From Rick:

In MANUSCRIPT CLEANUP-PART 1 I showed you how to clean up the most basic garbage in your manuscript file: extra spaces, errant tabs, and accidental linefeeds instead of paragraph returns.

What you might find it interesting how many manuscripts I encounter, published ones, that still have some of this garbage in them, especially extra spaces here and there, and some writers still use spaces to indent paragraphs, and these will often cause problems in ebooks.

So, what’s still left to clean up? Well, we have ellipses, dashes, hyphens, leading apostrophes, and smart quotes to deal with. I’ll warn you ahead of time that most of these can be a pain to clean up if you did not do them properly in the first place.

A plug here: If you don’t know how to use ellipses, dashes, and hyphens properly, our Punctuation For Fiction Writers will set you straight on these and all the other punctuation. And if you think you’re already an expert on punctuation, I can promise that you’ll find things in the book that you don’t know about.

Let’s start with ellipses. I’ve preached about these before. The accepted proper format for an ellipsis (…) is three periods with a space between each period and a space before and after the three. If the ellipsis begins a sentence or quote marks precede it, omit the leading space. Likewise, if the ellipsis ends a sentence or a quote mark follows, no space after the ellipsis.

But there’s a problem with using the established format in ebooks. The text in an ebook is what is called “reflowable” (meaning it’s not fixed like in a print book). As a result, an ellipsis could end up occurring at the end of a line. Since the lines break at hyphens and spaces, an ellipsis may end up with one or two dots one line and the remainder on the next. This looks really stupid and will peg you as an amateur right away. All of the possible solutions I have seen offered to avoid this do not work reliably in all ebook formats.

The best way to avoid problem is NOT to put spaces between the periods. Also, omit the leading space before the ellipsis because leaving that in could result in the ellipsis being moved to the start of the next line. While not as bad as splitting the ellipsis point, this still looks stupid. However, you SHOULD put a space after the ellipsis or you risk two words being joined together by the unspaced ellipsis.

I know that this recommendation goes against all the formatting standards from the past, but truthfully, the only people who will care are book formatting people, not your readers. What readers will is a split ellipsis.

You have two options for the ellipsis: the three un-spaced periods, or the actual ellipsis character (which is treated as one unit). If you use the latter, I still recommend no space before the ellipsis (but one after it).

While it doesn’t matter which ellipsis option you choose, be sue you use the SAME ONE throughout! I often see is inconsistent use of the two options because if MS Word is set to automatically replace three spaced periods with an ellipsis character, it sometimes misses doing so, and you end up with the inconsistencies.

1. CLEAN UP IMPROPER ELLIPSES: If you used more than three periods in a row anywhere in your manuscript (because you didn’t know what you were doing in the first place), then you’re going to have to clean those up first and make sure your ellipses are THREE periods and no more. I will leave that up to you to complete, but I suggest searching for any occurrences of 4 periods and going from there.

NOTE: Theoretically, if an ellipsis ends a sentence (as opposed to being a simple training off in dialogue then a fourth period may follow the three-dot ellipsis with no space before the fourth dot).

Once you’ve cleaned up any instances of more than three periods, here’s what to do next.

2. MAKE SURE YOU DON’T HAVE ANY DOUBLE PERIODS ANYWHERE:

FIND WHAT: ..
Then manually change them to three periods if it’s supposed to be an ellipsis or to one period if simply the end of a regular sentence.

Now you’re ready to fix your ellipses.

3. REMOVE THE SPACES BETWEEN ELLIPSIS POINTS:

Using the convention from last time, (spc) means to type a space.

FIND WHAT: .(spc).(spc).(spc)
REPLACE WITH: …

You can either do a FIND NEXT and REPLACE individually, or do a REPLACE ALL. I recommend doing it individually to avoid any outlier problems.

4. REMOVE ANY LEADING SPACES BEFORE THE ELLIPSES:

FIND WHAT: (spc)…
REPLACE WITH: …

REPLACE ALL
Then do a FIND NEXT to be sure you fixed them all (didn’t have some cases where there were two spaces before the ellipsis) and handle accordingly. If you cleaned up the double spaces in Part 1, then you shouldn’t have any extra spaces before the ellipsis, but it doesn’t hurt to be sure.

5. INSERT A SPACE AFTER THE ELLIPSIS:

FIND WHAT: …
REPLACE WITH: …(spc)

REPLACE ALL.

Now, if some of the ellipses already had a space after them, this step will result in having two spaces. Let’s fix that.

FIND WHAT: (spc)(spc)
REPLACE WITH: (spc)

REPLACE ALL.

6. DECIDE IF YOU WANT ALL ELLIPSES AS A SINGLE CHARACTER OR AS THREE INDIVIDUAL PERIODS AND MAKE THEM CONSISTENT:

For single character, follow procedure 6a OR for individual periods, follow procedure 6b. Do NOT perform both steps.

6a. TO MAKE ALL ELLIPSES SINGLE CHARACTER:

FIND WHAT: …
REPLACE WITH: … (hold the CTL and ALT keys and press the period key to get this single character)

NOTE: This is for a Windows PC. For a MAC, look up how to make the ellipsis character on that.

REPLACE ALL.

6b. TO MAKE ALL ELLIPSES THREE PERIODS:

FIND WHAT: … (hold CTL and ALT keys and press period key, as above)
REPLACE WITH: …

REPLACE ALL.

