Prepare Your Game Manuscript to Send to Layout Pt. 2

This entry is part 4 of 18 in the series Tutorials


In last week’s post, I showed you how to use Stylesheets to keep a consistent look and feel throughout your document.  Using Stylesheets will also help improve your manuscripts’s ability to be cleanly imported into layout software such as Adobe InDesign.

This week, we’ll discuss a few DOs and DON’Ts about manuscript formatting that will further improve compatibility with import workflows. If you follow these tips, your layout artist will thank you. Otherwise, they’ll grit their teeth and, depending on how their day has been going, swear a lot because they have to fix everything manually.

Why This All Matters

Most layout programs are capable of importing documents from various programs such as MS Word and LibreOffice, and they have a lot of different settings available when doing so. Ideally, your layout artist will be able to automate as much of the import workflow as possible, which increases speed and consistency when managing the document.

A properly-formatted manuscript tells your laout artist exactly how the document should be formatted without the need for him/her to make any guesses about the document’s structure or meaning. The less guesswork they have to do, the better. It means less time asking questions and more time being productive.

Formatting Tables

When formatting tables, DON’T attempt to make them look tidy in your word processing software and DON’T use your software’s built-in  table formatting options (unless your artist specifically tells you otherwise).

DO the following:

  • Insert a single tab between each table item (each cell in the column)
  • Insert a single paragraph break at the end of each row
  • Add a tag at the beginning and end of the table to indicate where it starts and stops. Example: [table] [/table]


Tables don’t always import properly, so many layout professionals prefer to use their software’s built-in tools to build them. InDesign can automatically convert properly-formatted text to tables by creating a new column at every Tab and a new row for every Paragraph Break. If you use more than one tab (to get things to line up in your word processor, for example), the automatic conversion will add extra columns to the table that will need to be manually corrected.

Paragraph Spacing

DON’T, for the love of all that is precious to you, add two paragraph breaks between paragraphs.


DO press the Enter/Return key only once at the end of a paragraph. If you need to improve legibility, use your program’s Stylesheets to increase paragraph spacing automatically.


Sometimes we do this to improve legibility, but paragraph spacing is something that can (and should) be set by the typesetter. If you add space manually, your layout professional will have to remove them manually. There are some tricks to do this quickly, but it’s a step they shouldn’t have to take and it may be prone to error.


DON’T arbitrarily assign headings to sections of your manuscript.

DO plan and adopt a clear, logical heading structure.

DO nest sub-sections within sections by using lower-numbered headings. I talked about this last week: Chapter Titles for Heading 1, Major Sub-sections for Heading 2, Minor Sub-Sections for Heading 3, and Sub Sub-sections or small groups of related paragraphs as Heading 4.

DON’T use more than 5 levels of Headings, and try not to use more than 4 if you can avoid it.


Clear heading structures do several things: they help the reader scan for important information, they help the reader understand what information is considered more or less important, and they help the layout professional generate an automatic Table of Contents. A concise TOC may include only the Heading 1 sections while a verbose TOC may include H2s, H3s, and more.

Final Thoughts

By practicing good manuscript formatting, you improve productivity throughout the entire design chain. It’s important to implement these practices at the beginning of your writing process, because some of these things can be difficult to change later.

Come back next week to learn a few ways to tag your documents to show where elements such as images and sidebars  should be located.


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