Writing Guidelines

Grammar, syntax, linguistics, and consistancy—all the skills you learned in high school literature class. Guess what! They're extremely important if you want to write for the reader and ultimately publish. Back to school!

March 23, 2017

Style Sheet
Elk Lake Publishing, Inc. (ELPI)

All submissions must be formatted in our standard style:

  1. Microsoft Word document, Word 2003 or later version.

  2. One inch margins all around.

  3. 12-point Times New Roman font (all headings, subheadings, and text should be formatted in this font). Do not use all capital letters or bold for headings.

  4. Double-spaced (See #7 for detailed instructions).

  5. Black ink.

  6. Left margin justification, ragged right.

  7. Do NOT use tabs for indenting paragraphs. In Word, go to icon in format paragraph that allows line spacing (while here, you can indicate 2.0 line spacing), click on line spacing options, click on special (first line) and ensure the default is 0.5".

  8. Only number the pages through Insert Footer so they can easily be removed prior to publication.

  9. Use a header on each page including your name and the title of your novel. Use Insert Header so it can be easily removed prior to printing.

  10. Pictures or diagrams should be submitted separately. You may use a notation in the manuscript such as [Insert picture one here].

  11. Do NOT use any formatting other than standard bullets, italics, or bold type.

  12. IMPORTANT: Check your document prior to submission for any extra spaces, paragraphs, line spaces, etc., by going to File, Options, Display, Show All Formatting Marks. Delete any “extras.” For example, there should be no tab characters in the document or spaces after a sentence ending a paragraph. If you do not do this, your document will have errors in formatting. If you use a Mac, go to Word, Preferences, View or View> Non-printing Characters.


  1. ELP uses the serial comma. (Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) 6:18: When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more, a comma—known as the serial or series comma or the Oxford comma—should appear before the conjunction.)

    • Example: James brought his computer, lunch, and jacket to the conference.

  2. Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction when the conjunction joins independent clauses, except when the sentence is fairly short. (See CMOS 6:28.) As a writer/editor, you will have to make a judgment call on the length and flow of the sentence.

    • Example: Susie’s book was published, but she still felt she had much more to learn.
    • Example: Susie was published but felt she had much to learn.
    • Example: John went on a hunting trip last weekend, and he forgot his gun.
    • Example: John went hunting and forgot his gun.

  3. Limit comma splices (except in very rare instances: “I rose, I ran, I recovered.”) Change to two sentences, add a conjunction, or use a semicolon.

  4. ELP prefers the em dash (—) as opposed to the en dash (–). According to CMOS, no spaces should be added on either side of the em dash.
    • Example: Susie went on a shopping spree—an event she regretted.
    • NOTE: When an em dash is used to indicate interrupted speech, put the dash inside the quotes: “Stop!” He yelled at his son. “If I have to tell you—”However, when the dialogue is interrupted by an inserted action, the em dash goes outside the quotes: “Come, Coki”—she held out a treat—“come and get your treat!”

  5. An ellipsis is always a series of three dots. Our format is space … space. “How did you eat that so … so fast?" If the ellipsis is at the end of a dialog sentence, do not put a space after the ellipsis before the ”. Check CMOS if you have questions about additional punctuation with ellipses.

  6. Periods and commas always precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single. For the positioning of other marks, see CMOS 6:10.

  7. ELP follows CMOS 6.61 for capitalization with colons. The first word following a colon is lowercase unless (a) the first word after the colon is a proper noun, (b) the colon introduces two or more related sentences, (c) the colon announces a definition, or (d) the colon preceded a speech in dialog or a quotation.

  8. When making words such as Jesus, Moses, or Charles possessive, we follow the Christian Writer’s Manual of Style (CWMS) rather than CMOS. Jesus’, Moses’ or Charles’ not Jesus’s, Moses’s, or Charles’s.

  9. Semicolons are used to join two parts of a compound sentence in the absence of a conjunction. We prefer two sentences rather than the use of the semicolon.

