What Is the Standard Manuscript Format?

What Is the Standard Manuscript Format?

Many publishers expect submissions to use a standard manuscript format. As a proofreader or editor, knowing what the standard format requires will allow you to better help your clients.

Read on to find out what the standard manuscript format is and when it should be used.

What is the Standard Manuscript Format?

The standard manuscript format refers to a set of common conventions for formatting a manuscript before submitting it to an agent or publisher. 

As an editor, you may be asked to check that a manuscript meets these conventions before it is submitted or even help your client prepare the manuscript itself.

In either case, you’ll need to know the key features of the standard manuscript format, which consist of the following:

  • A4 paper (or 8.5” by 11”) sized
  • Written in a black, easy-to-read font, such as Courier New or Times New Roman
  • Written in a font size of 10 or 12 points
  • Double spaced
  • Bordered by 1-, 1.25-, or 1.5-inch margins on all sides
  • Indented by 0.5 inches at the start of each new paragraph
  • Consisting of 24 or 25 lines of text per page
  • Printed single-sided 
  • Concluded with “The End” written on the final page

There are several further requirements for the first page of the manuscript:

  • Your client should provide their name and contact information in the top left corner.
  • In the top right, they should write the manuscript’s word count.
  • The manuscript’s title should be written several lines beneath this information, center-aligned, and written in title case (i.e., with each word capitalized).
  • A by-line should be written under the title, consisting of your client’s name or pen name.

Each subsequent page should then include a right-aligned header containing the author’s name, the manuscript title (shortened if necessary), and the page number in the following format:


Doing so means that if the printed manuscript is dropped or shuffled while passed around, it can easily be reassembled.

The standard manuscript format is widely accepted by many publishers, but as you’ll see in the next section, it might not always be the right way to format your client’s work.

When Not to Use the Standard Manuscript Format

The standard manuscript format isn’t a rule for how every manuscript should be presented, but rather, a series of guidelines generally considered acceptable.

If the agent or publisher your client is submitting to has their own style guide or submission guidelines, it will take priority over the standard format, even if it contradicts any of the details we’ve covered above.

When it comes to formatting a manuscript, always check the publisher’s requirements. If your client has no agent or publisher in mind, advise them to look for any relevant guidelines when they finally submit their manuscript.

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