PAWS' Formatting Tip Sheet

Formatting a manuscript properly is an important part of basic, professional, writing skills.  Many beginning writers,
though, do not know the rules, or that any rules exist.  PAWS' has gathered some general tips for formatting
manuscripts that apply in almost any situation.  However, no writing guide, book, or information sheet should
take the place of an individual contest/publisher/editor's guidelines.
Always check with the company/group you are submitting to for its specific requirements.
    Think formatting isn't that important?  When editors and agents see hundreds of manuscripts a week, they must use something to weed this pile down to a manageable length.  Formatting lets them do that without even reading a word of the text.  One editor supposedly rejected any manuscript that did not have a paper clip placed at a forty-five degree angle in the upper left hand corner.  This is an extreme example, but don't let formatting mistakes keep you from being published.
Set margins for 1" - 1.50."
Except for heading at the top 1/3 rd of the first page, double-space everything.
Use an easy to read font, like Courier New or Times New Roman, set at 12 point.
Use the following as a template for your first page, unless you're entering a contest.  The contest rules will tell you what to include on the first page, though it will be similar (mainly minus your name).  Text in brackets describes what you are listing and should not be included on the page:

[Name - not pseudonym] Kelli M. McBride                                                    [word count]  about 2,500 words 
[Address] P.O. Box Q                                  [contests will usually have you put genre or category here] Mystery
Our Town, OK  74354                                           [indicate what rights you are selling to them] First serial rights
[Phone number] (555) 512-0000
[optional: e-mail address]

[optional:  social security #]  555-66-7777

[optional: Pertinent club memberships] Active member, RWA

[tab down to center of page, and type center justified, your title]  THE MURM'RING OF FLIES

[on next line, type name you want to publish this under] by Kaelyn Maurena

[skip a line and begin text, indenting five on first line]     The sound reached Caleb's ears before the scent invaded his nostrils.  The furious buzzing seeped into his pores, until he felt the vibration in his bones.  That continuous frenzy pulled him to the small, abandoned shack... 

     To find the approximate word count use the following guide.  If your manuscript is between one and 1,500 words long, round your word count to the nearest 100 words.  For manuscripts between 1,500 and 10,000 words, round to the nearest 500.  For 10,000 to 25,000 words, round to the nearest 1,000.  For 25,000 or more words, round to the nearest 5,000. 
     Do not calculate the wordage of your story by counting actual words.  Figure out the maximum number of characters per line in your manuscript, divide this number by six, and then multiply by the total number of lines in your story.  This gives you the word count.  Because editors are concerned with how much space the words will take up and not the word count, this will be a more correct estimate.
From page 2 on, use the following as a template for your headers (your name is always in CAPS and the title in lowercase):
[NAME/shortended title] MCBRIDE/murm'ring                                                                                [page number] 2
The manuscript, except for the title and byline, should be left justified.  This means the left side is flush with the margin, and the right side is ragged.  NEVER use full justification (unless submission guidelines tell you to).
Any words that will be italicized if your work is published MUST BE UNDERLINED ONLY in the manuscript.  Sometimes italics is hard to read, so underlining leaves no doubt that the word/phrase should be italicized.
To indicate scene breaks, type the "#" or "*" character 1-3 times on the center of the line after the last line of the sentence, then skip another line and begin new scene.  DO not add anymore spacing.
Do not type "The End" or any other such phrase to indicate the finish of the novel.
Print out your manuscript on a good quality ink jet or laser jet printer.
Use medium weight (16-20 lb.), 8.5"x11," white paper.  Never use colored paper, onionskin, or decorated paper.
Generally, aim for 25 lines per page.  Some word processing programs will put 24 or 26 lines per page.  There are ways to get those 25 lines.
Put two spaces at the end of each period.
Include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) with sufficient postage to return your manuscript unless guidelines say not to.  To receive notification that your manuscript arrived, include a self-addressed, stamped postcard with "We received your manuscript" typed on it.
Paper clip, not staple, 2 or more pages.  For complete manuscripts, do not bind in any way.  Instead, send it in a manuscript box.
Type/print on one side of the page only.

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