There are going to be specific formatting requirements for a manuscript to be submitted for consideration. Each agent and publisher tends to have slightly different requirements, so be prepared to tweak your manuscript to meet them.
In general terms, however, here’s how to format a manuscript for submission that will require few, if any, changes when you’ve completed your story.
1. Make sure that you set the margins for your document at 3 centimeters. This margin should be applied to all sides of your page.
2. It starts with your title page. You’ll want to make sure the name of your manuscript, the approximate word count of it, and your contact details are clearly accessible on it. If there are any copyright details that the reviewer should know about, like you’ve submitted the manuscript to the Library of Congress, then this should also be included on the title page. If you have a literary agent, their information should also be included on the title page.
3. You will want to align your text to the left side of your page for most languages. The right side of the document should appear ragged. The opposite is true for languages which read right-to-left instead of left-to-right.
4. Avoid using fonts that distract from your manuscript. The go-to standard for fonts is Times New Roman. You’ll want to use the 12pt size for the font as a default. There are some submissions which may ask for Courier, Courier New, Helvetica, or Arial as the font of choice.
5. Every line should be double-spaced. There are no extra spaces between paragraphs.
6. There should be a single space after certain punctuation marks within the narrative. This is usually seen with periods and commas. Semi-colons and colons also receive a single space. There should not be any spacing when using a hyphen.
7. New paragraphs should always be indented. You cannot use the Tab key on your keyboard to create the necessary formatting. Set the indentation to 1.25 centimeters on your preferred word processing program.
8. The only exception to Formatting Rule #6 above is the first paragraph of a new chapter or a scene break. In this instance, there should not be any indentation at all.
9. If you do have a scene break within your manuscript, it is necessary to create a break within the narrative. You can do this by creating a blank line, then using a centered hashtag in the center of that line. You may see some writers using three hashtags to do complete the scene break, like this: ###. Only use one hashtag as a best practice.
10. Create a header that will populate throughout your manuscript. This will allow the reviewer to keep track of any missing pages should they print out a hardcopy of the manuscript to review. You can do this by incorporating your last name, the title of your manuscript, and the page in the appropriate menu command.
11. All new chapters should be started on a new page. When you start the next chapter of your manuscript, it is a good idea to center the title of the chapter about one-third of the way down the page. Even if all you call your new chapter is “Chapter 12,” you’ll still want to follow this formatting rule. Once you’ve placed the chapter title, skip a couple of lines and then begin the opening paragraph following Formatting Rule #7 above.
12. Make sure that the end of your manuscript has a scene break indication as mentioned in Formatting Rule #8. If you don’t like the idea of using hashtags, then simply writing “The End” at the conclusion of your manuscript will allow the reviewer to understand that they’ve reached the final page.
13. If words in your manuscript need to be emphasized for some reason, then you should use an italicized font for this purpose. The text in a novel manuscript should never be in a bold font or underlined.
14. When you print out your manuscript, make sure that you keep a copy of it for yourself. Never assume that someone who reviews your manuscript will send it back, even if you’ve requested it and sent a self-addressed stamped envelope to do so.
When you follow these 14 formatting rules, then you will have an industry standard manuscript to submit for review. Now not every reviewer follows the industry standards, so you may wish to review any specific instructions requested of you before sending off your manuscript. That way you can always meet the expectations that have been laid out for your submission.