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Manuscript Format Checklist
Copyright © 1997 by
Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved
Manuscripts being submitted to editors should be in the standard
format expected by the publishing industry. Although some
idiosyncratic variations are occasionally seen, this
format is accepted universally at virtually all magazines and
publishing companies, and is designed to facilitate the process of
line editing, copyediting, and proofreading. Only deviate from it
if you've received specific instructions to do so.
I'm providing a
complete sample manuscript, in Adobe Acrobat
PDF format. You'll need Adobe Reader (available for
free from www.adobe.com) to view or print this file. I'm also
providing the following manuscript-format checklist:
Header / Footer Material:
- Printed on one side of white 8.5x11-inch 20-pound paper; pages
not stapled or bound.
- Author's real name, address, phone number, and email address
in upper left of page one.
- Approximate, rounded word count (based on ten words per 6.5-inch
Courier 12-point / 10-pitch manuscript line) in the upper right
of page one.
- Notice that this is a "Disposable Copy" if you only want the
editor's reply but not the actual manuscript returned (saves on
postage costs for your
- Title and author's name (or pen name) centered about halfway
down the first page.
- A page header identifying the author, story, and page number
on each page after the first, flush with the right page
margin: Sawyer / Uphill Climb / 2.
- On the last page, an indication that this is actually the end
of the story: "# # # # #," "The End," or "30."
The Actual Story:
- One-inch margins on all four sides of the page (use a 6.5-inch
ruler line for text). [In Microsoft Word, set these margins in the "Page Setup"
dialog: Top: 1", Bottom: 1", Left: 1", Right: 1", Gutter: 0", Header: 0.5",
- Monospaced (not proportionally spaced) Courier
12-point / 10-pitch ideally a decent, darker Courier, such as
Dark Courier, a free typeface from Hewlett Packard,
or BitStream's "Courier10 BT," which comes with many Corel and WordPerfect products, not
the anemic "Courier New" that comes with Windows XP (although many
writers now submit manuscripts in Times Roman, or another serif
proportional font, even though that makes copyediting harder).
- Ragged right margin (not right-justified) [set in Word at Format,
Paragraph, Indents and Spacing, Alignment choose "Left"].
- Hyphenation turned off [set in Word at Format, Paragraph, Line and Page Breaks].
- "Widow/orphan control" and "keep lines together" turned off [set in
Word at Format, Paragraph, Line and Page Breaks].
- Double-spaced lines (24-point leading) [set in Word at Format, Paragraph,
Indents and Spacing: Set "Before: 0 pt" and "After 0 pt." And note that Word's
"double spacing" is actually more than double spacing; rather than
selecting "Line spacing: Double," instead select "Line spacing: Exactly," and
specify "24 pt."]
- Paragraphs indented one-half inch (set a tab for this amount).
- Two spaces between sentences, if using a monospaced font such as Courier.
- Punctuation inside of quotation marks.
- Em-dashes shown as two hyphens -- like so -- if you can't, or
prefer not to, show actual em-dashes.
- A new paragraph every time you change speaker.
- Emphasis and foreign phrases shown by underlining rather than italics (although this rule seems to be falling by the wayside).
- Scene breaks shown by a number sign (#) centered on an otherwise blank line.
- Spelling checked (using American spellings for U.S. markets, Canadian ones for
Canadian markets, and British ones for U.K. markets -- use the spelling of the market you are trying to sell to, not your home country's spelling)
and manuscript manually proofread.
More Good Reading
Rob's "On Writing" columns
Notes for the Copyeditor
Essay: WordStar A Writer's Word Processor