Formatting conventions

JTS File and Document Formatting Conventions

What we’re after

For most translations, JTS prefers files created in MS-Word 2013 or later. If you don’t use Word or use a version earlier than 97/98, send RTF-format files; for people who can’t generate these formats, though, a plain-vanilla ASCII, ANSI, or Shift-JIS text file will usually do the trick. We no longer accept files in other formats.

Word has a number of automatic formatting features; please do not use them (turn them off) for JTS work: the results are unpredictable.

Regardless of your files’ format, we’d like to ask that you please adhere to the following document-formatting guidelines for the ones you turn in.

If the original text is indented, please indent your paragraphs; use block style only if the original is that way. Note that you shouldn’t type two carriage returns (i.e., insert a blank line) between indented paragraphs (use the “space before” setting in a paragraph style).

An indent is accomplished with a single tab character. In other words, press the Tab key once. Ignore what the outcome looks like on your screen or print out. If you are a stickler for appearances, set your first tab setting to 6mm; that should do the trick. The important part is this: whatever you do, please, don’t use more than a single tab character—and never indent by hitting the space bar, whether once or several times. Please also avoid using the automatic indenting features of your word processor: the results are unpredictable.


Type headings flush left. If they are numbered, as they would be in a technical, semi-technical, or legal document, separate the leading number from its subsequent text with one tab space. The logic here is exactly the same as that with indents: don’t use more than one tab, never use the spacebar, and avoid using automatic features (see box).

If a numbered heading runs for two or more lines, treat it like a hanging indent (read on...).

Hanging indents (lists)

Lists headed by a bullet (•, ✔, ❍, ☛, etc.), number, or letter should be treated in the same manner as numbered headings: separate the lead character from subsequent text with a single tab space. After that, just type on and let the lines word-wrap naturally. Please do not type carriage returns at the end of each line and artificially create the hanging indent by beginning each line with tab spaces or—even worse—by hitting the space bar several times. Again, if you are a stickler and want to see what the hanging indent will look like, use the paragraph settings of your word processor to create the hanging indent properly.

This scheme is old hat to people accustomed to inputting database material, and it’s actually quite simple. Absolutely essential is that you ignore what it looks like on your screen: appearance doesn’t matter; what’s important is that there’s one, and only one, tab character between each column, and a carriage return at the end of each line (compare Table 1, Figure 1, and Figure 2). The tab space merely marks the point separating cells (or fields) and the carriage return marks the end of each row (record), so some people call them delimiters.

Rules of thumb (summary)

  • Always use a tab character to separate material that must align at a certain measurement. Such material includes indents and the text following a leading character, such as a section number in a title or heading, the number at the beginning of a list item, or a bullet.
  • Never use consecutive tabs to achieve incremental depths, use only one tab and forget about the increments or use a paragraph style setting. To align text with the right margin, use your word processor’s right align command, to center text, use its center align command, and so on. If you don’t know how to use these commands, leave the text flush left, with no preceding tabs or spaces.
  • Never use spaces (i.e., hit the space bar) to align text—always use one tab character—and forget about the aligning.
  • Check to see if you have a habit of typing extraneous spaces. “Extraneous spaces” are any space characters that are not essential for separating words and numbers—like those extra ones some people like to type at the end of a line before they hit the carriage return, or one (or several) sandwiched between an alphanumeric and a tab character. If you find any, get rid of them before you send us your file. It will save you the frustration of wondering why there is a small but inconsistent discrepancy between your word counts and ours: To be fair to everyone, our word-counting program weeds most extraneous spaces out before it counts the characters in a file.
  • One space (not two!) after punctuation. Use colons (:) and semicolons (;) correctly (if you put a semicolon before lists, you’ve got their uses backwards).

Golden rule

  • For the most part, just type. Don’t worry about formatting or what things look like on your screen when you observe these guidelines. Ignore those bits and pieces that have flown all over your screen (especially tabular material) because you’ve followed our request. Enjoy the chaos! We will, too; ’cause that’s the way we want it.

Sending your files

JTS accepts delivery as email attachments only; we no longer maintain any standing modem connections. If you don’t know how to use your emailer, please check your manuals. JTS can give advice only on the use of Becky!, since we no longer use anything else. If you are unsure about sending files this way, do a test transfer to make sure everything works okay.


The intent of these conventions is to let you concentrate on your translating and editing rather than get caught up in document formatting, and to expedite processing at JTS.

If you decide to format (or are asked to), please use your word processor’s orthodox formatting functions, applying paragraph styles consistently in a systematic hierarchy; don’t set one style for the whole document and then format each paragraph independently. If you don’t want or know how to or do this, then tell us and just give us plain vanilla.

If you use MS-Word 2010 or later and would like to have copies of our templates, let us know; we’ll be glad to send them to you. Our templates contain styles arranged in a logical (well, almost...) hierarchy.

Regardless of whether you format, these guidelines apply, so please observe them. Thanks for your time and attention.

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