Standard manuscript format - Short stories

Guidelines for standard manuscript format requested by most publishers for submitted work.

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  1. Komposten
    Most publishers request that submissions follow some kind of guidelines. The "standard manuscript format" is a general set of guidelines that a lot of publishers use (either as-is or modified versions) to make it easier for them to read and take notes. Below is a list of the standard guidelines for short stories.

    Note: While this format is a standard it does not mean that all editors request it. Always check with the editor first to see what format they expect!

    General (for all pages of the manuscript)

    Margins, space and indents:
    • 1-inch margins on all four sides of the document.
    • Align the text to the left side only, the right side should be ragged.
    • All lines should be double spaced.
    • Use single spaces between sentences.
    • Indent new paragraphs and new sections of dialogue with a half-inch indent. Use your word processor's built-in function for this (often called "first-line indent"), rather than spaces or tabs.
    • Use single new-lines for new paragraphs (i.e. no extra lines between two paragraphs).
    • Indicate scene breaks by inserting a blank line with nothing but a centered hash sign (#) on it.
    • At the end of the manuscript, write "The End" or "End" to indicate that it is the final page.
    • All text should be in black on white background.
    • Use either Courier New or Times New Roman.
    • The font size should be 12pt.
    • If you use Courier New, underline all text that should be italicised (this makes it easier to see than using italics).
    • To indicate an em-dash, write two hyphens after each other: "--"
    • Change of speaker should be indicated with a new paragraph.
    • All dialogue should go within quotation marks.

    The first page
    • Place the title of the work halfway down the page, centred horizontally.
    • Your name (or pen name) goes below the title, formatted as "by Your Name".
    • Write the word count (rounded to the nearest hundred) in the upper right corner.
    • Place your contact details, including your real name, in the upper left corner.
    • The story should begin two lines below the byline.

    Subsequent pages
    • Put your surname, the title of the story (or a few keywords from it) and the page number in the upper right corner. Formatted as "Surname/Story title/Page number".

    Submitting on paper
    • Only print on one side of each sheet.
    • Use good quality plain white paper.
    • Don't staple the pages together.

    For more detailed information, as well as formatted examples, follow these links:

    Disclaimer: The guideline list was compiled based on information from the three sites above.
    sleepindawg likes this.

Recent Reviews

  1. MzSnowleopard
    Good information, well worth following to improve your odds of getting a piece read.
  2. A.M.P.
    All the good stuff you'd need to know for a standard formatting. Also, you can download blank pre-formatted documents if you don't know/too lazy to set it up yourself.

    One thing; underlining for italics is no longer considered mandatory by editors at large. Some may still require it but it has fallen out of style. Research it and always check what the publisher asks.
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