Inver Hills Community College


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Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar

 Study Questions




What are the basics of a well typed or printed manuscript?



Introduction--A Well Typed Manuscript a Big Deal?

Goodbye College Degree

New Hampshire's Lost $7 Million

How to Type Papers with MS Word


Also See "Spell and Grammar Check" in the "What Is 'Revising'?" chapter.


This chapter describes two catastrophic failures to type/print well, and it points out the great importance of a well typed/printed paper in college and especially the professions.  Basic details of general manuscript style in college and in the professions also are detailed.


Introduction--Is a Well Typed Manuscript a Big Deal?

When people ask me how important typing is in my composition classes, I say, "It depends."  When students are producing first drafts of formal papers or weekly, non-graded writing, I often tell them that they may either type or write neatly by pen, as long as I (and sometimes others) can easily read the results. 

"But what about final papers?" people sometimes ask me.  "What's the big deal with typing?"  

"It's not a big deal to me when I teach a course like literature or humanities," I tell people.  "However, in composition courses," I tell them, "I do have strict requirements.  That's because it's a big deal to some professors and in many professional jobs.  And who's going to teach you how to type or print if not your composition professor?"  

I also like to point out to my composition students that presenting a formal paper to a professor--let alone to a professional supervisor--is like walking into an interview wearing flip-flops and a torn tee shirt.  No matter how right you are for the job--no matter how intelligent, caring, or experienced--you're highly unlikely to get it.  Similarly, presenting a poorly typed manuscript makes an instructor have difficulty seeing the content inside of the words.


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Goodbye College Degree

How seriously do professors and work supervisors take typing?  To answer this, I like to tell the story of my friend Bob (his real name--and a real person and story). 

Bob was in a graduate program with me, and we did our master's theses at the same time.  A master's thesis is what you have to write before you get your master's degree, and it usually takes a semester or two to write it.  It usually is thirty, forty, maybe even sixty pages long.  That may sound scary to some of you, but what very few people know is that when you are preparing a master's thesis (or a dissertation, which is a book-length paper that must be written for a PhD.), you usually receive a booklet of twenty or thirty pages from the university's office of graduate studies telling you exactly how to type your paper.  That's right: twenty or thirty pages of typing instructions.  Then, when you finish your paper, you must allow an extra week or two for the office of graduate studies to check it for proper typing.  If even one little thing is wrong, you must retype your paper.

Bob and I both decided to write a creative thesis for our English master's degrees.  I wrote a forty-page short story--a fictional story.  Bob also wrote a fiction story, but his was much longer: it was 500 pages in length, in other words, a novel.  Both of us sent our manuscripts to the office of graduate studies to have our manuscripts checked.  Mine was okay the first time I sent it in, but the graduate-studies office told Bob that he had a problem with his.  His margin on the left side was 1/4" too narrow.  And, he was told, he would have to correct it in order to receive his master's degree.

There's something I haven't told you, yet, about the year we graduated.  It was 1985, a time when people had just started using personal computers.  I had one, and Bob did not.  He had typed his entire manuscript, all 500 pages, on a typewriter.  Now, with graduation just a few weeks away and all of his other graduate work to finish in that time, the graduate-studies office expected him to retype his entire 500-page manuscript.

Bob always had been a rebel.  He was a Vietnam veteran and, like me, an older student, and he once had told me the only reason he was in graduate school was because the army was paying for it. 

During our two years of graduate school together, he also kept himself fairly busy dating and having a good time, so his grades were not the highest.  When the graduate-studies office gave him his ultimatum, he simply refused.  He was livid with anger, which I could understand--two years of school down the drain just because of a 1/4" margin--but he absolutely refused to accommodate the graduate-studies office.  Bob never did retype his 500-page novel with a wider margin, as far as I know, and he never received his master's degree.

Now, some of you may think that this is just an exception, that most places are a lot more relaxed about their typing requirements.  It is true that some professors are more relaxed than others about how well a manuscript is presented, but most of them do expect it to be typed in an academic style (which I'll explain in a minute).  However, some professors have very strict requirements.  Even worse, you may find your professors expecting you to know how to type in an academic or professional style without telling this to you, and without specifying what such a style looks like.  In fact, some professors may even unconsciously have less respect for a poorly typed manuscript than for a very well typed one.   All of this is why you should learn to type well and appropriately as soon as you can.  Doing often pays handsomely--in both better grades and more respect at work.


