The Standard Manuscript Format

Are you thinking about publishing a story? A novel? A screenplay? If so, you need to know about the standard manuscript format (SMF)!

What is the Standard Manuscript Format?

SMF is a format of a document, that is widely accepted as the go-to option when it comes to manuscripts. Manuscripts, such as short stories, novels, poems, and other written works. Many magazines and other publishers require your submission to be formatted adhering to SMF; if they don’t specify the format, you can’t really ruin anything with the standard manuscript format, as it’s easily readable and looks very professional.

If you’re thinking about submitting your work, be sure to properly read all the appropriate guidelines of the publisher.


General text formatting

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the standard manuscript format is the monospace font. A monospace font is a font where all the letters take up the same space. The most used font is Courier. Other formatting guidelines include:

  • Print only one side of the page.
  • Font size should be 12 points.
  • At least an inch (about 2.5cm) margin at each side of the text (including top and bottom).
  • Double-space your document (in the settings, not by typing two spaces everywhere).
  • Indent your first paragraph line half an inch (about 1.25cm) from the left side.

This formatting will result in about 300 words per page. That may seem like too few, but remember it’s much easier to scan such a document. Editors also have to make notes inside the document itself; the SMF is giving them space for that.


The first page

The first page is one of the most important parts of your manuscript, as it’s the first thing the editor sees. It’s also the hardest to format correctly, so pay close attention.

The first page includes the most essential information about the work; in the top-left corner, include your real name, address, telephone number, and email. It’s important to write real info here (meaning: not a pen name).

In the top-right corner, write the approximate number of words. You can round this to the nearest hundred words. For example:

“About 5 300 words.”


Now advance to the middle of the page (vertically). Place the story title here. Under the title, write your name again. Here, you can choose to write down a pen name, instead of your real one. Center both the title and the name to the middle of the page, horizontally.

Begin your actual text two lines below the name.


Other rules

In the top-right corner of each page (except the first one, obviously), include your real name, a few important words from the title of the work, and the current page number. Most word processors can do that automatically.

If something should be in italics in the final text, underline it in the manuscript, as italics can be hard to notice in a monospace font.

If a linebreak should be in the final text, insert a single # in the middle of the line.

And finally, include the word END at the last line of your manuscript.



As I said a few times, always be sure to check the submission guidelines of whatever publisher you’re submitting your work to. However, by following these instructions, you’re making sure you look professional, know what you’re doing, and you’re taking your work seriously. Best of luck in your writing!


If you have any feedback or questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments!