Proper Manuscript Formatting
Properly formatting your manuscript is important. A manuscript that isn’t properly formatted tells agents and editors you haven’t done your basic homework, you’re not providing your work in the format the industry requires, and makes you look unprofessional.
It’s much easier to set up the formatting before you begin writing so that you don’t have to go back and fix it later, but if you’ve already written much, or even all, of your manuscript, it’s not that hard to go through and change the formatting if you use Microsoft Word or most other word processing software programs.
First, you’ll set up a title page. The formatting for the title page is different than from the rest of the manuscript, the inside story pages.
On the title page, you’ll have three basic items: Contact information, title, author’s credit line.
Margins: 1” all around
Top of the page, flush right, Times New Roman font, 10 pt. type size, type:
Your first and last name
Your mailing street address
Your city, state and zip code
Your phone number(s)
Your email address
In the middle of the page, center the title of your book on one line, Times New Roman, 16-20 pt. type size (depending on length of the title), bold.
If your manuscript has a sub-title, center that directly below the title in the same font. You can go a couple point sizes smaller if you need in order to fit the sub-title on a single line.
Skip down to the last line of the page, and type “A Novel By Your Name,” (or A Memoir By, or whatever). Center this line, Times New Roman, 12 pt. bold.
First, create a header. Set font for Times New Roman, 11 pt., italics, flush right.
In the header, on the first line, type your last name.
On the second line, type the title of your book (don’t include sub-title) in ALL CAPS.
On the third line, insert automatic page numbering. Begin with page number 1 on the first page of your story, not including the title page.
This header information will automatically repeat itself on every page of your manuscript, including running page numbers consecutively.
Next, set the margins: 1.5” top margin and 1” side and bottom margins. Some people prefer 1” margins all around, including on top, but I find that squeezes the top line of text too closely against the header information.
Paragraph and line spacing:
In the ‘Paragraph’ settings in MS Word, set text for double spaced with 0 pt. before and after.
Still in ‘Paragraph’ settings, set the indentation for 0 left and right, and under ‘Special,’ select ‘First line’ for 0.5”.
Set the font for Times New Roman, 12 pt. regular.
From the top of your first page, hit the enter key seven (7) times to create seven double-spaced blank lines. This will start your chapter about one-third of the way down on the first page.
Center CHAPTER 1 (or PROLOGUE) in ALL CAPS. Do not put extra space before or after lines of text. If you have a chapter title, center it below the chapter number. Yes, you can choose to spell out the chapter number if you prefer (ONE, TWO), but whichever way you choose to do it, be consistent throughout the entire manuscript.
Skip one more double-spaced blank line after the chapter title before beginning the first line of the story’s text.
Be sure the first line of text is indented by half-inch.
Do not put an extra double-spaced line between paragraphs.
When you reach the end of a chapter, hit the CTRL+ENTER keys to create a page break. This will automatically start your next chapter on a new page.
Just as you did with the first page, hit the enter key seven times to create seven blank double-spaced lines, then type CHAPTER 2 and center it on the page. This will start the new chapter about one-third of the way down the page.
Follow the same format as above for the rest of your manuscript.
When you reach the end of your manuscript, hit the enter key to create one extra double-spaced blank line after the final line of story text, then center the word END.
Then congratulate yourself for writing a novel all the way to the end. Having it already properly formatted will save you time later.
If you decide to hire me as your editor, I will format your manuscript for you. But if you’ve already done it, that will save me time (and you money) so we can get right to work polishing your prose and improving your story.
See attached examples of properly formatted manuscript pages for more details and to see what your manuscript should look like before you send it out to agents, editors or publishers.