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From the Appendix to DON'T SABOTAGE YOUR SUBMISSION: SAVE YOUR MANUSCRIPT FROM TURNING UP D.O.A. (but with a few updates after the book was published).

Most publishing professionals consider the following information standard manuscript format. (When submitting your work to another editor, check that editor's prefered typeface and font.)

Times or Courierthat is the question setting off some of the longest-running discussions among writers. Here’s the most important guideline you need to know for deciding which typeface to use:

Always follow the submission preferences stated by individual recipients. With today's word processors, it is simple to change typeface, point size, line spacing, and so on according to what each recipient prefers. If no specifications are stated, use the following industry standards, which have long been preferred by the majority of working editors.

Typeface: Unless Times is specified, when submitting work to an editor for actual hands-on line editing or copy editing, use a monospaced type such as Courier.

• This is Courier (it’s monospaced; all letters and punctuation marks have the identical width)
.

• This is Times New Roman (it’s proportionally spaced; everything fits closely). 

Times is preferred by agents and editors who want a quick read to get a hasty impression of your writing. Courier is preferred by hands-on manuscript editors who need the actual text clearly defined.

Note: To mimic the appearance of typesetting is to look like an amateur. So do variations from standard manuscript format that attempt to be "attention-getting." (The only attention-getting factor that matters to a professional is the quality of the writing.)

Typewriter users
(yes, a few are still living and writing): “pitch” refers to characters per inch: elite = 12 pitch or 10 points; pica = 10 pitch or 12 points.

Title page, headings: Use the same size and typeface as the text. All caps for the title is optional. Put your name, address, phone, and edress in the upper left corner of the first page, and put the approximate word count, rounded, in the upper right corner. Space halfway down on the page and center the full title of the work, your byline, and the start of your text.

For every subsequent page, type—one time only—the following into the automatic "header" feature of your word processor: your last name, a slash, and one identifying word from your title. Then hit the page number option, which can appear after a second slash that follows the abbreviated title, or tab so the page number appears alone at the far right of the first line. Do not actually type a page number; inserting such numbers is automated. If you use the footer feature for the page number, you diminish the number of words that can appear on a manuscript page (which could appear as "padding' the length of a manuscript). Here's an example of an ideal header:

Salinger / Catcher / 3

Typeface: Courier and Times are serif typefaces; they have little “feet” that make them easier to read than sans serif typefaces. For manuscripts, never use a sans serif typeface (such as Geneva, Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, or Gill Sans). Go easy on the italics and avoid ALL CAPS and all decorative
and display type.

 

Double-spaced typed text: This does NOT mean one-and-a-half lines of space. It means that for 12-point type, line spacing or leading should be a full 24 points. Also use 12-point double-spaced type for quotations, extracts, endnotes, and footnotes.

Margins: Minimum 1" top and bottom, 1.25" sides. Large margins make it easier for an editor to write notes and for the author to read them.

Alignment: Flush left, also known as ragged right. Never justify the lines of a manuscript.

Paragraphs: Don’t skip lines between. To separate scenes within a chapter, hit “return” once and type # # # or * * * (with spaces) in the center of that line. To separate chapters from each other begin each on a new page. (Although THIS editor doesn't need you using extra paper to do what agents and publishers require; simply run subsequent chapters directly after a couple of skipped lines at the end of chapters.)

Paragraph indents: One tab or 5 spaces. (Publishers sometimes specify which they require.)

Tabs: Use only for indents that you have set in your word document's "ruler." Never attempt to simulate columns, tables, or centering by using tabs. Instead, use the word processor’s features meant for those functions.

Italics and underscoring: Underscoring has always told copyeditors and traditional typesetters to set words in italics, which at one time required writers to avoid the keyboard shortcut and use a special italics font, which few writers knew about. Today, however, with improvements to software applications, publishers prefer writers to use keyboard italicizing instead of underlining. Note that italics have always been required for most foreign words and for the titles of books, plays, movies, TV series newspapers, magazines, and other publication. Use quotation marks to refer to the titles of articles in those publications, for essays, chapters in books, acts and scenes in a script, poems, short stories, and TV episodes in a series. A standalone TV documentary, like a movie, is italicized. To de-italicize words that are printed in italics, use a pencil to underscore the word and in the margin write rom (for roman, which is the reverse of italics) and underline that abbreviation.

