Please, don’t do these things:
Please don’t type anything other than a single space after a period.
End a sentence with a period, then type a space. Not two spaces–you’re working on a computer, not a Smith-Corona. And not three or four spaces. Yeah, we can clean this up with find and replace, but why are you doing this in the first place?
And, speaking of spaces:
Please don’t line things up with spaces.
I was taught in typing class that a proper paragraph indent was five spaces–this was in 1982. If, instead, you were to use your word processor’s paragraph-level formatting to indent all paragraphs the same way, you’d instantly be out favorite author that we’re editing right now. Standard manuscript format exists for a reason.
If your pages look boring and all the same, you’ve done it right.
Please don’t format anything at all.
Or at least keep it rare, possibly using italics every now and then. Want to bold your chapter headings? Sure, why not.
Whatever you do, the proofreader will re-format your work to look good in print and be internally consistent; so please don’t spend time on formatting. However much time you spend making your manuscript look pretty, it’ll take us twice that amount of time to undo. Let the writing speak for itself, don’t format things because you think it’ll make the manuscript look better.
Please don’t depend on spell-check too much.
Come to think of it, turn off “autoreplace” in your word processor, or set it to clearly tell you when it replaces a word. Manuscripts with stupid spelling mistakes don’t get read. I’ve met several writers who are terrible at spelling. If you’re lucky enough to have an editor, look through the changes they make to your work. You’ll see what words you tend to stumble on and learn from it.
Please don’t over-use ellipses.
An ellipsis–that’s three periods in a row–means you’re pausing for a second, as if to think. If you do that often, it makes you sound…tenuous and…uncertain. If you use them at the end of many sentences–maybe to hint that there’s more stuff you’re not telling us–then it makes you come across like you’re hiding something. A lot of somethings.
Come to think of it, don’t overuse any punctuation that’s not a period or a comma. Hyphens–real, honest-to-god em dashes–indicate you’re interrupting one train of thought with another. Great in their place, but if you use them all over the place, your writing becomes choppy. Parentheses are great when used properly. And if you’re using colons and semicolons all over the page, you might rethink your sentence order a bit. And, finally:
Please don’t edit your own work.
You will almost certainly miss stuff. A lot of stuff. If you’re serious about your writing, get an editor. (Such as myself, perhaps?) A pro editor can make your manuscript cleaner and better and it’ll read more smoothly.
And I can pay my rent. Or finally book that trip to Alaska.
Please, don’t do these things. Ever. Thank you very much.