Formatting a Manuscript

Courier? But it is so plain!

Agents, publishers, and those who matter most want to receive completed works in specific formats. Ignoring these formats can be disastrous — a great manuscript might be ignored.

Basic Guidelines

While not visually appealing, prepare manuscripts according to established standards. These standards have developed over many years for valid reasons. The basic rules are:

  • Use a 12-point “Courier” font.
  • Begin with a 1-inch margin around the page.
  • Use 20-pound, medium to bright white paper.

Why Courier?

The “Courier” typeface and other monospaced fonts are easy to read and edit, especially at the 12-point size. Standard fonts make it possible to estimate a manuscript’s published length. For stage plays and screenplays, the formats used help estimate the length of a work, as performed or filmed.

Fiction manuscripts tend to be double-spaced. A 12-point Courier text manuscript page averages 200 to 225 words. Non-fiction varies by publisher, especially among academic journals. Some accept single-spaced manuscripts, meaning 350 to 450 words per page.


When margins are equal on left and right, the page is described as having “perfect” margins.

While most manuscript formats require 1-inch margins, some manuscripts use “binding” margins. A common binding margin is 1.25-inches, but 1.5-inches is required in some cases. The wider left hand margin offers the illusion of equal margins after the manuscript is bound.

Formatting Topics

Book Manuscript Formats

Articles and Short Works

  • Professional Journals
  • Short Fiction

Academic Formats

Script Formats

Business Documents

The Printed Page

Templates and Software

Most word processors include templates for writers. There are also specialized applications for formatting manuscripts. While you could use a typewriter, why would you? Computers have made life much easier for writers.

Our Word Templates

These are Word for Windows/Mac templates. We have used these for several years, updating them with suggestions from our clients. They are not perfect, nor are they fully automated. They have macros and short-cut keys for the styles. We will improve these templates over time, hopefully automating them more.

  • Screenplay: Simple screenplay format. Download screenplay.dotm for current versions of Word; for older Word versions. Yes, these need to be updated, but they work as a starting point.
  • Stage Script (Production Format): Stage play format, based on several sources. You can download script-prod.dotx for current versions of Word. Older versions require, while script-prod.doc works with any program that can import Word files.
  • Book: Tech Format, Tameri Template (not for submissions to publishers)
  • Book: Novel Format, Tameri Template (not for submissions to publishers)

Citing This Web Site

Any citation referring to the Tameri website must name both editors.

Schnelbach, S. and Wyatt, C. ( 1 January, 2016 ). Tameri Guide for Writers. [Online]. Available WWW:
Schnelbach, S. and Wyatt, C. “Tameri Guide for Writers.” 1 January, 2016 . Online. Internet. [Date Printed]. Available WWW:

Special Note

Belorussian translation provided by Amanda L.


Sites Linked to Here…

Writer: C. S. Wyatt
Updated: 08-Mar-2017
Editor: S. D. Schnelbach