Formatting a Manuscript
Courier? But it is so plain!
Agents, publishers, and those who matter most want to receive completed works in specific formats. Ignoring these formats can be disastrous — a great manuscript might be ignored.
While not visually appealing, prepare manuscripts according to established standards. These standards have developed over many years for valid reasons. The basic rules are:
- Use a 12-point “Courier” font.
- Begin with a 1-inch margin around the page.
- Use 20-pound, medium to bright white paper.
The “Courier” typeface and other monospaced fonts are easy to read and edit, especially at the 12-point size. Standard fonts make it possible to estimate a manuscript’s published length. For stage plays and screenplays, the formats used help estimate the length of a work, as performed or filmed.
Fiction manuscripts tend to be double-spaced. A 12-point Courier text manuscript page averages 200 to 225 words. Non-fiction varies by publisher, especially among academic journals. Some accept single-spaced manuscripts, meaning 350 to 450 words per page.
When margins are equal on left and right, the page is described as having “perfect” margins.
While most manuscript formats require 1-inch margins, some manuscripts use “binding” margins. A common binding margin is 1.25-inches, but 1.5-inches is required in some cases. The wider left hand margin offers the illusion of equal margins after the manuscript is bound.
Book Manuscript Formats
Articles and Short Works
- Professional Journals
- Short Fiction
- Academic Papers
- Theses and Dissertations
- APA Publication Manual
- MLA Handbook
- Chicago Manual of Style
The Printed Page
Most word processors include templates for writers. There are also specialized applications for formatting manuscripts. While you could use a typewriter, why would you? Computers have made life much easier for writers.
Our Word Templates
These are Word for Windows/Mac templates. We have used these for several years, updating them with suggestions from our clients. They are not perfect, nor are they fully automated. They have macros and short-cut keys for the styles. We will improve these templates over time, hopefully automating them more.
- Screenplay: Simple screenplay format. Download screenplay.dotm for current versions of Word; screenplay.dot for older Word versions. Yes, these need to be updated, but they work as a starting point.
- Stage Script (Production Format): Stage play format, based on several sources. You can download script-prod.dotx for current versions of Word. Older versions require script-prod.dot, while script-prod.doc works with any program that can import Word files.
- Book: Tech Format, Tameri Template (not for submissions to publishers)
- Book: Novel Format, Tameri Template (not for submissions to publishers)
Citing This Web Site
Any citation referring to the Tameri website must name both editors.
- Schnelbach, S. and Wyatt, C. ( 1 January, 2014 ). Tameri Guide for Writers. [Online]. Available WWW: http://www.tameri.com
- Schnelbach, S. and Wyatt, C. “Tameri Guide for Writers.” 1 January, 2014 . Online. Internet. [Date Printed]. Available WWW: http://www.tameri.com
Belorussian translation provided by Amanda L.