Look up manuscript formatting and you’re likely to get some very specific directions. One will tell you to leave 1.5 inches all the way around, others may suggest that the right margin should be 1.75 inches while the left must be 1.25.
You’ll also get instructions on type face, where to put your contact information, how big your title should be and how you should number pages.
Those kinds of specifics are pretty much nonsense!
Think about it from an editor’s point of view. What the editor wants is a manuscript that’s easy to read, even to scan. That means double spacing. They want enough room in the margins to make notes. An inch-and-a half is good, but I can guarantee you they won’t take a ruler to your work to make sure. Using Word(tm) defualts is just fine.
An editor also wants complete contact information easily found in case she want to call or email you. Page numbers are a real help – even editors drop manuscripts.
Typeface should be easy to read and fairly standard. Sure TimesRoman is boring, but it’s also kind of like comfort food because it’s so familiar. A point size of 11 or 12 is also appreciated – by the end of the day (or often the evening) eyes that read all day love larger type. If you suspect it will be read online, Georgia was designed for reading on a computer screen.
Headlines or titles in bold and centered help. And if you need subheads, make them bold and just a bit larger than the body copy.
Do NOT under any circumstances put your manuscript on anything but white paper. Any standard white paper will do – don’t get caught up in brightness scales. If you must use colored paper, keep it pale and for cover letters only.
You see, what the editor or agent or publisher is really interested in is how well you write. And how well what you write fits their needs. When you find yourself worrying about margins or some other formatting exactness you’re probably avoiding writing.
Keep your manuscript formatting simple – let your writing shine.