Ask Daphne! About a Different Kind of Formatting

October 22nd, 2010 • Kate

email-letterDeb writes with a great follow-up to yesterday’s question about formatting within your manuscript, to wit:

There are, of course, rules for manuscripts–each paragraph indented, double-spaced, et cetera. But what about when you copy/paste into an e-mail? Suddenly you lose formatting, fonts … what’s a writer to do?

It’s true, a lot of email services strip formatting from emails. So what you want to do is make sure your inserted text is already in Plain Text format before you include it in an email to an agent or editor.

Do a Save As on your manuscript and give it a new name — something like “MyNovelPlainText.doc” or whatever works for you. Then Save As again, but this time, change the extension to .txt. When I use Microsoft Word, it specifically asks me if I’m sure I want to do that, as saving as a plain text file will cause the formatting to be lost. I tell the computer, yes, I’m sure, and now I’ve got a plain text file.

Select as much as you’ve been asked to include in your query, copy, paste, and you should be good to go!

Another option, if you want to be doubly-sure that your email isn’t going to open on an agent’s desktop with weird fonts and spaces, is after you’ve pasted your material into your email, select the whole body of the message and change the settings to “plain text”. If I do that in gmail, it checks with me again and asks “Converting this message to plain text will lost some formatting and remove inserted items. Are you sure you want to continue?” Again, say yes, and you should be good.

If you want to be a do-it-yourselfer, I think either indenting the first line of each paragraph works in most email programs, as does leaving them flush to the margin and inserting a space between each. YMMV.

And honestly, so long as you’re not trying to send me something with pink and blue text, enormous fonts, blinking words and/or inserted photos… I don’t really care. Make it as easy to read as possible, and you should be fine.

Any of you have other hot tips for keeping emails readable?

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4 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About a Different Kind of Formatting”

  1. --Deb Says:

    I tend to worry about two things, basically. The fact that you can't double-space the lines in an email. (Or, not without a LOT of extra work!) And that not all tab/indent codes translate so that I worry my paragraphs are running together. Italics and such don't overly concern me.

    On the other hand, Word's find/replace feature is awfully handy for stuff like this. You can find every paragraph-mark and replace it with paragraph-paragraph-space-space-space to get the spacing right before you save it as plain text.

  2. Janet Says:

    One thing I always do is send the email first to myself, so I can see how it "sends" and what, if anything, will need fixing. Any text sent in an email is going to be short enough to fix without too much trouble.

  3. Meghan Says:

    I usually send it to myself first, too.

    I hadn't really thought of converting my submission into plain text. I'm so glad this was posted!

  4. Kathy Says:

    What if you need to include italics in your text? That doesn't normally show up, correct?