Now you know the proper way to do ellipses and hopefully you won’t have to do this messy cleanup in the future, at least not on your own manuscripts. My further advice is to TURN OFF the automatic ellipsis replacement in Word like this:

In Word go to FILE/OPTIONS/PROOFING. Click the AUTOCORRECT button and UN-check “Replace as you type.”

Even if you want the single ellipsis character, the auto replace doesn’t always work reliably. I suggest inserting it manually with CTL ALT (period key).

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Next we’re going to clean up dashes. In US English, the standard for using dashes in an em-dash—not two or more hyphens—with NO spaces before or after. If you are using an application or tablet or phone where an em-dash is not readily available, then two hyphens are acceptable temporarily, but they must be converted later. Using two hyphens in an ebook will yield the same problem as spaced periods in an ellipsis: the two hyphens could get split at the end of a line.

NOTE: In UK English, the em-dash is sometimes replaced by an en-dash with a space on each side of it. However, in ebooks this may cause problems, so an unspaced em-dash is preferred.

To manually insert an em-dash in a document, hold CTL and ALT and press the minus key on the numeric keypad. For an en-dash, hold only the CTL key and press the minus sign. If you don’t have a numeric keypad, you’ll have to look up a workaround.

Cleaning up dashes can be a nuisance if you did not insert them properly in the first place. Hopefully you did not use a simple hyphen in place of a dash. If you did, then you’ll have to manually search out every hyphen and replace those with an em-dash as needed. Otherwise, so here’s my cleanup procedure.

1. CONVERT SPACED HYPHENS TO EM-DASHES:

This is done in three steps. The ^+ is the em-dash search character.

1A.
FIND WHAT: (spc)^+(spc)
REPLACE WITH: ^+
REPLACE ALL.

1B.
FIND WHAT: (spc)^+
REPLACE WITH: ^+
REPLACE ALL.

1C.
FIND WHAT: ^+(spc)
REPLACE WITH: ^+
REPLACE ALL.

This should leave you will all the em-dashes correctly formatted.
On the outside chance that you used en-dashes for this purpose, repeat the above 3 replacements (1A-1C) but substitute ^= for the ^+ in the FIND WHAT fields.

2. CONVERT DOUBLE HYPHENS TO EM-DASHES:

FIND WHAT: —
REPLACE WITH: ^+

Then repeat steps 1A-1C.

3. CONVERT SPACED HYPHENS TO EM-DASHES (3 steps again):

3A.
FIND WHAT: (spc)-(spc)
REPLACE WITH: ^+
REPLACE ALL.

3B.
FIND WHAT: (spc)-
REPLACE WITH: ^+
REPLACE ALL.

3C.
FIND WHAT: -(spc)
REPLACE WITH: ^+
REPLACE ALL.

That should take care of all your dash issues unless you did something really dumb like using more than two hyphens in a row or spaced them or put two em-dashes together (I saw that recently in a manuscript and I didn’t see it right away because it looked almost like a normal em-dash. I’ll leave you to search for those oddballs and to sort them out.

NOTE: En-dashes are appropriate in some locations. If you know their proper use and used them properly, all is good. Otherwise, you might want to search for stray en-dashes (^= in the FIND WHAT) and fix them.

At this point, the only thing that you may need to clean up are smart quotes pointing in the wrong direction (if you use smart quotes). This problem will occur if you use an apostrophe at the beginning of a word (like ’em). When using smart quotes, Word will normally treat that apostrophe as a single quote and render it as ‘em.

Likewise, Word thinks that a quote mark following an em-dash should be an open quote —“ instead of a close quote —” and I have no idea why it does that. However, that one is easy to fix. With smart quotes turned on, simply do this:

FIND WHAT: ”
REPLACE WITH: ”

I know it looks counterintuitive, but Word will convert all quotes to smart quotes and position them correctly. Unfortunately, this will not work to repair the leading apostrophes because it will still treat those as single open quotes. You will have to fix these manually as you encounter them. But you will need a special code to do enter them. After you erase the wrong quote, hold the ALT key and press 0146 on the numeric keypad. That’s the code for a close single quote. In case you need them, the other codes are these:

0145 (open single quote)
0146 (close single quote)
0147 (open double quote
0148 (close double quote)

And that completes the basic cleanups I find most often. You may find other things to fix, and I’ll leave you to be creative in finding an easy way to search and replace them using techniques similar to those I’ve employed here.

NOTE: If you used underlines anywhere in your manuscript, you should remove them. Only italics should be used for emphasis. And BOLD should be restricted to titles, subtitles, and the like, never in the main body of your manuscript. Were you aware that you could search for italics, bold, and underlined text? In the Find and Replace window, under Replace at the bottom you’ll see FORMAT (click the “More” button if you don’t see it). Click the down arrow and select FONT. Then choose your options to find and fix what you find.

While you’re looking at those search options, you might want to note what other things you can search for and replace them with. Once you learn to deal with Styles, you can even search out those.

I’m going to do a third part to this series on creating a Clean Source File. There used to be a superb article out on the Internet, but it’s no longer available. I have a copy I printed out and scanned to my PC, but it’s not my article, and I don’t have permission to post it directly. However, I will work it up and post it soon.

–Rick