Things to do and check when putting together a book or thesis manuscript

This is my list of things I do when pulling together a long manuscript like a book, often from separate files. I tend to delay pulling the separate chapters into a single file or two until quite late, as editing long documents can be a bit unwieldy. But there are certainly some benefits from having a single file.

A conversation with a near-to-completion PhD student made me think this might be useful for others. He asked what things he needed to do while putting his entire thesis together for submission. I was thinking of this as I finalized the draft of the Canguilhem book, so I thought I’d keep a note and put this post together.

Essential

Check your thesis or publisher style requirements – this should of course have been done long ago, but worth another look now.

If you put notes to yourself in the text, find them all, resolve and delete. By this I mean things like ‘check’, ‘find ref’, ‘link’ etc. I put these in square brackets, or highlight them, so a simple FIND can locate them all. You don’t want others seeing these. I also sometimes strike through text that might be deleted when editing, and you can search for this or other styles that may lurk in the text.

Style Issues

  • Consistent font, point size etc.
  • Consistent use of headings and subheadings – both in style and hierarchy
  • Uniform line spacing, spacing between paragraphs, indents, numbered and unnumbered lists.
  • Ensure all text is set to correct language (i.e. UK English) and spellcheck
  • Double-check spelling of proper names – ignore all or add to dictionary when spellchecking to catch errors on repeated uses
  • If you use foreign words, ensure they are spelled correctly, accents are correct, and transliteration is done consistently (there can be more than one correct way, but follow a consistent one).
  • Use page numbers, and make sure they actually run in sequence (this can get muddled if adding sections)
  • If you have phrases or expressions you overuse, this is a good time to search for them and replace some.

References 

  • Check all references are formatted correctly. If you use Endnote or other referencing software this should be straightforward, but always worth checking carefully.
  • If using notes, ensure full reference on first use, and short reference thereafter.
  • If using a reference list, then check all references appear in text, and vice versa.
  • Check and format the bibliography, if needed. Check rules for alphabetization.
  • Try not to use different editions of the same text, unless there is a point to this.
  • Include names of editors and translators.
  • If you or your publisher insist on ibid and op cit, check this all very carefully. It is very easy for these to get detached or disordered if you move text around.
  • As you merge endnotes from separate files, insert Chapter divides into the note file, and restart note numbering by section.

For more on reading and citing, though mainly for an earlier stage of the project, see here, and on double-checking references here

Text

  • Consistency on style of dates, centuries, numbers (one to ten, 11- or similar), etc.
  • Find double spaces and replace (unless you really want them there…)
  • Find spaces before punctuation marks; double punctuation marks, etc.
  • Single or double quotes – be consistent.
  • If using abbreviations, ensure they are defined on first use.
  • For names of people, first name on first use, surname thereafter, unless there might be confusion with common names.

General

  • Print and read at least once on paper instead of on screen.
  • Get someone else to read it.

I’m sure there are more. I’ll add more if I think of them, but suggestions or additions very welcome. (Ironically, I had a real job of getting this post to appear as I wanted.)

There are lots more suggestions and links about writing and publishing here.
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