Submissions to FtQ and to the workshops I teach bring manuscripts with all kinds of formatting in terms of spacing, fonts, etc. While I’m fine with writers using whatever font and formatting they want for their personal use, writers should also know how to format a manuscript they’re sending to an agent or an editor.
Be smart about it
The format described below is the one that agents and editors will most likely be most comfortable with, so it’s smart to see how your narrative reads on the page when formatted in a standard way. Caveat: if an agent or publisher specifies a format, use that. Here’s a guide on how to format your manuscript:
The Basic Format for a Manuscript
- Paragraph first lines are indented ½”. Don’t use tabs for the paragraph indents, use the formatting features in your word processor to set up automatic paragraph indents. When I design a book, I often have to delete all the tabs in a manuscript.
- No extra space or spacing between paragraphs.
- Margins: 1” on all sides
- Font: a serif font such as Times New Roman.
Recommended font: Times New Roman. It’s the one specified by many publishers and agents, and it has a benefit for writers: the font was designed for the narrow space of newspaper columns, and as a result is a little on the condensed side. This means that a writer gets more words on a page than with many other fonts, a key issue in dealing with hooking a reader with the first page.
How to Set Up Your Format in Word
You should be able to do something similar in other word processors such as Open Office.
Click on the page layout tab in the ribbon. Then click the small arrow in the bottom right corner.
You should get the following dialogue boxes for Page Setup:
- Margins tab: the default settings should be what you need.
- Paper tab: The default is set for the U.S. Under the Paper tab are options such as A4 for European use (Britain, Australia, others).
- Layout tab: leave the default settings as they are.
On the Home tab, click on Paragraph (the little arrow at the bottom right).
In the window that pops up, do these settings (as shown below):
- Alignment: Left
- Outline level: use the default
- Left and Right, 0”
- Special: First line
- By: 0.5”
- Before and after 0 pt
- Line spacing: double
Click Ok and you’re done.
Spacing between Sentences
One more tip: these days the typography standard is one space between sentences. I was trained to type two spaces, but have retrained myself to put only one. You will look a little dated if you submit with two spaces between sentences—I can see the difference immediately. And I do a Replace to replace all two-spaces with one space.
Creating New Pages for Chapters
Don’t hit the enter key over and over to space down to begin a new page. Instead, type Ctrl/Enter. This inserts a page break and you’ll be on a new page.
For what it’s worth.
© 2017 Ray Rhamey
My books. You can read sample chapters and learn more about the books here.
Writing Craft Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling
Fantasy (satire) The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles
Mystery (coming of age) The Summer Boy
Science Fiction Hiding Magic
Science Fiction Gundown Free ebooks.