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Manuscript Preparation

by Durant Imboden

Let your text do the talking

It's easy to become obsessive about manuscript preparation, and to spend hours worrying about what font to use or how much space to allot for margins.

But let's be realistic: No editor is going to accept or reject your manuscript because the margins are a quarter-inch too narrow or you've put the page numbers at the bottom instead of the top. As long as you stick to a few basic guidelines, your manuscript will be in an acceptable format.


Book, story, and article manuscripts should be double-spaced.

Begin your story (or each chapter) halfway down the page, and allow four spaces (two double spaces) under the title and byline.


It's safest to use a plain typewriter-style typeface like Courier New or Prestige. Such fonts are easy to read and look good when double-spaced. They also make it easy for technophobic editors to estimate text length with a ruler, since an inch of text equals 10 characters if you've used standard 12-point ("10-pitch") Courier or other monospaced type.

Times New Roman, Book Antiqua, or other conservative book-style type is also acceptable, but don't use sans-serif type (such as Arial), script, or exotic typefaces.

TIP: If you don't like Courier New, try the Screenwriter's Typewriter Fonts PRO from Vintage Type, which emulate classic Oliver, Remington, Smith, and Underwood typewriters.

Italics vs. underlining

Traditionally, writers have used underlining to represent italics when typing manuscripts. That's still acceptable (and some copy editors prefer it), but italics are okay, too. Avoid ALL CAPS and boldface, however.

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