How To Format A Manuscript + Now with free downloadable checklist!

A lot of clients have problems with formatting, whether it's wild margins, strange paragraph formats, or some wild and crazy font. (Yes, I've edited manuscripts in Comic Sans!)

So you're in one of two places: either you are ready to start writing, or you've already written and you want to format your MS.

But how do you format it?

This is just "standard" formatting, and be aware that it is not the only correct MS formatting. 

Click me to make me bigger!
Details, baby!

Here are the formats:
  • File Set Up
    • Go to File > Properties, and fill in the 'Title' section with your MS title, your name for the 'Author' section, and put your contact info in the 'Comments' section.
      • This helps agents/editors with eReaders.
    • Name the file NAME-TITLE.doc
      • docx files can't be easily shot over to kindles
      • using your name/title makes it easy to find in searches, and makes it yours as opposed to having fifty "first25pagesforAgent.doc" in the inbox that they have to search through. If they open one up and it's not yours but it catches their eye... you get left for later.
  • Page Set Up 
    • Margins - 1 inch all the way around
    • Font - Courier, Times New Roman, or other clean monospace serif font
    • Size - 12 pt.
    • Line spacing - double
    • Paragraph indent - first line, 5 pt.
    • Spacing - No space between paragraphs
    • Header - right justified, contains: 

Name/ TITLE/ page# 

A header does not belong on the cover page. Click the button that says "Different first page"
  • Title/Cover Page 
    • Contact info - Real name and address, phone number and e-mail address in the top left corner of the page, single spaced, left-justified
    • Title - centered, in the middle of the page
    • By - centered and one double-spaced line beneath the title
    • Name or pen name - centered and one double-spaced line beneath the word by
    • Word count - centered and rounded to the nearest thousand, one double-spaced line beneath your name or pen name
    • Agent contact information (if applicable) - Name, agency name, mailing address, phone number (e-mail only if you have the agent's okay first), left justified, single spaced, bottom of the page
  • Query
    • Header - should be in the upper right-hand corner of the page, and on every subsequent page.
    • In email format: no indents, space between paragraphs.
    • Note: Including a query is helpful for those that transfer your MS to their eReaders and who may not have your email handy to refer to it. It should fit on one page.
  • First MS Page 
    • Chapter header - Can be anywhere from one to six double-spaced lines down from the top of the page, and can be centered or left justified. You can title your chapters, or just write Chapter One, Chapter 1, or 1.
    • Body text - Double-space and begin your story. Do not indent the first line.
    • Scene breaks - drop down two double-spaced lines, insert and center the # character (optional), drop down two more double-spaced lines, and begin your new scene. Do not indent the first line.
  • Subsequent chapters
    • Start each chapter on a fresh page. Keep chapter formatting and titling consistent with your first chapter.
Don't be afraid to play fast and loose if you want to. Perhaps you HATE Times New Roman... That's okay. You can write the MS using any font (or size) you want. Just be sure to change it before you send it out.

If you'd like to print this or save it for future reference, I've created a free downloadable and printable checklist. You can find that here:

Happy formatting!


  1. Very useful, thanks Cassandra!


  2. Excellent, thank you Cassandra.
    There were a few points here I didn't know.

  3. That's all really useful stuff to know! Thanks!

  4. You know...I know this. Yet, reading it over, I still gasp when I find something I might want to change! Thanks for helping out with a super informative post!

  5. Many thanks - I saved a copy of this offline for future reference!

  6. You're very welcome guys! I'm so glad to have helped! <3

  7. Thanks Cassandra. Great info that is esssential for any writer. Thank you for including a free downloadable format.

  8. Thanks! I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. And I love the look of your site! (Haven't been around in a while.)

  9. Great advice and thanks for the checklist. This is definitely something I want to keep handy. I hadn't even heard of some of these! Thanks!

  10. Thanks for this! I keep mucking up my formatting so this is a great checklist for me :)

  11. Thanks! This is a great resource!

  12. Cassandra, I sent you an email yesterday to your gmail acct. Want to make sure you got it.

  13. I just finished revising my first "real" story for the millionth time and I am about ready to submit it. This is just what I needed so that I format it correctly! Thank you!

  14. I know this is kind of an old post, but I wanted to ask - why no indent on the first line of a chapter/chapter break? I feel like it looks much better with the indentation, especially when the first line is only a half-line long...?

  15. Darci, a lot of formatters will use dropped caps and it's easier to not have the indent there. But mostly it's just one of those things, like always sending with double spacing and 12 pt fonts. :)

  16. Oh my gosh. You are a life saver. Thank you. KKMF.



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