Quick and easy guide to manuscript formatting. You probably already know this, but it comes up a lot so I wanted a central depository to send people to.

Rule 1: If your agent, editor, or competition submission has a specified format to use… USE IT. No exceptions.

Otherwise, you basically can’t go wrong with these for maximum acceptance.

Page Size & Colour

  • A4 is standard.
  • Do not use colourful paper when submitting.
  • If you are submitting a hard-copy, make sure you only print on one side of the paper.


Font: & Size

Standard is black ink, 12 point font, usually in Times New Roman. Ariel and Courier are also widely accepted. Basically a mono-spaced serif font.


  • Lines should be double spaced with no additional spacing between paragraphs.
  • Single space between sentences after periods. Double-space does not mean between words/sentences, that went out with typewriters.

Indent & Margins

  • Margins 3cm on all sides (or .5 inches)
  • Do not indent the opening paragraph of your chapter, or the paragraph commencing after a scene break.
  • Do indent each new paragraphs and each new section of dialogue. Indentation should be set in your software to 1.25cm.
  • DO NOT use the Tab key.

American or UK English

Write to your market. If you publish locally, just write what comes naturally, but be aware that it is a global market now. While UK (see also Canadian & Australian) readers can handle US English easily enough the opposite isn’t always true. If you do write in UK, Canadian, or Australian English be prepared for a lot of ‘helpful’ US readers pointing out your spelling mistakes.


  • Enclose spoken words in quotation marks.
  • If you use US English use the double quote “
  • If you use UK English you can (but not necessarily required to) use the single quote ‘
  • If a character is quoting someone else as they speak, use the alternate version.


All of these are essential when you format your novel. Don’t cheat yourself out of being published by ignoring the very basics.


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    First of all I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do
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    generally lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints?

    1. JW

      Good question, but one I don’t really have an answer for.

      Sometimes I spend the first 30 minutes just staring at the screen, other times the words just seem to flow. I guess the most effective technique (for me) is to start with music, but once inspiration has struck go silent so a new song doesn’t tug me in a different direction.

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