Authorship consists of two distinct departments: first, the possession of good ideas; and second, the getting of them into a form fit for publication. In regard to the first, we can offer no help; but we would earnestly caution our readers against attempting to become authors until they have something really worth offering to the public. Young people, especially those who are inclined to write poetry, are most frequently sinners in this respect, though we must say that in too many cases it is more the fault of others than of themselves that they try to get into print. Impelled by a mere desire to put their thoughts on paper, and for their own gratification, they produce a piece of rhyme and show it to their friends, who all go into ecstasies over it and urge them to publish It is then submitted to the preacher and the teacher of the village, who both pronounce it finer than anything that Moore or Byron ever wrote, and forthwith it is sent to the editor of some paper. If the paper is published in a small place and has a small circulation, the editor will probably be glad to get it, not for its own sake, but because the friends of the poet will no doubt purchase a few copies, and he may even secure two or three new subscribers. The poor author is thus victimized and made to believe that he or she is a rising genius; and when other editors, having greater knowledge and free from personal bias, refuse the doggerel, which is sure to be thereafter copiously produced, it is claimed at once that such rejection arises from prejudice and all sorts of bad reasons. Now let it be borne in mind that it would probably be difficult to select three worse judges than the preacher, the teacher, and the editor, of a country village. In the first place, they are rarely able to form a sound judgment of any-thing out of their own special line. This is shown by the readiness with which their names are secured as endorsements to every claptrap that comes along. And in the second place, they are apt to be swayed by a desire to favor a friend and neighbor. Of course there may be marked exceptions, but in a pretty wide experience we have generally found it as stated.
Assuming, however, that you have something to say which the public is interested in hearing, the following hints will enable you to get your manuscript into presentable shape: -
1. Select a proper-sized paper, not very large nor very small, and never write on waste scraps. Ordinary commercial note-paper, which maybe had cheaply in packages, is a very suitable size. Use single leaflets. Do not make your manuscript up into book-form, with the pages from the beginning to the end of the article attached to each other. Above all, carefully number each page consecutively.
2. Use a good black ink; pale ink or fancy colored inks are an abomination. The only exception to this is the use of dark violet ink. Ink of this kind dries rapidly, consequently it needs no blotter, and is liked much by some authors;. There can be no objection to it.
3. Write only on one side of the paper.
4. Write a plain, bold hand, giving more attention to distinctness and legibility than to beauty. Remember that the manuscript will come back to you soiled and crumpled and fit only for the waste basket, while the printed copy may endure for ages, and an error caused by illegible manuscript may annoy yourself and friends years after your "beautiful" manuscript has been consumed by fire.
5. Leave ample margin on one side of each sheet for corrections.
6. See that the paper is wide ruled.
7. Use no abbreviations which are not to appear in print.
8. Punctuate the manuscript as it should be printed.
9. For italics, underscore with one line; for small capitals, with two lines; for CAPITALS, with three lines.
10. Never interline without the caret to show its place.
11. Take special pains with every letter in proper names.
12. Review every word, to be sure that none is illegible.
13. Put directions to the printer at the head of the first page.
14. Do not write long articles, or long sentences. Write as you would a telegram, where each word costs a dime; or as an advertisement which costs a dollar a line.
15. Do not ask an editor to return your manuscript. Keep a copy. With a hundred letters a day to read, he has something to do besides hunting up last year's manuscripts, - received, rejected, and buried or burned long ago.
16. Never write a private letter to the editor on the printer's copy, but always on a separate sheet.
Finally, do not say, "I write in a hurry; please correct all mistakes." You have ten times the opportunity to do this that the editor has. His time is worth from fifty cents to ten dollars an hour, and he will be likely to correct your errors by fire, and then they will never trouble any one any more. You must do your own work if you want it done. Some poor printer has to set up the type for your article. Every cent you save by using pale ink, poor paper, and writing carelessly because you are in a hurry, or writing finely, or crosswise, to save two cents postage, will cost the printer in toil, delay, and eyesight, at least fifty times as much money as you will save, besides causing him to commit blunders for you to scold about.
The above hints are specially intended for those who write for the periodicals of different kinds. Similar rules apply to the preparation of manuscript for books. See that the manuscript is perfect before it is placed in the hands of the compositor. Time is charged on all corrections, alterations, and additions made in the proof, which are not in the original copy. A very little change takes up more time than is generally supposed. The insertion or removal of a word or two may require the overrunning of every line in a long paragraph; the adding or taking out of a sentence, the overrunning of every page set up which follows it. All this can be avoided by having the manuscript carefully prepared. The time-work charged on a badly prepared manuscript will often exceed the cost of having it fairly copied by a clerk.
Leave a wide margin, on which can be written directions for the compositor and minor corrections. Marginal corrections are preferable to interlineations. When they are too long to go in the margin write them on a separate piece of paper, marking it with the page, and indicating on the page the place where it is to be inserted. Write on the margin the amount of space, if any, desired between paragraphs or divisions, for the insertion of additional authorities, etc.
Attend to your own punctuation, marking each point distinctly. Remember the old craft-pun, that "compositors are setters, not pointers," - their duty is to "follow copy." The whole force of a paragraph may be destroyed by careless punctuation.
Authors should always make the beginning of a new paragraph conspicuous to the compositor by indenting the first line of it far enough to distinguish it from the preceding line in case the latter should be quite full.
Make a final careful revision of the manuscript before handing it in. It is said that Newton wrote his chronology over fifteen times before he was satisfied with it; and Gibbon wrote out his memoir nine times before sending it to the press. No beginners can expect better success or less labor than such learned men.