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Learn MS Word's Backoffice Features

MS Word's back office features lets you easily format your manuscript to the book industry's expectations and comply with publisher and Amazon's ranking algorithms.

Nothing’s more annoying than landing a book-publishing contract only to be hit with a long printout of corrections to make the manuscript digitally acceptable. As one author wailed, “I thought coding was only for the Internet!”

Not anymore.

Not knowing how to meet today’s digital demands can make a book too expensive to publish—even as an eBook—or delay release date.

Fortunately, the book business still defaults to .doc and .docx documents—which is great news! MS Word's presentation and mechanical algorithm-compliance features are easy to learn, easy to use. This tutorial covers the basics of how those features can save you time, money and automated manuscript rejection.

Format versus Style

Let’s start with the difference between formatting a manuscript and styling it. 

Most experienced writers are proud to create good, clean prose that says what they want it to say, the way they want it said. They may italicize a word here or there for emphasis, or even bold their headings so make them stand out. 

They hit Enter twice (or many times) to move a paragraph down the page, insert Page Breaks between chapters, and change fonts, sizes, and paragraph spacings using the Font and Paragraph ribbons.

If they’re computer savvy, they might even save those changes to their normal template. 

But since most editors, agents, publishers, etc., aren’t interested in wrestling with pdf manuscripts, most of that careful formatting will be gone when the document is opened on someone else’s computer.


Because they wrote and saved the document in their own Normal template, using their own settings—none of which is retained when a document is opened on a different computer.

That's what makes “formatted” manuscripts so much more expensive and time-consuming to publish than “styled” ones. 

In today’s digital world, formatted manuscripts are just one step up from typewritten ones.


Safeguard your manuscript against automatic delay or rejection using this simple 5-step process.

1. Create a template

  • Open a new document.
  • Change the formatting and layout to what you want.
  • Name the document and “Save As” a Word Template (.dotx)

2. Modify the template's styles

  • Reopen your new template.
  • Using the Styles ribbon, modify the font, font size, and paragraph spacings for your Normal, Text, and Headings styles.
  • Save your work and close the .dotx.

3. Attach the template manuscript

  • Open your manuscript.
  • Click on the Developer tab, then on Document Template Templates, then on Attach.
  • Navigate to your new dotx, select it, and click Open.
  • Select Automatically update document styles before clicking the final OK.

4. Style your text, headings, and points of emphasis

  • Go through your manuscript and attach the appropriate style to every heading and paragraph, including bulleted and numbered lists.
  • Attach the Emphasis style to all italicized content.
  • Attach the Strong style to all bolded content.

5. Delete or correct extraneous coding

  • Find and replace all manual Page Breaks with Section Break: Next Page.
  • Find and replace all repeated ¶s.
  • Find and replace all tabs or spacings from the first line of paragraphs.

Congratulations! You've styled your manuscript!


Believe it or not, MS Word has been ahead of the algorithm curve for some time. While it cannot address passive emotions, its Editor does check for and correct a plethora of other “gotchas” that often slip by even the best copy editor or proofreader.

You can set it to look for specific issues in each document by modifying Word Options > Proofing, or you can use program’s default settings and simply accept or reject its suggested corrections in each document.

  • Open Editor
  • Choose Formal, Professional, or Casual Writing
  • Click each category in turn and accept or ignore Editor’s suggestions
  • When you finish all corrections, click Document stats
  • Warning! Most jargon and business-speak is tagged as passive
  • Aim for a Flesch Reading Ease between 60 and 70, a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level between 6.0 and 9.0, and a Passive Sentence score between 0 and 7.0 percent

Congratulations! Your manuscript is (mechanically) algorithm compliant!

Want a deeper diver into styling manuscripts?
Sign up for MS Word for Writers webclass

Get detailed, step-by-step instructions on every facet of using MS Word to make your manuscripts industry ready and mechanically compliant. Available online, at your convenience.

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