To give a professional impression when you are trying to market your manuscript, it needs correct formatting to be presented in the best way possible. Here are some simple guidelines to format your manuscript that you can follow to ensure your work is in perfect shape.

Format your manuscript to publishing standards by using one-inch margins. Then justify your text to the left only. Use a clear, easily readable font – nothing fancy or decorative. Courier or Times New Roman fonts are the most preferred by publishing industry professionals because they are the easiest on the eyes, with clearly defined letters. Set the text to 12-point size and double-space the whole work.

Next, check through your manuscript to make sure the headings are consistent. If the new chapter titles are in bold or headline-style capitalization, this should be the pattern throughout; likewise with any subheadings or bulleted lists. Quite often, authors have fun experimenting with various page formats and designs while they are creating, or a particular style may suit their creative mood. That is fine, but when your piece is finally ready for polishing, all the formatting must remain consistent, without any particular flourishes or artistic touches. The professional editors at can check the format and consistency of your work during the editing process, making sure it is presentable and meets the publishing industry standard.

Format and Presentation of your Manuscript

Sometimes one can overlook paragraph style, but it is an important area. Paragraphs should be consistent. If you are using indented paragraphing, set your word processing program to indent paragraphs and remove any manual indents or spaces automatically. These only add work for the publishers (who would otherwise need to remove them themselves), and they will notice. If you are using block paragraph style, you should separate each section by one line space, including short lines of dialogue by different characters.

Also, ensure you have not overused special effects in the main text of your work. There is rarely a reason for bold or differently sized fonts in the main text. These should be reserved for headings, if used at all. Italics in the main text are ideal for emphasis or foreign words but use them sparingly to avoid lessening their impact or distracting the reader.

Last but not least, make sure your manuscript is in black text on a white background. Unfortunately, few agents or editors appreciate beautiful, rainbow-colored text! Add as much sparkle to your words and content as you please, but as far as formatting goes, the best strategy is to restrain yourself: keep it uniform and straightforward.

Originally posted 9/26/2010 and happily updated 10/26/2017. Thanks for reading!

Not sure what YOU really need?

Get Professional Help

Get a free editing sample outlining areas you need to fix before publishing. Discover what works!

Enter your email to subscribe to our newsletter, get free advice and connect with other authors.
I am an author of:  
My email: