Mechanics of Writing

» Formatting Manuscripts

Formatting Manuscripts - General Information

Most editors or publishers want a manuscript, whether long fiction, short fiction, or articles, to conform to the following basic acceptable requirements. (NB: There might be slight variations on minor points, according to a specific publication styles.) However, long manuscripts and short manuscripts do use different cover page methods, which can be found below. In general the following guidelines are often used:

  • Margins: 1 inch margins all the way around. (Some publishers prefer 1.5 inches on the sides, so check each publisher’s submission guidelines)
  • Line spacing: Double spaced text
  • Alignment: Left alignment, ragged right side
  • Font: Times New Roman or Arial, 12 point  font (The only exception is for writing screenplays/stage plays where Courier 12 point font  is used to conform to one page equalling one minute of film/performance)
  • Paragraphs Indent: indicated by indents (tabs)- 5 points (.3”, not the normal tab setting) and, not by an extra line space
  • Paragraph Spacing – no spaces between paragraphs (except if switching scenes or a section break, then drop down 2 double spaces)
  • Punctuation:
    • one space after end of sentence punctuation
    • end of sentence punctuation goes within quote marks.”
  • Page Numbers - The page number goes on the upper right hand side. For a short story, the first labelled page number should be 2, and start with page 1 for a long manuscript.
  • Running Header: left aligned, contains the author’s last name, a slash (/) and then the title of the piece or if it’s long, a keyword from the title, as well as the page number. NB: Running Headers are expected on articles, short stories, novels and nonfiction book and should appear at the top of every page (except the first.)
  • Printing - Paper: Good quality white paper (20-lb. minimum)
  • Text Placement: Single-sided

Long Manuscript Cover and Chapter Pages  (Novels & Non-Fiction Books)

Long Manuscripts differ from short story or article manuscripts in that they have a separate cover page and chapter pages starting lower on the page. Subsequent pages follow a standard format throughout.

Cover Page For Long Fiction:
The first page of long fiction is the Cover Page. There are several formats, but the simplest is to follow one of two major acceptable methods. One, where everything is centred on the page and the other, where the contact information is separate on the top left hand side of the page and the title in the middle. The more prominently used one with the contact information on the top left-hand side follows:

  • Contact Information: On the bottom left hand side of the page in a single-spaced, left-aligned block place your contact information: Name and address, phone number and e-mail address, etc.
  • Title: centered, just above the middle of the page, in a larger font than the text (boldfacing is fine)
  • Name or pen name: Skip one double-spaced line and center your name or byline, slightly smaller than the title
  • Word count Skip another double-spaced line and include the total word count of the manuscript rounded to the nearest thousand (An option is to put the word count below your contact information at the top of the left hand side.)
  • Copyright symbol and year:  Optional – this can go on the same line just before the author's name below the title

Chapter Page Set-up

  • Spacing Chapter Headings: Each separate chapter of the long manuscript starts on its own page, beginning one third to halfway down the page with the title of the chapter (or number, if the chapter has no title). The byline and contact information are not included one each page, but do include the running header.
  • Running Header: left aligned, contains the author’s last name, a slash (/) and then the title of the piece or if it’s long, a keyword from the title, as well as the page number. (Is not included on the title or cover page)
  • Page Numbers:  sequential from the first page of the book to the last, except on the title. (Do not number each chapter separately).

Sample Long Manuscript


Short Manuscript Cover Page (Short Stories)

Short Manuscripts do not have a seperate cover page, but instead include all of the necessary information at the top of the first page of the story.

  • Contact Information: On the top left hand side of the page in a single-spaced, left-aligned block place your contact information: Name and address, phone number and e-mail address, etc.
  • Title: centered, two lines below the contact information, in a bolded text
  • Genre: Include the genre in the top right hand side of the page
  • Word count: Include an approximate word count below the genre

For the rest of the pages include a running header that is left aligned, containing the author's last name, a slash (/) and then the titel of the piece, or a keyword from the title, as well as the page number. This running header is not included on the first page.

Sample Short Manuscript

Basic Submission Methods

Hard Copy/Mailed Submissions:

Manuscript pages may be paper clipped or held with an elastic, but it is best to leave them loose in a 9” x 12” envelope. Do NOT staple, bind or otherwise confine pages to folders or manufactured covers. Very large manuscripts may be placed in larger envelopes or boxes.

Electronic Submissions:

  • Attach the manuscript Word document in the email to the publisher
  • Attach each photograph/visual separately in the email

Publishing insights, including detailed information on submitting your manuscript for publication can be found in the next section of our website.

This website design and development made possible by Saskatchewan Lotteries and SaskCulture