Ready your story for submission to publisher

When submitting a story to a magazine or a book publisher, your manuscript should appear in a specific format. Following this format is important for a number of reasons. First, the format makes reading easier for an editor. You certainly would rather want an editor to spend more time enjoying your writing then trying to figure out what words you’ve written. In addition, using a manuscript format is a sign of professionalism. After all, if you can’t make the effort to present your story in a readable form, then an editor probably is wondering if you’ve taken the time to write a quality story.

Here are some manuscript basics to follow:
• Paper – Use white 8.5 x 11 bond; 20 pound is sufficient. This is the standard letter-sized paper that you’d put in a photocopy machine or a printer. Do not use erasable paper.
• Margins – Leave 1 inch of blank space on each side of the paper.
• Typeface – 12 pt. Times New Roman. Don’t use boldface or italics; instead, underline words when you intend for italics to be used in the text.
• Alignment – Run the text ragged right (aka justified left).
• Double space – No extra space should appear between the paragraphs, however.
• Indentation – Indent the first line of each paragraph by 3-5 spaces.
• Sides of paper – Type on only one side of the paper.
• First page of short stories – Place your name, address, phone number and the word count on the first page. Don’t place the “rights offered” on the first page. Center your title about 15 lines from the top, then put “by” and your name beneath it. Use the name you want to be published under at this point in the manuscript.
• Headers – For the second and subsequent page, an inch from the top in the upper right corner of each page type your name, story title, and the page number.
• Ending – At the story’s end, center “END” in capital letters two lines below the last line.
• Printer quality – Use fresh toner or ribbon. Don’t send “draft-quality dot matrix” copies (yes, some people still are using those printers).

While the manuscript basics presented here are fairly standard across the industry, always read the magazine’s or publisher’s writer’s guidelines to see if they have some unique requirement that breaks these recommendations. This is particularly true for e-magazines, which also are concerned about the ease of posting your accepted story onto a website.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.