Short Story Format

Thinking about submitting your short story to an editor or publisher? It’s important to conform to industry standards of formatting. 

Below are industry standards. Be aware that individual editors and publishers may have their own specific formatting requirements. Make sure that you follow them or your submission may be tossed in the trash without any consideration at all.

It’s a harsh reality but there are so many submissions, no one will consider one unless the author took the time to do it right.

Example

Document

  • Everything is in 12 point font
  • FOR PRINTED manuscripts, use Courier or Times New Roman. Courier is prefered because it is monotype, that is, every letter is the same width. This makes calculating print size easier. It also makes it easier for editors to see mistakes.
  • FOR DIGITAL manuscripts, some editors may prefer a font that is easier to read online. Verdana is strongly suggested. Check with your editor or publisher.
  • Double space. This allows editors to make notes in the space between lines, and makes the manuscript easier to read.
  • 2.54 cm (1 inch) margins on all sides
  • Use Automatic black colour. Do not use other colours
  • Print only on white paper
  • Print only on one side of the page

In the Top Left Corner

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone
  • Email

The name and info included here is that of the person submitting the story and who will be receiving payment should the story be picked up. For example, this could be an agent. If the author is submitting on their own behalf, they should use their own info.

In the Top Right Corner

  • Word count (to the nearest 100)

Title

  • Put the title approximately halfway down the page. This gives the editor room to write notes above on the front page. You can use Format Paragraph and under Spacing: Before put 250 pt
  • Does notneed to be in ALL CAPS
  • In the next line, put the name of the person whom the story is attributed to (even if it’s the same as above). This might be the author’s real name, or a pseudonym, or a special format (e.g. K. Stone)
  • Title and author name are centered. Use Format Paragraph
  • Use Return to create two blank lines following the author’s name to separate the title from the story

Story

  • Left justified
  • 1.27 cm (0.5 inch) indentation on every paragraph, including the first. Use Format Paragraph
  • DO NOT format web style, with no indents and spaces between paragraphs. This is not the web
  • SINGLE space after periods. Do not use double spaces

Header

  • No header on the first page
  • Page numbers in the top right corner
  • Right justified, put the author’s last name and one or two key words from the title, separated by a slash ( / )
  • Optional: gray out the header a bit with a slightly lighter tone

(We use the top right corner in case the printed manuscript is stapled or clipped in the top left.)

Italics

  • If using Courier font, underline italics to make them easier to see
  • If using Times New Roman, simply use italics

Em Dashes

  • If using Courier, use 2 hyphens for an em dash (–). You may have to tinker with your word processor’s preferences for this, as many automatically change this into an em dash
  • If using Times New Roman, use the em dash (—)
  • There are NO spaces before or after hyphens, en dashes or em dashes in your writing (no—spaces)

Dialogue

  • Use double quotes
  • New speaker = new paragraph

Scene Breaks

  • Denote scene breaks with a single # mark, centered on a line by itself

End

  • End the manuscript by writing END, centered, on the very last line

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