Monday, April 18, 2011

Manuscript Submissions Formatting

The following manuscript submission formatting guidelines have been excerpted from this article by William Shunn.

  • Black type on white paper
  • One-inch margins all around
  • Left margin should be justified, except where there are paragraph indentations. The right margin should be jagged, not justified
  • First page should have your real name (if different from the name you're writing as), address, phone, and email in the upper left hand corner; your word count in the upper right hand corner; and the title and below it your name in the center of the page
  • Second page onwards, header should have last name / title / page number in the upper right corner. Shorten long titles to one keyword. No header on the first page
  • When starting a new chapter, write "CHAPTER ONE" in the center of the page. Leave two blank lines before the manuscript text
  • Courier New or Times New Roman font (Courier, my preference)
  • Double-space between lines
  • Single-space after a terminal punctuation
  • Use left indentation of half an inch to denote the start of a new paragraph instead of a blank line
  • If using Courier font, underline all italicized words
  • Use straight quotes instead of smart quotes
  • Use two hyphens to indicate an em-dash. Do not replace with an actual em-dash symbol
  • Indicate a paragraph/scene/point-of-view break with a "#" character centered on a line by itself instead of a blank line

    [Copyright © 1993, 2001, 2003, 2010 by William Shunn. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons License (see licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/). You are free to copy, distribute, and display the work for non-commercial purposes only, so long as you credit the original author and do not alter, transform, or build upon the content and its formatting in any way. All other rights reserved. The definitive version of this article is found at Direct all inquiries to]


    Diane Gaston said...

    Keira, when I started writing, the proper format for a manuscript was almost impossible to find. Now you can just google it and find blogs like Shunn's and yours.

    I do think his "rules" are a little extreme and predate automatic formatting in word processing. For example, I think the em dash is okay. Harlequin Historical (maybe the whole UK office) requires us to use parentheses instead of underlining. But then, the UK office doesn't deal in paper. We do everything electronically.

    Some people say to start chapters 1/3 down the page, not 1/2.

    The title page, too, can vary.

    The important thing is that the manuscript be readable and lend itself to easy editing.

    But I'm sure some new writers out there are sighing in relief to find some guidelines to follow here!

    Keira Soleore said...

    Diane, thank you for tips from the world of romance publishing. I'll be sure to remember the "chapter beginning 1/3rd way down". I'm sure the title page varies, but this was the only comprehensive one I've found so far. I should also remember that the "em dash is OK" rule. One reason, I believe, Shunn suggested that we should use two dashes, is that with Courier font, the em-dash is too short. Perhaps overall, Shunn's rules are more for typewriters or beginning word processors.