Manuscript Format

There are lots of good sites and blog posts to tell you about proper manuscript format. This post isn’t meant to be a comprehensive guide, but to offer some useful templates for getting started on a new project.

Now, if you’ve been reading the blog you might be thinking: hey, don’t you use Scrivener? While, Scrivener will output manuscript format doc files, I’m not a fan of the way it outputs so I’ll roll my manuscript into Word once I’ve gotten a couple of revisions done. I like Scrivener for getting those early drafts done, but I prefer Word for polishing things up.

Okay, so back to manuscript format. Odds are you know the basics, one inch margins all around. The font should be Courier or Times Roman set to 12 points. The first line of every paragraph should be indented. There should be no extra space between paragraphs. And the whole thing should be double spaced. Italic text used to be underlined rather than italic, but these days you can just keep it italic. Sections should be separated by a single, centered hash ( # ).

Chapter headings should be the same font as the rest of the document and centered with four or five blank lines following before the chapter text. If there is a chapter title it should come right after the chapter heading and before the blank lines. And finally the page number should be in the upper right header in the format “TITLE / AUTHOR / (Page Number)”

Normal manuscript page.
Normal manuscript page.

Opinions on the cover page vary, but something like the following should work just fine.

Manuscript Cover Page

If you have an agent then it will be different. Talk with your agent about how to format in that case.

To do all this formatting I like to use styles. I modify the “Normal” style to indent the first line of paragraphs, set the font to the Times New Roman 12 point, set left justified, and set to double spacing. The existing “Emphasis” style already is set to italics, so I use that instead of the italics button. For chapter headings, I modify “Header 2” to the correct formatting and use it. By using a header for the chapter headings, the document map will show me where all the chapters start :).

For the cover page, I abandon styles and simply format it directly.

I’ve already configured the styles in the templates I’ve provided. In Libreoffice/Openoffice, the “Normal” style is called the “Default Style”, but the principal is the same. Using the “Emphasis” style is a bit of a pain with Libreoffice/OpenOffice so perhaps it’s better to just directly format.

With the Word documents, I’ve also modified the Style UI so that only the needed styles show up and have more intuitive names. “Chapter” should be used for chapter headings while “Title Chapter” should be used for chapter titles.

Spiffy customized styles UI

Here are the links for my templates:

Documents are regular files which can be opened and modified like any word processor document. Templates are special documents that create a new document when opened with the contents of the template. Template files are useful because they make it harder to accidentally overwrite your manuscript template.

Right click on the links below and select “Save Link As…” to download the files. In some browsers just clicking on them will download, but some might try to open the files instead.

Manuscript Document in docx format for Word 2007+.

Manuscript Document in doc format for older versions of Word.

Manuscript Template in dotx format for Word 2007+.

Manuscript Template in dot format for older versions of Word.

Manuscript Document in odt format for Libreoffice and Openoffice.

Manuscript Template in ott format for Libreoffice and Openoffice.

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3 Responses to Manuscript Format

  1. Mirka Breen says:

    Just thought I’d mention that while Currier was once a favorite, and later- on par with Times (New) Roman, it’s a bit out of fashion now as the need to emulate the old typewriters has disappeared along with the two-spaces between sentences… Currier takes a lot more space and while it’s still acceptable, it is a mark of an older writer, I’ve heard from those in the know.

  2. Erica says:

    Glad to hear that courier is no longer favored, as I find it ugly, and it does indeed take up more space (which is a pain if anyone still wants a paper printout). I’m an “older writer” (just turned 50, though I don’t *feel* old), though. Is this a bad thing?

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