July 11th, 2021

Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Thoughts on Writing 27

#AmWriting #IndieAuthor #WritingCommunity


A manuscript page should not look like the page out of a printed book.  Traditionally, manuscripts are not printed on both sides of the page, nor are they punched or bound in anyway.  This was primarily for my own use,  so I went ahead and printed on both sides and put it all in a three ring binder.  Other than that, it follows standard format as closely as I understand it.

The last time I visited this arena of topics, I got started on a discussion of standard format.  I tried to explain, at least as I understand it, how it came about, and how it might be important, particularly if you are attempting to query and submit along the traditional publishing path.  Today I'd like to talk about some of the specifics of standard format.

While today it is highly likely we will be submitting either full or partial manuscripts via the internet, consider for a moment that we will actually print it out and send that printed submission via the mail.  So, if we are going to print, we want to print on plain, bright white paper, letter size, 8.5 x 11 inches.  (At least if we are in the US.  In other places in the world, I believe the equivalent paper size is A4.)  It should be at least 20 lbs weight.  It needs to be durable in case it gets passed around the office and handled a lot.  It also needs ot be thick enough that underlying pages can't be seen or readily visible.  And, it should be printed in black ink.  (I think many font color selections have an "Automatic" color selection, which as far as I can see, works just fine.)

Margins should be set to one inch on all sides... top, bottom, left, and right, and we want to align left.  That is, the left hand margin should be nice and straight, except for paragraph indents.  The right hand margin should be ragged and should not be justified.  Text should be double spaced.  Typically that'll give you about twenty-three lines to a page.

The most commonly accepted fonts are Times Roman/Times New Roman, or Courier/New Courier, both in font size 12.  Times Roman/New Roman is said to closely match documents that would have been typed on an Elite typewriter while Courier/New Courier approximate those created on a Pica typewriter.

For any who don't know, an Elite typewritter was scaled to produce twelve characters per inch.  A Pica machine yielded 10 characters per inch.  It is possible, that depending upon the manufacturer and even the specific model, the actual type style may have differed.  Typewriters were also non-proportional, in that they alloted the same space for every letter, symbol,or space, regardless of how wide or narrow it was.  Most of the fonts we have on our computers are proportional and vary the spacing based on the letter's width.  Interestingly, Courier/New Courier is non proportional and comes closest to mimicking a typewritten document.  If one is intent on creating a manuscript that looks like it was produced on a typewriter, Courier/New Courier might seem to be the way to go.  But, because it approximates ten characters per inch, you end up with less text per page.  If your partial submission is limited in length, that may not be to your advantage.

Don't skip a line to start a new paragraph unless it is to indicate a scene break.  Instead, indent.  Some will say five spaces, others, a half inch.  I typically go with the half inch method and it seems that that is the standard margin setting for most word processing programs.

I'll have more the next time I consider Thoughts on Writing,
Dave