Authors submit manuscripts in a hodgepodge of formats. Part of my job as a copy editor is to fix the formatting to publishers’ standards. Here’s how to format your novel or memoir so it looks professional. (APA formatting for academic manuscripts is a different animal.) If you need help with the mechanics, I’ll provide that later.

Manuscripts should be set up 8.5″ x 11″ with one-inch margins on all sides. Font throughout should be Times New Roman, 12 pt. There are other acceptable fonts, but Times New Roman is a standard in book publishing for its legibility and classic look. It’s one of the most widely used typefaces.

Line spacing is double. Type one space between sentences. Every chapter ends with a page break. Each chapter begins on a new page. All chapter headings should be uniform.

If you want to show that a scene changes within a chapter, use a row of three asterisks on an extra line, set on a line by themselves. An alternative style is to insert a blank line, but a reader can miss this extra line if it falls at the bottom of a page.

If you use British, Canadian, or Australian spelling, make a note to the editor to keep it British or to Americanize it.

Manuscripts should be one contiguous file for all text. All content to be included in the finished book, such as Dedication, Acknowledgments, Foreword, Preface, Appendix, and Index, should be included in one file. This is the traditional order for the more common divisions of a book: Front Matter: Title page, Copyright page, Dedication, Epigraph, Table of Contents, Foreword, Preface, Acknowledgments, Introduction (if not part of text), First text page (Introduction or Chapter 1); Back Matter: Acknowledgments (if not in front matter), Appendix, Notes, Glossary, Bibliography or References, Index.

A useful option is to provide on your manuscript’s cover page your contact information and a word count, like this:

  • Author’s name Word Count: 00,000
  • Address
  • Telephone
  • Email address

Another useful touch is to add a header with your surname, the book’s title, and page numbers. Start the header (or footer) on page two. Having a page reference is helpful when editors and authors correspond. Published page numbers will, of course, be different.

Dash Mechanics

One of the more common mechanical problems authors seem to have is with the dash. Dashes can be used instead of commas, parentheses, or colons, and to show interrupted dialogue. The em dash, often simply called the dash, is the most commonly used. Many authors simply type two hyphens, which Word automatically converts to an en dash (most times) when typing continues. To insert a hyphen (-) use the hyphen key or the minus key. To insert an en dash (–) press the Ctrl key and the minus key simultaneously. To insert an em dash (—) press the Ctrl, Alt, and the minus key simultaneously. Chicago style prefers the em dash with no space between words.

Font & Manuscript Mechanics

To convert your manuscript’s font to Times New Roman, go to the Home tab on the Toolbar. On the far right hand side of the Toolbar, click on Select, then Select All on the drop-down. The following steps will then apply to the entire manuscript. Under Font, select Times New Roman, 12 Point. Click on Paragraph, under Alignment, select Left; under outline level, select Body text; under Indentation, select 0″ for both left and right; under Special, select First Line to have the first line of every paragraph indented in the traditional manner. Some publishers prefer no indent and a space between paragraphs. In that case, select None under Special and select Auto under Spacing, After. The print manager will add the indents back during print production.

Don’t use the Enter key or carriage returns to double-space the document. If you have, here’s how to fix it quickly with the Find-and-Replace command. Enter Ctrl and the F key simultaneously to bring up Find and Replace. On the drop-down menu, select Advanced Find, then select Special. In the Find What field, enter a space and, under the Special tab, select the Paragraph mark. It will look like this: ^p. In the Replace With field, do nothing. Then select Replace all. All those extra paragraph returns will be eliminated.

Take a similar approach if you’ve got a mix of single, double, or even triple spaces between sentences. Enter Ctrl and the F key simultaneously to bring up the Find and Replace function. Type two blank spaces in the Find field. Type one blank space in the Replace field, then enter Replace All. Repeat the procedure accordingly if you’ve got some sentences with three spaces between them.

To create a Header or Footer, go to the Insert tab on the Toolbar, activate Header, select the style you want, then select Edit Header, then type your Surname/Title. Start a separate Header to insert page numbers (start Header on page 2).

Those are the basics. As we all know, Word is a robust program with a lot of capabilities that require time to learn.

Ayla Myrick
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