    • Example: Howard moved the lamp from his desk; he replaced it with a telephone.
    • Preferred: Howard moved the lamp from his desk. He replaced it with a telephone.

  10. When using quotation marks—quoted words, phrases, and sentences run into the text are enclosed in double quotation marks. Single quotation marks enclose quotations within quotations. Double marks are used only when they come at the end of the larger quotation. Elk Lake uses "curly" quotation marks.

    • Example: John said, “I love the advice ‘never a borrower nor a lender be.’”

  11. ELP prefers italics for inner dialog and words used for emphasis.

    • Example: Heavens! I never expected this. [she thought] I didn’t think I’d win!
    • Note: Descriptors such as “she thought” or “she wondered” or “he silently prayed” are not necessary with the italics.
    • Example: This is not the way I expected things to end.

  12. ELP prefers any reference to “e” materials to be formatted as follows: ebook, email, and ezine. In these instances, we are acceding to common usage, rather than CMOS.

  13. ELP prefers all words but conjunctions capitalized in headings. Elk Lake Submission Style Sheet and Tips. Three O'clock, Monday, September 27, 2016.


  1. Scripture passages are to be enclosed in quotation marks if within the body of a paragraph. Longer quotations are to be set off in block format with 0.5 indents on both sides. The examples below explain how to punctuate a Scripture reference. Do not italicize the Scripture reference.

    • Example: If used as a stand-alone verse, a header, or block type: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 NIV
    • Example: If used within a sentence or paragraph: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1 NIV).

  2. When a Scripture passage (e.g., Genesis 1: 1-14) is cited in any given paragraph, succeeding references should be documented with only the verse (v. 10). If the chapter is changed, but not the book, document with chapter and verse (9:6).

  3. ELP prefers all pronouns relating to the Trinity NOT be capitalized. DO capitalize Son and Father when referring to members of the Trinity. Do NOT capitalize who, whose, and whom. Do not capitalize words like glory, gospel, or heaven. See The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style (CWMS) for an extensive guide to the capitalization of religious terms.

  4. ELP prefers the New King James Version or the English Standard Version for Scripture quotations, but other versions are allowed. Try to limit versions to two or three within a manuscript.


  1. All editors/submissions to ELP should be using the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) 16th Edition and/or The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style (CWMS). An online subscription to CMOS is available for a reasonable rate.

  2. ELP prefers the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition. Please use this dictionary or the CMOS as a reference for hyphenated words and correct spelling.

  3. Writers/editors should have access to some kind of Bible software such as Biblesoft or BibleGateway.com.


  1. World Wide Web is always capitalized as is Scripture(s) when referring to the Holy Bible (www in a web address is not nor is internet).

  2. Catch your “that” usage. Many times, the word that can be omitted (See #4).

  3. Be careful of using it. Construct your sentences so that you can use a synonym for the word it is replacing.

    • Example: We went to a celebratory gala last night. It The party was fantastic.
    • Example: “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it? I’m glad we came here.” Instead, “What a beautiful day for us to come to the park!”

  4. Numbers and times of day should be spelled out in most cases. (See CMOS 9.2ff for numbers and CMOS 9.38ff for time.)

    • Example: She went to the doctor at 3:00 for her 7th visit.
    • Better: She went to the doctor at three o'clock for her seventh visit. Note: Odd times such as 3:27 are not spelled out.

  5. Be careful to show and not tell. Be careful not to include too much minutiae in descriptions, thereby telling and not showing.

    • Example: Jane woke up, rolled over to the edge of the bed, stood up, put her robe on, buttoned the buttons, and then went to answer the door.
    • Better: "Just hold on!" Jane shouted. "I hear you!" Muttering to herself that some people were just too inconsiderate of the hour, she threw on her robe as she stomped over to answer the door.


  1. When you’ve read your manuscript many times checking for errors, put the book away for a day or two before you look at your work again.

  2. Read your book aloud—you’ll hear awkward phrases.

  3. Have several beta readers—they’ll pick up on things you’ve missed because you’re too close to the story.

Click Here for PDF version of our Submission Guidelines.