Bold face: May be used for chapter headings in fiction and for headings and subheadings in nonfiction. Never use in text. Also, never use all caps within text. If emphasis is desired, italicize. But don't overdo. Often, restructuring a sentence creates its own emphasis, something that's preferred anyway because restructuring usually demonstrates a more sophisticated technique.

Dash: To be safe, type as a double hyphen--without spaces--so its length is unmistakable. Some word-processing programs automatically substitute a 1-em dash for double hyphens, but the length of a dash can change when your text is converted to a different typeface. You can change your program's preferences and eliminate the number of its defaults to gain greater control over such details as dashes and ellipses.

Ellipsis: Show the trailing off of a speaer's dialogue by using 3 spaced dots (periods). Use 4 spaced dots—with the first one as the normal period—when the trailed off sentence is grammatically complete or falls at the end of a line of dialogue. (Please see the TIP on page 193 of Don't Sabotage Your Submission or on page 177 of Don't Murder Your Mystery.) Turn off your software's automated keystroke feature that creates 3 condensed dots. Tip: To keep an ellipsis from breaking in the middle at the end of a line, skip 1 space before the first dot, use a nonbreaking space after both the 1st and 2nd dots, and a normal space after the 3rd dot. For an ellipsis that follows a complete sentence, type the usual period plus 1 space before starting the spaced ellipsis. Note: you never know where later revisions could cause an ellipsis to move to the end of a line; hence, the nonbreaking spaces give you some manner of control.

Hyphenation: Off, whether you're preparing a draft manuscript for editing or a fnal draft for a publisher.

Widows and orphans: Off.

Page numbers: Must be in sequence throughout, including front matter (remember, you're submitting a draft manuscript for editing, not a finished book to a printer). Be sure no pages are missing, repeated, or out of order. Use the auto-numbering feature that’s part of your word processor’s header and footer options. If you don't know how to use that function, hand-write page numbers on your printout; never type them on individual pages in a word processing program because pages change when revisions are made, and individually typed page numbers become scrambled within the text.

Footnotes (for nonfiction): If the work is being submitted for editing, use your word processor’s footnote or endnote feature and set all notes and bibliographic material to print the same as other text: 12-pt Courier double-spaced. Or type the actual note directly into the text where you want it referenced, and enclose it in parentheses, without numbering it.

Graphics (for nonfiction): Avoid embedding charts, tables, figures, etc., in the main text. Number each separate graphic, print it on its own page, and show where it belongs by typing a corresponding number in the text, adding the words: “Insert figure x here.”

Paper: Standard white 8-1/2" by 11"; no pin-feed tear-offs or hole punching. Avoid erasable bond, which smudges. Avoid heavy bond; the added weight increases shipping costs and makes editors judge a manuscript's length as excessive.

Printing: Use one side of the paper only and one column of text (despite ecologically sensible efforts to use both sides of a sheet, because publishing has its own rules for manuscript submission, and saving paper isn't one of them).

Black ink: Use a laser or ink cartridge that produces clear, sharp, black text. If submitting a photocopy, it should be a first generation copy. Handwritten text must be typed. If accepted for publication, text must be available electronically, so use a computer. Scanning is not recommended.

Binding: None. Loose pages only, not stapled, not clipped, not bound in a looseleaf or any kind of binder. Punched holes get in the way of an editor’s marginal notations. Use a large or "supersized" rubber band (available from office supply stores).

Never fold manuscript pages unless you are mailing only 1 replacement page.

Never send photos
or drawings or your only copy of anything without permission from the recipient.

Exceptions: When in doubt, your recipient’s stated specifications take precedence over any formatting standard that says otherwise.

END: Type this word at the end of your manuscript. This, together with consecutive page numbering, lets the editor and typesetter know they have the entire manuscript. When submitting a partial manuscript (if that's what's been asked for), type at the end of it "END OF PARTIAL." Tip: When asked to send only a certain number of pages or chapters, always begin at the beginning and keep pages in sequence. If you start after the opening, recipients suspect that you realize the opening is not good enough to send.

 

To see a sample of pages prepared in SMF, please click here: THE BIGGEST PROBLEM FOR WRITERS

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