Formatting documents is what we do every day. Whether it is done as part of editing, book design or ebook conversion, knowing how to work with fonts, sizes, styles, headings, pull quotes, spacing and more is critical to producing a good book.

Formatting is often done by a writer or an editor, then updated and improved upon by a typesetter or graphic designer. The formatting is a means of communicating firstly to the designer and secondly to the end-user, the reader.

Formatting should be:

  • Meaningful—the amount of space (or lack) between paragraphs means something
  • Comprehensive—applied to every piece of text
  • Consistent—this looks good and makes your work easier to read
  • Innocuous—the less noticeable the formatting is, the better it has been done

Because formatting can be done on a sliding scale of drab to just passable to excellent, and is ultimately the responsibility of the person who is self-publishing a book, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. What needs to happen is the writer oversees the editor and the designer meeting halfway.

It is not possible for the editor to do the formatting perfectly, because (a) the book is not yet typeset and laid out on the correct pages with the correct margins, so while in manuscript stage, the formatting is done more for semantic reasons than for layout and design, and (b) Microsoft Word lacks the kind of detailed tools that are needed, such as character styles.

It is not possible for the book designer to be 100% responsible for the formatting either. This should come to them almost complete, with only the design and layout touches, and fine-tuning like character styles and perfecting paragraph styles. For example, a designer has not read the book and is therefore not able to notice if you or your editor have forgotten to bold a heading or formatted some headings into the wrong heading level, making the hierarchy of the headings incorrect.

If your manuscript is given to a typesetter with block paragraphs, for example, is it their responsibility to change it to indented paragraphs? Here at PublishMyBook.Online, our typesetters will discuss with you and make changes such as this, but not all book designers would. Some will just dump the text into the intend page size, change very little, and declare it ready for print.

How to decide what formatting is needed for my document
If you need help working out what formatting is needed for your manuscript, please upload your document to Dropbox and send us the link via the Contact Us page. One of our editors will take a look and let you know what they think your manuscript needs.

What formatting will my book editor do?
If your manuscript requires formatting changes during the editing phase, you may need to inform your editor of your expectations. At, some of our editors have the skillset to do manuscript formatting, while others do not, and it most often takes extra time. Even an editor skilled in formatting can only do some kinds of formatting at the manuscript stage.

Manuscript formatting is partly considered the role of the writer, typesetter or designer. It is not solely the responsibility of the editor. Some editors will not do any formatting at all. We are flexible to your needs and will allocate the best person for the project when you clearly communicate with us what you need.

Formatting is often analysed and completed during the book design or ebook conversion phase of a publishing project because it’s not until that stage that it is known how your document needs to be formatted. A Microsoft Word document intended for loading directly to Amazon KDP may need different formatting from a document you're giving to a typesetter to layout for print. A manuscript you intend to submit to a publisher or agent will need to adhere to their specific formatting rules, which are usually available as part of their submission guidelines on their website. A document intended for business office printing needs to be set-out and formatted in specific ways, which requires specific skills in whatever software package is preferred by the business (eg. Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Publisher, Apple Pages).

For your project, if you expect formatting to be done during the editing phase, please inform us of the production plan and exactly what you mean by ‘formatting’. This may include your plan for printing, conversion to epub, mobi or interactive PDF, office printing or any other end uses of the document. Please send us a list of the formatting changes you want done, or some examples of what you think needs to be done. Do you expect the editor to comment or note where these changes need to be made, or do you want the editor to actually make the changes?

If you don't know what formatting changes need to be made, that is all right. We can advise you once we know the production plan. If you don't know the production plan, you will benefit immensely from purchasing a publishing consultation.

Formatting changes require a higher level of authority over the document than most outsourced editors have. Not all formatting changes can be tracked, so we do not assume that you want your editor to make formatting changes, as you may be unaware of the work that has been done. Furthermore, you or your team may need training in how to maintain the formatting that we do. Once it is done it is inadvisable to add or change content without adhering to the existing styles and formatting decisions, especially if you do not know how to do so properly. The last thing you need is a document with proper formatting and styles through some, but not all, of the content.

We have staff who can format documents, but there are dozens of interpretations of what ‘formatting’ means, so please work with to make it clear. We charge an hourly fee, so if your formatting changes are ambiguous during quoting, it is likely we will charge for the extra hours to deal with them.

So to answer the question once and for all, we will do whatever formatting you require for an hourly charge. This may mean that one of our team does your edit while another does your formatting.

We are able to deal with complex formatting in various software, including headers and footers, sections in Microsoft Word documents, page numbering, margins and fields, such as cross references and an automatic table of contents.

Our talented Australian editors look forward to being of service to you!

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