Writer’s Toolbox

Ask The Writer

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

What should a manuscript look like?

Submitting a manuscript that conforms to what publishers and editors expect shows that you are professional and serious about your writing. First, before getting to the nitty gritty of manuscript format, make sure that the content you’re planning to submit is as strong as possible. You want to send out only your best work. Be sure to proofread, too, for spelling, grammar, typos, and clarity.

Manuscript format is designed so that your work is easy to read and you are easy to track down should an editor or publisher want to contact you. Prose manuscripts should be double-spaced with margins of an inch to an inch and a quarter. (Poetry can be single-spaced.) Stay away from fancy fonts. Use one that is easily readable, like Times, and a size that is comfortable, like 12 point. The first page of the manuscript should include your name and relevant contact information on the upper left hand side of the page. (This information should be single-spaced.) Skip several lines, and then center the title of the story. Skip another two lines, and then begin the story. Some writers will include a total word count on the first page as well. If you do this, put it in the upper right corner.

Here’s a sample of what a first page would look like for fictitious author Whitney Lider’s story “All Our Houses.”

Whitney Lider Word Count: 3450
470 Super Lane
Visitorville, IL 60000
[email protected]
(555) 555.4321

All Our Houses

When we decided to move to Cherry Creek, my husband spent the night in his car just outside the gated community . . . .

While you don’t need to number the first page, subsequent pages should be numbered in the upper right hand corner. It’s helpful to include some identifying information before the page number, like your last name (Lider, 2) or the title (All Our Houses, 2). If the title is long, you can use an abbreviated version. Editors are dealing with a lot of paper, so if the pages of your story accidentally get out of order or get mixed with another writer’s story, they can easily be set right.