The superfluity of a table of contents | Proper Manuscript Format | William Shunn

The superfluity of a table of contents

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A reader follows up on an earlier question to ask:

I have a contents page after the main title page, so I want to start the page numbering on the third page, which is where chapter 1 starts. Have tried everything but can't seem to do it — any ideas?

This is a question that could be answered a few different ways. My first (and least preferred) answer is to refer you to my post "Page Headers for New Chapters," which contains tips about suppressing headers on certain pages. (Basically, if you're using Microsoft Word, you set a section break at the end of the table of contents and then create your header on the first page of your first chapter—though there's a bit more to it than that.) This is a fairly complicated option and is only recommended if you're a very determined power-user of Word.

My next (and slightly more preferred) answer is that you simply allow the table of contents to have a header and be numbered as page 1. The title page of your book manuscript is the only page that shouldn't have a header. If you include a table of contents, then it's fine if your first chapter starts on page 2. Page numbering is not done for aesthetic purposes; as I repeat over and over, it's a functional marker that allows a dropped manuscript to be reassembled in the proper order.

But my final (and most insistent) answer is to ask you why you feel you need a table of contents in the first place. Is this a novel or a non-fiction manuscript? Certain types of non-fiction manuscript, particularly those where you need to create a detailed outline as part of your book proposal, may benefit from a table of contents, but for a novel or a memoir there probably isn't much point to including one. I would strongly advise omitting the table of contents altogether.

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FLOG is Hugo- and Nebula-nominated author William Shunn's blog on manuscript formatting and preparation for fiction writers. It features formatting questions from real readers and writers like you. Submit your questions to info at format dot ms. Identitying information will remain private. We regret that we can't always respond individually to submissions, and that we can't answer every question we receive.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 20, 2013 10:51 AM.

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