Standard Format for Manuscripts

Have you been told by an editor that the first thing you need to do is standardize the format of the document? Or, now that I asked that, are you concerned that may happen? Don’t panic. It’s not as complicated as it sounds.  Here are the standards outlined for you to simply apply to your manuscript. It can be a little tricky, though, if you’ve actually used the enter key for spaces between paragraphs, the tab key for indents, and the space bar to put your cursor anywhere else. In that case, here’s the two things that will save you now and later. Write everything else you ever write by setting these format standards up on the front end. Follow these easy steps to standardize what you have now.

The following settings are applied and set to the Normal Style button in your home menu:

  • Times New Roman
  • 12 points
  • First line indention for new paragraphs–either 0.2″ or 0.5″ is standard
  • 1.5 line spacing (this can be changed to single after all work is completed and as a last step before formatting to publish by right clicking on the Normal Style button>Modify>open Format menu in lower left corner>select Paragraph>Line Spacing to single
  • 0 points before and after paragraphs

The page layout is also set to Letter, 1” margins, ½ inch footers and headers, and portrait layout and these settings can be found under the Page Layout menu.


Update the Normal style setting button by right clicking to modify it.

Use the above list to set this style.

Select the section of text you wish to apply it to…generally, you can apply the normal setting to everything and then you will have to go back and do the chapter titles separately anyway.

CTL+A selects all, then click the Clear All Formatting button, then click the Normal style button.

Now you can turn on the show paragraph marks by clicking on the backwards P symbol on the Home menu. Delete all the extra spaces (use Find and Replace for double spaces to single spaces and one space appears as a dot between words), extra enters (these appear as backwards P’s between paragraphs), and tabs (these appear as an arrow where you have indented with the tab key).

Next, insert page breaks at the end of each chapter and set the new chapter title with the Heading 1 style button.

That Heading may need to be set to your preferences on top of the standards…chapter titles should have the same basic format but should be bold and can be underlined and/or italics, can be centered, or justified right or left. Right click the Heading 1 button>select Modify>use the menu the same as described for the Normal button.

Once the heading style button is updated, just update the format directly in the document as you do the page breaks.

You can open your Navigation Pane (click Find and look on the left side of your document) and select headings to reveal a list of all your chapter titles. This is a very useful tool to be certain of the accuracy of your list.


Never use the tab key, space bar, or enter key to space content over pages. Use your settings features and then any updates or changes to formatting can be more easily changed as needed. When you use the tab key, space bar, or enter key and decide to change things later, you have to go through the entire document and fix each of those keystrokes individually. If you use the settings feature in the style selection (Normal and Heading), when you change the settings, it automatically applies to the entire document as you work.

You can change the way your chapter heading or short story title looks by right clicking on the Heading 1 button and selecting Modify. This will cause the changes to apply to everything you used the Heading 1 button to format…effectively removing the underline from all chapter titles all at once!

Headers and Footers are key to labeling the document properly. Located in the Insert menu are the function buttons to embed your name and the title of the manuscript and the page numbers. Once inserted, the information will appear on all pages.

After editing, you’ll modify your Normal style setting to have no spaces between paragraphs and be single spaced lines. Just those few clicks transforms the entire document from opened up for editing and proofreading to ready for beginning the formatting process for print or ebook publishing.

Download the Manuscript Template here.


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