Writer’s Toolbox

Ask The Writer

Your most pressing and perplexing questions about writing answered here by Gotham teacher Brandi Reissenweber.

Does it really matter how I format my manuscript when submitting?

Yes, it does. Standard formatting isn't simply an arbitrary set of guidelines on how a manuscript should look. The expected format came about as a result of valid reasons. One of the most pressing is readability. These standards make the process easier on editors and agents who spend most of their waking hours reading. It also guarantees that readers will have the information they need where they need it. Imagine an editor eager to accept your work only to find it's been separated from the cover letter and you didn't include your contact information on the manuscript. (For more on how to format a manuscript, see Q&A #29)

Beyond the practicalities, standard formatting also lets editors and agents know that you are serious and professional about your writing. Anything different can look amateurish, which doesn't bode well for the writing itself. Why give a first impression that is anything but glowing? It's not the font or the margins that will sell your work, but they can be an early indicator that you don't know what you're doing.