  5. Spacing 
Many word processors have functions you can easily use to make sure you're not committing those editor-turnoffs. Each magazine adheres to fairly rigid word counts, a specific reading-grade level, uses similar numbers of sentences and paragraphs, and never exceeds its fog index, or language usage.

Run grammar check
This useful function should NEVER be omitted. It points out grammar errors, providing you with options to consider. Although it's not consistently accurate, it will highlight many potential pitfalls. More importantly, many grammar check functions also tell the reading-grade level, the number of sentences and paragraphs, and the fog index. Using grammar check on your manuscript and paying attention to each of these language-use indicators can boost your sales success rate.

Tip: To determine the reading grade level and fog index of the magazine you're going to submit to, type into your word processor two or more articles from the section in the latest issues where you envision your story. Run your grammar checker on the stories. If your language usage and reading-grade level vary greatly from theirs, it's time to rewrite again before posting your manuscript.

Don't exceed the magazine's word limits
It's also the grammar check function in some word-processing programs that gives you a word count accurate enough to let you write "Approximately xxxx words" in the upper right hand corner of your manuscript. If you use Word Perfect 6.0, load the file containing your draft manuscript, then click on File. When the menu pops down, click on Document Information. It will count the words for you (and show you just about every particular you EVER wanted to know about your draft.)

Word Perfect 7.0 users go to File, from the drop down menu choose Document, then go to Properties where you'll find the number of characters, the number of paragraphs, the number of words, and a lot of other information. In Word you simply select "word count" under the Tools menu.

Lotus Word Pro users need only choose Edit to locate the word count function, but will also get a word count from using grammar checker. They won't agree. Take the larger of the two, or split the difference to get a fair "approximate" count that will satisfy the editor when he's deciding whether to accept or reject your manuscript. Most newer word processor programs have "answer wizards" which actually answer simple, typed questions like "how do I count words?"

Run Find
The 'Find' function (Windows generally activates find funtion when you press the ctrl and f keys simultaneously) in your word processor. Find is a simple, powerful and extremely useful tool that can zero right in on culprits that dim the sparkle of your manuscript. You'll be amazed at how many times repetition of words like 'I,' 'she' or 'and' show up. Check for each one and keep a tally. If you've used any word excessively, once you've discerned it, you'll be able to rewrite with more verve. Just as a gem cutter brings sparkle from a dull-looking stone, you'll bring excellence to your story.

Probably no single thing turns an editor off quicker than misspelled words. NEVER skip this word processor function. By highlighting culprits, then offering choices, it easily lets you correct every misspelled word. However, never blindly rely on it for accuracy -- keep your dictionary handy for anything that seems suspicious to you.

Changing two spaces to one
The number of spaces following a period can annoy an editor, too. The standard form for printed manuscripts is to leave two blank spaces after a period. But most online publications want writers to use one space after a period.

After your manuscript if written, go to your word processor's search and replace function. In the search or find section, put . In the replace field, type . Hit to search your document for two spaces and convert them to a single space.

When you're certain that your manuscript is perfect and ready to send off to a publisher who is eager to receive it, STOP! Always use these functions and you can be confident that you'll please the editor, improve your writing, and boost your sales.

Also, to improve your story, put the following words above the start of your story. Then use your Searh\Find function to find them. Write out as many of them as possible: "is" "was" "were" "have" "has" "had" "be" "being" "been".

For e-mail submissions
Transferring your story from Word to E-mail
  • Write your story in Word (or your word processor)
  • Use Times New Roman 12 font, or Courier 12 font
  • Single space lines
  • Don't indent paragraphs, but put two lines between paragraphs
  • Save the file in RICH TEXT format or in ASCII format
  • Don't close the file yet
  • Right mouse click and Select all, to highlight the entire story, and Copy
  • You now have a copy on your clipboard
  • Now, you can change the format you want it saved the file in a different format. Save file and close it.
  • Next, open a new message in your e-mail program. Place your cursor into the body of the message.
  • Right click and Paste
You've created a clean copy to send to the editor that will transmit without trailing = or spaces.

If you are querying the editor, you might wish to insert something, after the salutation, like the following and place it ahead your story. (Hit Enter a couple of times to create space.)
  • In the Subject line put: Offer: (Title of article)
  • In the body, begin with the publisher's address (publication title, department), a salutation, just like in regular mail. Then just say that you're offering, "title", an article about "blah, blah" for their (whatever department it's for, or magazine it's for)
  • Then Right click and Paste your manuscript
  • Follow by short, pertinent credentials, (ie: I've been published in xxxx, or website) and state whether clips are available
  • Close by saying. "Thank your for your time. I look forward to your reply."
Last, include your signature file (NOT A LENGTHY ONE).

Mona Leeson Vanek, Freelance Writer
Ph: xxx xxx xxxx
Montana Scribbler,

Author,"Behind These Mountains," vol. 1, 2 & 3. Twenty year newspaper correspondent and photo-journalist. Published in several media, including Mother Earth News, Writer's Digest,, EMS Magazine, Montana Magazine, Trailer Life, and contributor to Chicken Soup for the Traveler's Soul(TM). Creator\Producer: 28 minute history docu-drama,"Aunt Lena, Cabinet National Forest's Unsung Heroine."

Chapter 10 - Manuscript Preparation:

Next, Chapter 11 - Greeting Card Business:

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