Manuscript format: Get Your Submission Ready

When you’re submitting to the writing group, use standard manuscript format so readers can concentrate on your work without distractions.

When you submit your work to a writing group like Manchester Speculative Fiction, it’s best to use a standard manuscript format that makes reading your submission easy for other people. That way, they can concentrate on their constructive critique.

So, here’s the manuscript format you should use and some templates to help you get started.

Files, Paper Size and Fonts

  • We expect electronic submissions in Microsoft Word format.
    • I.e., .doc or .docx
  • Use A4 paper size in case people print your submission out.
    • Check you haven’t accidentally used the ‘similar-looking but it won’t print properly’, ‘US Letter’ paper size.
  • Use the same plain, readable font throughout the manuscript.
    • Times New Roman, size twelve, is a good choice.
    • Monospaced fonts like Courier are fine too.
  • Don’t use font differences to emphasise too much.
    • Bold is okay for chapter headings.
    • Italics are okay for emphasis, thoughts, etc.
    • But don’t emphasise other parts of your manuscript using:
      • Different font sizes.
      • Bold.
      • CAPITALS.
      • Underlining.
      • Colour.

On Page Manuscript Format


Put a header on the top right-hand side of each page that includes:

  • Your name.
  • The title of your piece.
  • The page number.


Whenever the narrative jumps (e.g. in time or place) mark it with a specific marker, e.g. a hash symbol ‘#’, an asterisk ‘*’ or a few dashes, so people know it is a deliberate jump.


Indent the first line of each paragraph, except for the first paragraph of a new scene.

  • Tip: setting indenting up using paragraph formatting, rather than by using the <tab> key, will save you a lot of work.


  • Dialogue for a new speaker goes in a new paragraph.
  • If the dialogue continues something the same character was doing, then it stays in the same paragraph.
  • Single speech marks denote dialogue. Double speech marks indicate quotes.
    • Tip: this is a difference between British and American English. If you’re targeting an American audience, use double quotes for dialogue. Either way, be consistent.


  • Double-space the entire text (i.e. leave a blank line between each line of text).
    • This is easy to do in Word using paragraph formatting.
    • Also, turn off the space after/before paragraphs using paragraph formatting.

The End

Your manuscript should end with a line saying The End, so your readers know nothing has gone missing from your submission.

Manuscript Format Templates

Click below to download templates that include all the manuscript formatting above.

Manuscript template in Word 2010-2013 (.docx) format

Manuscript template in Word 97-2003 (.doc) format

Manuscript Format: Make it Easy for Your Readers

If you follow the standard formatting tips above, then your readers won’t get distracted and you’ll get more substantive feedback on your work. It’s one time you don’t want to stand out!

If you have any thoughts on the article or would like to join our Manchester writing group, then please contact us.

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By Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin has been a member of the Manchester Speculative Fiction Writing Group since 2012 and edited its first two anthologies. His novels have won, or been listed for, multiple prizes including the Terry Pratchett Prize, YouWriteOn Book of the Year and Arthur C. Clarke Award.