Editing Formatting Grammar Publishing Writing

Hidden Characters

What the heck is a pilcrow?

Every time you hit “Enter” on your keyboard, you create a pilcrow. You just can’t see it. To see it, look up to the middle of your toolbar in whatever document program you’re writing in, and click on the symbol like the one to the left of this post. It’s also called the “show/hide” function. When you turn it on, it shows you all the hidden characters. The pilcrow shows all the hard returns and the little dot you get every time you hit the space bar. Here’s is why you should care:

E-books hate hard returns. Editors don’t like them much either—because they have to clean them up. Keep them to a minimum. You do not “format” by pressing Enter until you like where something sits on a page. You do not know the page size on the device your reader will be using. If you intend to print books, you’ll format for that later. Right now, you’re just working on a manuscript.

When you come to the end of a chapter, insert a page break. It’s easy to figure out how to do that on your word processing program. Or, ask Mister Google. Your next chapter will automatically begin on the next page, no matter the device being used by your reader.

Tapping your space bar twice after ending a sentence went the way of the typewriter. I know, you do it when you’re texting—but that’s to get a period. I’m talking about typing a period then tapping twice before you shift to capitalize the first word of the next sentence. Don’t do it. If you’ve already done it—do a “find and replace”—for all those places you have two dots together and make them one. You’ll still have to proofread just in case you tapped three times in places.

And those arrows? You pressed Tab. If you want to indent a paragraph (and please do), go to your formatting option and set your first line indent for a new paragraph (.3″ or .5″ is acceptable). In a perfect world, when you press enter at the end of a paragraph, your cursor should automatically hop down to the next line and indent for you.

If you see small vertical grey bars scattered throughout your text, it’s because you copied and pasted something from the internet. Remove them.

Other characters may be hidden if anyone ever used a “Reviewing” or “Track Changes” function on your manuscript (like a beta reader or editor). Turn yours on to check. Make sure every trace of track changes and comments is gone before you create a PDF or publish your e-book.

Go through your manuscript one time just to clean up any stray hidden characters.


Leave a Reply