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Guide to Getting Published: Typescript Formatting

Here is the third addition to the series of Guide to Getting Published. Today, we will check out the formatting guidelines for your typescript (manuscript). Though some publishers may differ in this, the most generally accepted norm of formatting is what I suggest here.

Typescript: When referring to your manuscripts, start using the term, typescript. Manuscript is manual script, which means the script you prepare with your hand, the handwritten script. The technology has improved a lot, and the days of handwriting are long gone. The days of the typewriters are also almost gone, so you should stop calling your manuscripts ‘manuscript’. Now, the word to be used is ‘typescript’, and follow it. One more thing: almost all publishers have stopped accepting manuscripts; it’s only typescripts now.

The formatting requirement of a typescript arises after you have submitted your query letter to the literary agent or editor. As I always recommended, did you check out the agent’s site to know the specific formatting guidelines?

The Cover Page

In novels, you have to submit also a cover page. For short stories, articles, and poetry, this is not required. The cover page formatting depends on whether you have an agent or not. When you have the agent, most probably he will guide you in the formatting. The font and font size will be discussed in the main section for typescript formatting below. Here are the guidelines to follow:

  1. Contact Details

Left justified, on the top left corner of the cover page, place your contact information, including your physical address, telephone number and email address. It is single spaced and left justified.

  1. Title

Place the title of your novel slightly above the middle of the page, centered. The title font may be made slightly larger than the normal text font. One double-spaced line (two normal lines) below the title, place your byline, centered, in a font slightly smaller than the title font. The byline may have your name or pen name.

“By your name or pen name”

  1. Word Count

On the cover page, this should be one double-spaced line below the byline, rounded to the nearest thousand.

  1. For the Writers with Agents

Writers having agents should place the agent’s contact information at the bottom of the page, left justified. Everything else is the same as above. The information should contain the agent name (business name), address, contact telephone number, and email address.

General Typescript Formatting Guidelines

The short fiction and poetry needn’t have the cover page formatted as above.

  1. The Paper to Use

Almost all editors of concur on using high quality white paper (no artwork, perfuming, or embossing). A4 sheet is the recommendation. It should have equal width for margins on all sides, of at least 3 centimeters (more than an inch; 1.5 inches preferred). The US recommendation for paper size is 8.5x11.

  1. Font

Font to be used should be legible to the editor. The most recommended is Courier New, 12 pt. This is a monospaced font (fixed width). This means every character you type in this font is equal in width (‘i’ as well as ‘m’). This font is the most appropriate font for typescript, and helps the editor spot any errors easily. Also, it is not recommended to use 10 pt font size. It will make the manuscript look more congested.

Always avoid fancy fonts. Not even Times New Roman, which is good for professional letters like the query letter I wrote about last time, is not appropriate for typescript submissions.

  1. The Paragraph Indentation

When you indent your paragraphs, always give care. You are not sending a web publication. All paragraphs in the typescript should be indented, and there should not be any blank line in between paragraphs. In web publications like blogs, the paragraphs are not indented, and there is a blank line between them. In typescript, always indent paragraphs by one tab length (four spaces). And never put blank lines between them.

The typescript text should be double-spaced. In web publications, you use single spacing (remember!).

  1. Your Information and Word Count

On the first page of the manuscript (not the cover page), you should have your information—your contact details such as your full address, email address, telephone number; place it on the top left corner, left indented and single spaced. On the top right corner, place the rounded off figure of the total number of words, single-spaced.

  1. The First Page with The Title, Byline, and Body

Now it’s time for placing the title of the work and your byline. On exactly the middle of the page, type your novel or story title, in bold face or in a slightly larger font than that of the body text. One double-spaced line below that, begin your byline—“by your name”; both title and byline should be centered. About two double-spaced lines below that, with the proper indentation, begin your typescript body.

  1. Page Headers

All pages after the first page, should have a page header. It should be right justified. The header should contain the following data: Last name/Title/Page number. As in:

Conrad/The Secret Agent/34

The title and last name should be properly capitalized.

  1. Individual Pages and Chapter Beginnings

From your first page onward, have your header information on each page, and begin the page right at the margin. Each chapter should begin in a fresh page. The chapter headings may be left-justified or centered, and begun at least one double-spaced line from the top margin. Bold face is appropriate for the chapter headings. Begin the chapter body two double-spaced lines below the chapter heading.

  1. Scene and Section Breaks

Usually the novel is broken down into scenes. In such cases, the chapter itself will have multiple scenes. The standard scene break character is ‘#’ You can use one double-spaced line to separate this character and continue typing. As below:




The section break character should be centered.

Typical Typescript Formatting Example

Here is a page that I found on the Internet which aptly shows you the best formatting for your typescript.

Typescript Example

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008


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