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Manuscript Formatting – Ask Anne The Pro Writer


Thank you for your tremendous effort to keep us informed as to potential work. I have found the insights tremendously helpful.

My questions:

  1.  I am preparing my final manuscript. What format should it be in?
  2. Should I invest in Quark..or some other layout software?
  3. Is there a site I can go to and download the format needed..and accepted by such houses as Penquin/Putnam?
Thanks agian,
Hi DP,
Glad you find the job postings and the rest of the sit useful.
  1. Manuscript formatting is simple. The first guide is to make sure it’s as readable as possible. That means double space, an easy to read typeface – TimesRoman is fine, decent margins (an inch or close) and page numbers that run sequentially. Running heads are a real help, but not required. Keep it ragged right.
  2. No, you don’t need Quark or other layout software – your word processing software is fine. You’re not typesetting, you’re presenting a manuscript. Chances, if your manuscript is accepted, the final digital version will be used for typesetting or to turn into a .pdf, but that’s not the point right now. And, unless you self-publish, it won’t be your job.
  3. Writing World has a Quick Guide to Manuscript Format that’s pretty good – maybe a bit more complicated than it needs to be.
Readability is the key. Put yourself in the first reader’s position. A professionally presented manuscript will get more attention than one that’s a mess, or one that crowds the margins, or starts chapters at the top of the page rather than part way down.
On the other hand, no one will throw out your manuscript because your contact information is on the left instead of the right or visa versa.
My Writers Market is still packed, but I’m 90 percent sure it’s got instructions about formatting there too – and in this case even an older copy of the annual would work.
Do you have a question about freelance writing? Ask Anne, The Writing Pro – that’s me 😉 Ask in the comments or send an email and put Q&A in the subject line so I can sort it out from spam and I’ll do my best. Meanwhile, you’ll find some Q&A’s here: Ask Anne, The Pro Writer
Write well and often,

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