Formatting Manuscripts

When submitting a manuscript to an editor, it really helps if the manuscript has already been formatted. Too many writers submit their manuscript in odd fonts, colours, margins and more. That means the editor has to change these even before beginning the editing process. That’s needless extra work we’re burdening the editor with and – it costs writers money because we’re paying for them to fix that.

Worse, unformatted manuscripts can be rejected out of hand by editors, agents and publishers who can see that you’re not taking the submission process seriously.

Want to save money and prevent rejection?

Do the following:

  • 3cm margin on all sides.
  • Align to the LEFT side (the right side remains uneven).
  • Double spaced. (Because we need space to write comments.)
  • Use Format Paragraph to indent paragraphs the default 1.27cm. (DO NOT use TAB or spaces to indent)
  • Title page with manuscript title and author name.
  • Paginate from the first page of text, not the title page.
  • New chapters on new pages, using PAGE BREAK. Center the chapter title, even if it’s only Chapter One (or Chapter 1), about one-third of the way down the page.
  • First paragraph of a chapter is not indented.
  • Only 2 lines between chapter heading and first paragraph.
  • 12 point font; Times New Roman or Arial; black (automatic).
  • Microsoft Word for digital submissions. (Because everyone has it and so we can use Track Changes and Insert Comment.)
  • All chapters and other material in a single document
  • Put title and author name in the Header or Footer (dimmed gray). (eg. W.E. Smith – The FIrst Adventure)
  • Single space after periods.
  • Indicate scene breaks with a blank line and a hashtag (#) centered in the middle.

DO NOT:

  • Use carriage return (SHIFT + RETURN) after a paragraph, only RETURN.
  • Leave a blank line between paragraphs.
  • Use Format Paragraph to put space before or after paragraph.
  • Use underline.

TItle Page should include:

  • The name of the work.
  • Your approximate word count, to the nearest hundred.
  • Your contact details formatted in the same font and size as the manuscript font.
  • Copyright details.
  • Your agent’s details, if you have an agent.

Remember: Always check with the editor/agent/publisher beforehand. They may have their own specific guidelines. (And some are very picky.)

An Example of a Formatted Manuscript

Formatting Tricks with Microsoft Word

Change Double Spaces after sentences to Single Spaces

  • Use FIND AND REPLACE
  • In the FIND field, type 2 spaces with the space bar (these will then become highlighted in the document)
  • Leave the replace field blank
  • Click REPLACE ALL

Remove TABs

  • Use FIND AND REPLACE
  • In the FIND field, use the drop down menu to select TABs (these will then become highlighted in the document)
  • Leave the replace field blank
  • Click REPLACE ALL

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