Manuscript Preparation

A Guide for Manuscript Formatting in Microsoft Word 16

Whether you plan to print your submission on paper or send as a digital attachment, you need to form your manuscript the way many publishers prefer. This is not the only way, but it is the best way I’ve learned over my decades of being a novelist.* 

Margins: Home >Layout> Margins—Set at 1 inch on all four sides.

Justify: Make the left-hand side straight. Leave the right margin jagged.

Font: Use twelve point Times New Roman in black type.

Paragraphs: Here is the easiest way I know to format them:

  • Home> Paragraph—locate the little x in the bottom right of the Paragraph section. It is very small!
  • Click it open to make your selections in the drop-down menu
  • Set everything to 0 (zero), except for Body Text. Leave it be.
  • On the right side box, “Special” set Hanging to 22 px (the 48 px default indent is too wide in digital format.)
  • If you do not want to indent the first line of chapters, “Special” set First Line to None. 
  • Put a check-mark in the box for do not add extra space.
  • Select line spacing Double.
  • Click Set as Default and select This Document Only.
  • Click OK (always click OK after each change before you leave that menu.)

Scene Breaks: Also known as Time Breaks. Indicate by inserting a blank line and centering the hash sign or some other recognizable symbol(s) in the center of the blank line. Be consistent throughout, whichever you choose. I use <><><> in Bold.

Header: Type in a keyword from the title in the top right header with your last name and the page number. E.g., Brown, Hell’s Belles, page 1

Chapters: Begin each chapter on a new page. Center the chapter title, e.g. Chapter One about one-third of the way down the page. Skip a couple of spaces and begin the text of the chapter. When you reach the end of a chapter, go to Home> Layout> Breaks and on the Breaks dropdown menu, select Next Page.  On that new page, type in your Chapter title, centered. Remember, all your formatting choices are embedded in the paragraph mark and will follow through, so you’ll need to make adjustments to ensure your next paragraph isn’t also centered. Always keep the Paragraph mark visible! With it, you can use a “magical toy”, to copy and reuse desired formatting.**

The End: When you’re done, type in those words, centered, two lines down, so no one will mistakenly believe there’s a page missing.

Never underline words in novel manuscripts.
Always set in italics words you want printed in italics.

Your title page should include:

  • The title of the work.
  • Your by-line (a pseudonym if appropriate, your name if not)
  • Your approximate word count, to the nearest hundred.
  • Your contact details.
  • Copyright details.

Remember to keep a copy of your manuscript for yourself.

*I have a few of these frequently-used functions, such as Break, Italics, Centered, Left-Justified, Undo, and the Format Painter in my Quick Access Toolbar. This saves having to click out of the manuscript and return to the Microsoft Home page to use them.

**Now is the time for the most magical of all MS Word’s little toys. The Format Painter looks like a housepainter’s brush. If I want any paragraph centered, italicized, or left-justified, I put the cursor on a paragraph mark that has the formatting I want to copy, click the brush and “paint” that formatting onto the paragraph where it’s needed. I also use it for individual words and phrases, instead of whole paragraphs. Select the phrase, put the cursor on any letter in it, click the paintbrush (on the Quick Access Toolbar), and carry it to the word or phrase you want to be changed. If my Format Painter died, I think I’d quit writing.Paint