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New Hampshire's Lost $7 Million

"More respect at work" means your professional life.  The story of Bob, above, is repeated millions of times each year in some similar way in the professional world.  Work supervisors reject papers because they are improperly typed, businesses look bad and lose work because of poor formatting of business letters and pamphlets, and hundreds of thousands of would-be writers, professional and amateur, find their works rejected because of poor typing.  And sometimes, huge amounts of money--and people's jobs--are lost because of relatively minor mistakes of typing.  Take the following case as reported in the Minneapolis Star Tribune Jan. 29, 2004, and in other newspapers:  

In December, New Hampshire's state drug abuse and prevention program was turned down for a $7 million grant on the sole ground, said the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, that its application was typed with smaller margins than permitted.  The federal agency did not give the state an opportunity to correct the formatting, even though the victims of the rejection were not the grant-writers but drug-addicted patients.

--Shepherd, Chuck, "News of the weird," p. E3.

New Hampshire lost 7 million dollars.  How many jobs were lost, as a result?  This is not to mention the number lives aided or even saved by the money that might have gone to drug-addicted patients but did not.

So good typing and printing does matter.  It also is helpful to ask your instructor if she has any specific guidelines, as each academic discipline--and each major business or professional field--often has its own specific typing requirements.  For example, while a 1" margin is a common requirement, some disciplines or professional situations may require more or less.  It always pays to ask, and asking does not show stupidity but rather just the opposite--a desire to learn.

In addition, individual instructors, work supervisors, and workplaces may have their own particular requirements, born of their own needs and experiences.  One instructor I know, for example, finds papers much easier to grade if they are stapled.  He clearly states this in class several times; then he automatically flunks papers that are paper clipped: a tough instructor.  Whether this is unfair is not the point.  It is, simply, reality.  Most instructors and professional workplaces have some room for flexibility in typing, but most also have their requirements and preferences, spoken and unspoken.  It is helpful to learn what they are ahead of time by asking.


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How to Type Papers Using MS Word (12-24-10)

(These directions are for use of MS Word 1997-2007.  AVOID MS Works.  Some operations are different in Apple Word.)

1.   Use Standard Paper: Use 8.5 inch by 11 inch paper, 16 or 20 pound weight (standard copying/typing paper).

2.   How to Add Page Numbers: Use MSWord (not MSWorks). Click on “Insert” & “Page Number(s).”  Choose a right-hand corner or bottom middle. Page 1 is optional.  Double-click on the p. # & change “Position” to .2 & .2.

3.   How to Make 1” Margins: In Word 1997-2003, click on “File,” then “Page Setup.”  In Word 2007, click on "Page Layout." Set all four margins for “1.”  Print and check with a ruler.  If your printer is off, then change the margin to less as needed.  (Are bottoms still different from page to page?  See “12.” below.)

4.   How to Fix Paragraphs for Academic/Formal Writing:
(1) In academic and formal professional writing, paragraphs are at least two sentences long and usually longer.
(2) They also usually are not excessively long.  (See the requirements in Draft 2 & 3 cover sheets for paragraph  length.) 
(3) Body sections in college usually have more than one paragraph. 
(See D-2 & 3 requirements.)  Vary their lengths. 
(4) In dialogue, each time a speaker starts a new turn, you should give that new turn a new, indented paragraph. 
(5) Indent the first line of each paragraph  ½”: 0.5” or about 8-10 spaces
(using 12-point font), not ¼” or less than 8 spaces.

5.   For Checking Grammar: How to Turn On Formal (Full) Grammar Check (in Word 2000 only):

(a) Click on “Tools,” “Options,” and “Spelling & Grammar.”  (The boxes usually are already set correctly.)
(b) Then change “Writing style” to “Grammar & Style.”  (In early versions of Word, this is called “Formal.”) 
(c) If you wish, you may also go into “Settings” and, under “Require,” make the first three blanks say “always,” “inside,” and “2.”  You also may then check every box under “Grammar” and “Style.”
(d) Finally, you may need to click on “Recheck Document.” 
(e) You also can use the synonym checker by right-clicking on a word, then clicking on “synonyms.”

