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Manuscript Format

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Manuscript Formatting

     Editors are busy people and they appreciate professionalism. They won’t even look at a manuscript if it is not presented in an acceptable format. Caveat: there are some editors who don’t mind some differences, but they are few and far between. Do you want to take that chance? Hedge your bets and send your manuscript in its best possible shape. Save your creativity for the story, not the format.

     The Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market is a terrific source for information on publisher and editor preferences in these and other areas. And the articles are great, too.

     But back to manuscript formatting: basics first. Check your manuscript for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. Yes, they do matter. Really. An editor will not want to wade through a morass of mistakes to see if there might possibly be a good story underneath – it just isn’t worth their time. It's kind of like wearing your best clothes to a job interview -- at least put on a clean shirt.

     If you have problems with spelling, grammar or punctuation, have someone else proofread your manuscript before you send it. Several times, if necessary. If you don’t think you have problems, do it anyway. And if you are instinctively good at these, it’s still a good idea to get a proofreader. Even the most experienced of us make mistakes (Me, I have a heck of a time with typos. I think it’s the bifocals...).

     Check for proper use of words, too. Your spell check is only a program – it can’t tell the difference between “their” and “there” or "it's" and "its." I find that grammar checkers are wrong more often than not, so don’t rely on them. Pick up a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and use it. Another good choice is the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the standard for publication. And Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss is fun to read.

     To see an example of proper manuscript format, check out this website:

     There are more. Use the "search" function on this board to find them.

     Some DOs and DON’Ts:

DO send exactly what the editor/publisher asks for (check those submission guidelines!).
DO use Times New Roman or Courier New fonts. These are the easiest to read and look most like a typewritten font.
DO double space your manuscript and print only on one side of the paper.
DO use a left margin alignment.
DO use 1 inch margins.

DO put your name and the title in the header on every page, unless it is specified that you should not (a blind contest entry, for example).
DO put your name, address, telephone number and email address in upper left hand corner on the first page, with approximate word count in the upper right hand corner.
The first page should start three-quarters of the way down on the paper, with the title and your name in centered alignment, like so:

Manuscript Format


DON’T send your manuscript on anything but white 8.5" x 11" paper. Don’t even be tempted.
DON'T use anything but black ink.
DON’T staple or bind your manuscript. Use a clip. And I have been reliably informed that a nice, big rubber band is preferable on really thick manuscripts.

     Now, bear in mind that these are North American standards, and that international standards may differ (even within North America). For example, in Canada, we spell some words differently. Some Canadian publishers prefer Canadian spelling, some are positively militant about it, and some don't care. So, if you are sending your manuscripts to other countries, check their standards, too. It's worth your time to investigate this.

     Happy Submitting! And, in the words of the sagacious Red Green, "Remember, I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together."
#1 - June 27, 2006, 11:15 AM
« Last Edit: November 27, 2012, 06:48 PM by olmue »


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