Formatting is very important when you submit a manuscript. By properly formatting your manuscript, you are presenting yourself and your work in a professional manner. What follows is an example and some summary points about how to format your anuscript.

     CAVEAT : I only have experience submitting to speculative fiction markets, so this information may not apply to other genres or mainstream fiction.



Lisa Silverthorne                                                    Word Count
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                           Story Title


     Indent the first line of every paragraph about 5 spaces. 

Always use Courier 12-point. Why? Courier is a non-proportional font, so word

counts are easier to calculate (for you and for the publisher).  12-point,

non-proportional type is easy to read. You want to make your manuscript as easy

to read as possible. An editor who has to strain to read your manuscript won't

read very far. You want your formatting to be transparent so your story will

shine through the manuscript.  Don't use fancy fonts or Sans Serif fonts because

they are harder to read.

     Include your real name, address, phone number and e-mail address in the

upper left-hand corner.  Include an accurate word count in the upper right hand

corner.  If you are a member of SFWA, HWA, RWA, or any other professional

writer's organization, include this information under your word count or under

your name. If you write with a pseudonym, include your real name in the upper

left-hand corner.  Place your pseudonym as your byline.  Start the first line of

your manuscript about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way down the page.

     Always use 1" margins and print on only one side of the page. Always

doublespace your manuscript. Use underlining to denote italics instead of

italics. Use Scene Breaks.  I use a # sign to denote a scene break. I use

#  # # to indicate the end of my manuscript.  Some people use The End or -30- or

some other symbol. This lets the editor know that she/he has all the pages of

your manuscript.

                                                     Silverthorne/Story Title/2

     Always number the succeeding pages. Place your last name, one or two words

from the story title, and the page number in the upper right-hand corner of your

manuscript. This is called a slug line.  The reason you want to place your slug

line in the right-hand corner is because it is easy to see as the editor flips

through the pages.

     Use 20 lb. white paper and a VERY dark printer ribbon or toner. If you use a

9-pin dot-matrix printer, make a photocopy of your manuscript to send out. A

photocopy darkens the letters (which makes those dots disappear) which makes the

manuscript easier to read.

     Run spell check and read your story very carefully after you've printed it

out. Check for mistakes and misspellings. Be ruthless to your first page! If

you find a couple of mistakes, NEATLY make a pen correction to the manuscript.

One or two pen corrections, if clean and readable, are perfectly acceptable.

     If you are unsure about your format, request guidelines from the magazine(s)

you want to submit to and see what sort of formatting that they request.

     One of the most important thing you can do for yourself as a writer is to

properly format your manuscript. This gives your work a professional appearance. 

It also presents you as a professional.  Finally, it shows that you know how to

follow the rules.


                                       # # #

The Crib Notes:

  • Use only white, 20 lb. paper
  • Print only on one side of the paper with a DARK printer ribbon
  • Doublespace your manuscript
  • Use Courier 12-point or other non-proportional font, 12-point
  • Use underlining instead of italics
  • Use 1" margins throughout your manuscript
  • Include your real name, address, phone number, e-mail address in the upper left-hand corner of your manuscript's first page
  • Include word count and any professional writing organizational affiliations (e.g. SFWA) in the upper right-hand corner of your manuscript's first page
  • Center your story's title 1/3 to 1/2 way down the page
  • Center your byline or pseudonym underneath the title
  • Leave one blank line between your byline and the first line of your story
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph five spaces
  • Use a slug line in the upper right-hand corner of the rest of the manuscript (it's not necessary to use a slug line on page
    1). An example is: Silverthorne/Playthings/2 or Silverthorne/Playthings/2 of 14
  • Use scene breaks whenever you change scenes (e.g. a centered # symbol)
  • Always mark the end of your manuscript with # # #, The End, or -30- so that the editor      knows she/he has all the pages of your manuscript. (Most of the time, it is obvious from the context of the story that it has ended, but just in case, put an ending mark on the manuscript)
  • Carefully proofread your manuscript. Check grammar, spelling and punctuation.
  • Pay careful attention to your first page. This is the editor's first impression of the story, so this      page better be clean, clean, clean! If you must make a hand correction or two to your manuscript, do so neatly
  • Look at the story one last time before you put it in an envelope
  • NEVER send an original manuscript to a publisher!! Sometimes, accidents happen and things get lost
  • And please don't forget the Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope when mailing out your story!