The Rules of Formatting Your Manuscript

Proper formatting is critical when submitting a manuscript. If writers submit poorly formatted manuscripts, their chances of getting published are slim. People judge others by the clothes they wear. Publishers judge writers by the way they format their manuscripts.

Manuscript Formatting Rules:

  • Use plain paper, with one-inch margins on all sides.
  • Double-space the text.
  • Indent paragraphs by one-half inch.
  • Insert page numbers on the right side of the footer.
  • Don’t staple pages together.
  • Use 12-point Courier for lettering. Don’t make the letters larger for headings or smaller for footnotes. Stick with 12-point Courier.
  • Use the same font throughout the manuscript. Don’t have part of the text in Courier, another part in another font.
  • Use two spaces after a period. This makes manuscripts easier to read because the sentences don’t run together.
  • Never use italic or bold. Use underlines for emphasis and use them sparingly. Italics are easy for a typesetter to miss and difficult for them to read.
  • Never add graphics to the manuscript.
  • Never make your manuscript pages look like a finished book.
  • Never use special style sheets.
  • Never right-justify text. Editors prefer the “ragged right.”
  • Turn off hyphenation.
  • Never put copyright notices on the manuscript. Publishers have no need to steal your work.
  • In the header area, type the title of the book and your name. The information should appear on each page of the manuscript.
  • Always proofread. Check your manuscript for typos, spelling errors and mistakes in grammar.
  • Do two complete edits of your manuscript before you submit it.
  • Print the manuscript on white 20 lb paper. No colored paper. No tractor feed paper.


Improperly formatted manuscripts sprinkled with typos give publishers a bad impression. Make your manuscript look professional. Format it properly, and submit it with pride.

Janet Sue Terry was born and raised in London, Kentucky. The oldest of eight children, she always had a deep appreciation for education and the arts.