Set Up a Manuscript Template

Most agents, editors, and publishers want to receive a manuscript formatted in “standard manuscript format.” This is a universally-accepted format that allows room to make notes and edits, keep things uniform, and is easier to read. There are several rules to follow.

See if you know the answers to what’s required for “Standard Manuscript Format.”

What is “standard manuscript format?”

1. Should manuscripts be single-spaced or double-spaced?

2. How large should margins be?

3. Should the title be capped, larger font, or bolded?

4. Does your pen name go underneath the title?

5. Nice colored stationery will impress the editor. (True or false)?

6. Is Courier the best font to use?

7. Should you add word count?

8. Should lines be justified?

9. Should your social security number be included in the header?

GET THE ANSWERS HERE – “Standard Manuscript Format tips compared to Online Manuscript Submission”

One editor recalled how a submitted story appeared on his desk. At first look, it was on colored paper with a fancy font. He threw it in the wastebasket without even reading it.

In some ways, this is the first test as a writer. Don’t fail it before you even get through the door.

Many manuscripts are rejected simply because the first rule was not followed: “submit your work in standard manuscript format.” You may have a wonderful story. Don’t encourage rejection simply because you didn’t follow the writer’s guidelines.

This sample shows the “standard manuscript format.” Using plain text is best as it eliminates computer commands. Use a web-ready serif font such as Times New Roman. Set your margins at one inch all around.

For mailed copies, double space lines. Check with writer’s guidelines for electronic submissions. No extra lines between paragraphs, and only one space after punctuation. No hyphenation and no tabs.


*(These three are usually the default in MS Word)

Page Size: 8 ½ inches by 11 inches

Margins:  1-inch all around for margins for notes

Justification: Left, ragged. Do not justify

Instructions given are for Microsoft Word (all versions).

If you want instructions for MAC Pages, click here. Google docs, click here. Apache Open Office, click here.

Go to the Page Layout tab on the menu ribbon. In the Page Setup group, click Margins

Font:  Times New Roman (preferred). Courier, Georgia, or Garamond are acceptable. It should be a serif font (‘letters with legs’).

Font Size: 12 pt

To set the font style and size, click on the Home tab. Click the down arrow beside the font name and select font. Times New Roman is the preferred font for Standard Manuscript Format. Courier or Courier New is still acceptable.

Line Spacing: Double Spacing with Left Alignment

Line spacing and indents must be set in the Paragraph grouping so that it sets it for the whole document. Setting it up in the document only works for the paragraph that you are working in. Professional editors and agents like to see manuscripts that are easy to read and easy to mark up. That is why they insist on double spacing so they can write between the lines.

Indentation should be set up in the Paragraph settings. Do not use “Tab” to indent.

Click on the down arrow in the corner of the Paragraph group to enter this dialog box.

Paragraph Indents: 0.5 inches (This means that the beginning of each paragraph should be set to 0.5 inches. That’s usually the size of a default tab.


Indents are easier to set up because they are automatic when set to “first line” and 0.5 inches.


Leave the spacing before and after at 0 pt. Leaving it at “AUTO,” can get glitchy.

If you “Set as Default,” these settings will become permanent for future documents.

Front Page: Legal name, address, phone number, email address go in the top left-hand corner. This is the only information that should be single-spaced. Never include your social security number. On the upper right-hand corner, put the approximate word count (round up). This is for the editor to judge how much space is needed.

Title: One-third of the way down the paper, type the title without specialty fonts, bold, underline, or enlarged letters. The author’s name is double spaced underneath (however you want it to appear in print whether legal name or pseudonym).

Beginning paragraph: This varies. Pay close attention to the guidelines. Some ask to begin a third of the way down the page. Others might not mention it at all. Simply hit enter until you reach the desired start place as described in the agent’s or publisher’s guidelines.

Header for more than one page: Author’s last name, title, and the page number. This is usually required for more than one page if you’re submitting a physical copy. For more on headers, please read the Headers & Footers section below.

Other Tips:

Scene Breaks

Use the pound sign # to indicate a scene break. An additional line could be seen as a mistake.

Page Breaks Between Chapters

When you come to the end of your chapter, do you continue to hit “enter” until you have a new page? Stop! Now! This puts in a lot of extra commands. The best way is to put in a NEW PAGE COMMAND at the end of your chapter.

Press down the “Ctrl” key, then press the “Enter” key. This will add a “page break” and put you at the top of the next page.

Headers & Footers

The Standard Manuscript format requires a header at the top of the page to identify your document along with a page number. These headers should appear on page two and each subsequent page (not the front page). This solves the problem in the unforeseen event that pages get mixed up.

Select “header” from the Insert tab on the menu ribbon in MS Word.

Page Numbering

Put the page number in first. This will automatically number each page without having to type it in manually.

Choose Plain Number 3 which right-aligns the page number.

In the header, click in front of the number. Add your last name and title of the story

To exit a header or footer, place your mouse arrow anywhere in the body of the document (somewhere in the middle) and double-click your mouse. (Shortcut- the opposite is true to get into the header or footer).

More Tips!

  • Don’t hit enter twice after each paragraph – Double spacing is enough.
  • Specialty fonts, special characters, pictures or graphics are definite no-no’s.
  • Proofread. There’s nothing quite like finding spelling errors in the first paragraph. It’s a one-way ticket to the slush pile. Most times it’s reason enough for a rejection letter. Why? If you didn’t care enough to make sure it was your best work, a publisher or agent isn’t going to care enough to read it.
  • Spell-check, and spell-check again. Even the spellchecker on Word can miss words that are ‘real’ words, but used wrong.
  •  A good method to edit is to use Word’s Editor, or install a third-party editor such as This will help with punctuation, grammar, spelling, and even word choice.


Your template is ready! Save it to your writing folder with the name “standard manuscript template.” When you use it, save it with the name of your story so that the template stays intact to use another time!

Now, go write something!

Too much? Do you want a template all ready to go? DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE TEMPLATE HERE!

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