So now that you’ve gone through the final edit of your work, you should consider formatting your manuscript before submission. Have you already? Ask yourself, “How does it look?”
If you are submitting it to a publisher or agent, you have to find out their requirements and follow them to a T. However, if who you are submitting your work to has no specific guidelines for submission, then you’ll just want to provide the clearest, cleanest copy you can. There are many books on the market that help with formatting—everything from query letters to manuscripts.
How Does It Look?
What your manuscript looks like says a lot about you as a writer. If you have several different fonts going on, some paragraphs are indented while others are not, or you flip-flop between capitalizing certain words, it looks sloppy. Also, it shows that you don’t care much about your work, and you may not be taken seriously. It also indicates that you are an amateur. Whether you are a novice at writing or not, you can still present a clean copy. If this is something you are submitting to a publisher, sloppy formatting can prevent your manuscript from even being read. Editors won’t waste their time trying to sift through a hodgepodge mix of formats.
The most important thing when thinking about your manuscript presentation is that consistency is key. If you start out putting your chapter headings in bold text, then continue throughout. If you start capitalizing a particular word or term in chapter one, then carry on in that form. You get the idea. The inconsistencies can also be disconcerting to the reader. That is, if they continue to read it.
Obviously, a perfectly manicured and pristinely formatted manuscript cannot help you with poorly written content. So yes, the content is of utmost importance. However, the appearance of your document is what the reader, editor, agent, or publisher will see before they even read the first sentence.
Take the time to make your work presentable—it can make all the difference!
Originally posted 1/4/2009 and happily updated 11/15/2017. Thanks for reading!