6.   How to Indent Long Quotations: Choose only quotations over four lines in MLA (or over 50 w. in APA).  Place each quotation on its own lines, alone.  Remove the “ “ marks.  Mark the quotation.  Then indent it a whole 1” on the left (twice as much as the start of a paragraph): do so on the formatting tool bar at top ("Home" bar in Word 2007) by clicking twice on the box with lines and a right arrow: [à=]; or click on “Format/Paragraph” and set “Indentation/Left” for 1”.

7.   How to Delete “I/you/yours/me/my” Words: A majority of professors may expect you to avoid “personalizing” your writing.  In MS Word (upper-right corner), find “Editing.”  Then choose “Find.”  Use it to find all such personal words.  You may replace them with words such as “people,” “many/some/others,” “a person,” “we,” etc.

8.   How to Highlight Your Manuscript for the Changes Below, in “9”-“14” Have you already starting typing your paper?  If so, the directions in “8”-“13” below require that you start by highlighting your entire paper in black.  Do it as you would a word or sentence; however, start at the top of your paper and mark it to the end of the last page.  Then make the changes below.

9.   How to Choose a Font (the style and size of letters): (Do “8.,” above, first.  Mark all of your paper.)  Go to the font window above (or click on “Format,” then “Font”) and please use an academic font like Times New Roman, CG Times, Cambria, or Garamond. Avoid any font that is overly large, plain, or extra small.  Use font size “12” (like this sent.) unless told otherwise.

10. How to Choose Double Spacing (and avoid extra line spaces before/after paragraphs): (Do “8.” first: mark entire paper.)  In all Word versions, right-click on paper.  Click on “Paragraph,” then “Indents & Spacing.”  Set “Line spacing” at “Double.”  Then set “Spacing” at “0” and “0” (which will get rid of extra—or wider—line spacing before and after parags.).

11. How to Choose ½” Indentation of Paragraph Beginnings: (Do “8.” first: mark entire paper.)  In all Word versions, right-click on paper.  Click on “Paragraph”; then “Indents and Spacing.”  Change “Special” to “First line,” and “By” to “0.5.”  (Or in old Word, mark your paper, click on “Format” and “Tabs,” and then set “Default tab stops” at 0.5”.)

12. How to Make All Bottom Margins Exactly the Same: (Do “8.” first: mark entire paper.)  In all Word versions, right-click on paper. Click on “Paragraph,” then “Line and Page Breaks.”  Uncheck all the “Pagination” boxes.

13. How to Make a Ragged Right Margin (when it is even orjustified): (Do “8.” first; mark only your bib.)  In all Word versions, right-click on paper.  Click on “Paragraph,” then “Indents & Spacing.” Change “Alignment” to “Left.”

14. How to Make Hanging Indents in a Bibliography: (Did you already type?  Do “8” first; mark only your bib.)  In all versions of Word, right-click on “Paragraph”;  then click on “Indents & Spacing,” “Special,” and “Hanging;” set it for 0.5”.


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C. Revise/Edit

Click on any chapter below:


14. What Is "Revising"?

15. Peacock Sentences

16. Peacock Punctuation

17. Punctuation Review

18. 5 Special Methods

19. Typing/Printing

20Revision Checklist




 Related Links in

  5. Choosing Words

  6. Making Sentences

  8. General Editing

  9. Spelling

10. Punctuation

11. Grammar Guides

13. Help for ESL/NNS

15. Writing Books & Tutors

19. Visual/Other Design                


Updated 1 Aug. 2013

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1st through 5th Editions:: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998;, 1998-2012.
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted.
Permission is hereby granted for nonprofit educational copying and use without a written request.
Images courtesy of Barry's Clip Art, Clip Art Warehouse, The Clip Art Universe, Clipart Collection, MS Clip Art Gallery and Design Gallery Live, School Discovery, and Web Clip Art
Click here to contact the author: Richard Jewell.  Questions and suggestions are welcome.