Formatting Your Manuscript

Day 6:   

Properly formatting your manuscript is essential to a writer’s success. The first rule is always to check the guidelines outlined by the agent or publisher before you submit. Below are basic formatting tips. But, be mindful, the agent or publisher may have different requirements. Adapt per their preferences.

Traditional Print Formatting Tips:

  1. Title Page: Include your name, contact information in the upper left corner. Upper right corner – the estimated word count. Space down to center your title, double space and enter by, double space and add your name. Space three lines and begin your manuscript.
  2. Font: Courier 12 or Courier New 12 – this is the font most often preferred by editors; however, some editors are now accepting newer fonts – Arial or Times New Roman. Check the guidelines.
  3. Spacing: Double-space your manuscript – provides room for the editor to make notes and is easier on the eyes.
  4. Character spacing:  is a single space.
  5. Margins: 1 inch on all sides – allows room for the editor to make notes.
  6. Headers:  Include your name, title of the novel or keyword (all caps) and the page number.
  7. Chapters: Start each chapter on a new page, a third of the way down. Capitalize Chapter number and titles.
  8. Scene Breaks: indicate a break using the # sign in the center of the line.
  9. Word Count: Estimate word count by using 250 X the number of pages.
  10. Justification: Left justify.
  11. End: Designate with the # symbol in the center of the line or write, The End.
  12. Secure: the pages of your manuscript with a clip or rubber band.

No-No’s in Formatting:

  1. Do not use fanciful or colored fonts.
  2. Don’t number the title page. Start with the first page of the story.
  3. Do not place a copyright symbol © on your manuscript; it makes you look like an amateur. If your manuscript is accepted, the publisher will file a copyright in your name.
  4. Do not send a manuscript printed on both sides.
  5. Do not use word processors to determine word count; they’re not always accurate.
  6. Do not bind or staple your manuscript.

For more resources of formatting check out these links:

I’d love to hear your comments. Talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilagood, and Contently.

30 thoughts on “Formatting Your Manuscript

  1. Thanks for this fantastic, straight-forward advice. I’m bookmarking this! And I love Courier font. It’s what we use in screenwriting too. Though checking submission guidelines is crucial. I was applying for a grant a couple months ago, and it requested 40 manuscript pages. As I was getting it together, I noticed that the grant people wanted the manuscript to be in a sans serif font, like Arial, not a serif font, like Courier (which is what I used). And when I changed it to Arial… I lost seven pages! Yikes! I had a few extra pages written and I got it back up to 40, but still, it was a nerve-wracking experience. From now on, I’ll definitely check picky guideline requirements well before the due date. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, I found your blog today… not that you were lost or anything you understand, but I am pleased to be here.
    There appears to be an abundance of good advice and I will be following closely from now on. Thank you for sharing and pleased to virtually meet you *waves* 😇

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This has turned out to be the most helpful and informative blog I’ve read during the challenge. I have to agree with everyone else, you have a knack for posting topics exactly when needed. I truly hope you parlay all of these elucidate articles into one e-book at the end of the challenge and offer it for sale at Amazon. You really should consider it. They are organized, concise, and helpful. You break each topic down to the essentials and give examples. I like that you also site other references.

    Manuscript formatting has always been a touchy subject because I hear so many different answers to my questions, but you’re absolutely right, first and foremost go with what the agent or publisher requests. The scene break is the question where I find the most ambiguity. I can’t seem to find a universal answer. In the past it seems that it was customary to separate scenes with the # symbol or three *, but I’ve read more and more articles that say agents and publishers don’t require or don’t care for anything except an extra space to denote a scene. Is this true?

    Thanks again for another enlightening post.

    Melissa Sugar

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Melissa for your kind comments and suggestions. Like everything else, preferences change. It wasn’t too long ago, everyone wanted two character spaces at the end of a sentence. In my research I found that either is usually acceptable. But, if the publisher or agent prefers the space over symbols it is usually spelled out in their guidelines and that is where we should all look first and adapt per their preferences. If they don’t specify, I would choose the one I’m most comfortable with and be consistent. Thanks so much for joining the conversation. You are the second person to suggest I put all this into a book. I’ll think about it. Thanks.


  4. Your posts always hit me at the right time. Right now, I am preparing a short story to send out by Friday. It’s for a writing contest and requirements say to be sure our names are not anywhere on the story except for the title page that we should send in separately. But I have a quick question. I’ve heard that you shouldn’t use the # sign to separate scenes instead, you should triple space. Which is correct or are both methods corrects. Also, my manuscript is going down to the Deep South. Do they have a preference for a certain font? I was told that Times New Roman is preferable, but you are saying Courier. So what do you think? Sending it to the a contest in the Deep South, I want the formatting to be as correct as possible.
    Thank you in advance for answering.

    Visiting from the A to Z Blog Challenge.

    Patricia @ EverythingMustChange

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia,thanks for the kind comments. From my research, the # symbol and the three * are the most often recommended ways to denote a scene, but an extra space is also acceptable (not three spaceS because you’re already double spacing). As far as font, this should be specified in the magazines/contest outline. The ones I’ve seen most preferred is Courier, Courier New, and Times New Roman. check the guidelines and you should be good.Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

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