The Ultimate writers guide to manuscript editing, preparation and submission.

Reviewed ByEmma Lee

The writers guide to manuscript editing, preparation and submission.

‘Mini Style Guide’ Denise O’Hagan

With authors having more involvement in the editing and publishing processes than before, both in traditional publishing and self-publishing, this timely ‘Mini Style Guide’ from The Blue Nib’s Australia and New Zealand Poetry Editor, Denise O’Hagan, is designed to de-mystify the process and help writers present polished manuscripts.

Black Quill Press

ISBN 9780648002055

This writers guide to manuscript editing, preparation and submission examines examples of good writing including differences between American, British, Australian and New Zealand English, commonly misused words, punctuation, writing styles and text layout including what to consider when choosing a font including the differences between layout on a screen or on a printed page, with sections on copyright and plagiarism.

Part two looks at how to present manuscripts for publication whether for self-publishing or traditional publishing. Part three looks at publishing options and how to choose which is best for you. Each chapter contains plenty real-life examples to illustrate the points being made. It also uses an explanatory approach rather than the dry, authoritarian tones found in style guides such as Hart’s. 

The writing styles section does not attempt to straightjacket writers in to a perceived established style but offers advice on how to engage readers and target the writing for the readership. You might want your book to appeal to everyone, but trying to please everyone can result in a book that pleases no one. By understanding your readership, you can target you writing to the people who are going to buy it. The styles guide applies to both fiction and non-fiction. There’s a section on how to write inclusively to avoid unintended discrimination and when defining people or characters by gender, race, disability or other discriminatory distinctions is necessary. Copyright is considered both from a writer wishing to protect their copyright and a writer needing to know whether they can quote from someone else’s work and how to request permission if required. Plagiarism explores how it can occur, how it differs from copyright and discusses slander and libel.

The second section contains useful tips for all writers seeking publication whether self-publishing or submitting work to an editor/publisher. Like the first section, it intends to give useful advice rather than dictate and explains the rationale behind the advice. It covers the order of pages in a book – it might seem obvious that the contents go near the front, but does the bibliography go before or after the index? There are also handy tips such as how to produce a style sheet to ensure your manuscript has consistent spelling, punctuation and presentation, such as when numbers are presented as figures or words, which compound words are hyphenated, etc., throughout and why, when quoting poems, line breaks must be kept intact. There’s also useful advice on how to deal with titles and qualifications, abbreviations, acronyms, numbers and currency, and how to organise lists, such as bullet points, bibliographies, etc. Illustrations, photos or artwork, and graphics such as graphs, tables, flowcharts are covered including whether the writer is supplying them or working with an illustrator.

The final section gives writers a checklist to ensure a manuscript is ready to be submitted either to a traditional publisher or to a printer for self-publishing. There’s lots of useful advice including about how traditional publishing works, whether you need a literary agent, whether a manuscript assessment service should be used, how to write a synopsis and covering letter. For self-publishers, the ‘Mini Style Guide’ covers differences in types of editing, what you need before you publish, e.g. ISBN, barcode, library cataloguing data, etc. and marketing your book. 

To round off, there are appendices with useful templates for style sheets, covering letters, copyright permission requests, a glossary and a recommended reading section with dictionaries, guides to style and editing manuals.

Overall Denise O’Hagan’s ‘Mini Style Guide’ is a comprehensive overview of writing styles, what writers need to know about copyright and plagiarism, how to present a manuscript for traditional or self-publishing, the use of illustrations and graphics and how to market you book when published, which applies to both traditional and self-published writers. Its style is explanatory and inclusive and applies to fiction and non-fiction, covering everything from a thesis, articles, a technical handbook and all genres of fiction. The presentation makes it easy to either read in one go or dip into if you need to answer a specific question about when to use ‘complement’ or when an apostrophe is needed or what needs to go in a cover letter. The ‘Mini Style Guide’ is perfect for writers who want to maximise their chance of acceptance by presenting a professional manuscript or who want to avoid getting one-star reviews because readers could not understand a story presented with poor spelling and grammar.

Mini Style Guide available at

Amazon (AU)(USA)(UK)Barnes & NobleBook DepositoryBooktopiaFishpond

Advice from Denise O’Hagan on how to promote your book

Now that you're here

The Blue Nib believes in the power of the written word, the well-structured sentence and the crafted poetic phrase. Since 2016 we have published, supported and promoted the work of both established and emerging voices in poetry, fiction, essay and journalism. Times are difficult for publishers, and The Blue Nib is no exception. It survives on subscription income only. If you also believe in the power of the written word, then please consider supporting The Blue Nib and our contributors by subscribing to either our print or digital issue.


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