These are general rules concerning the layout of manuscripts, and should be adhered to for prose writing (stories, flash fiction and articles). Drama requires a different layout (BBC Writers Room has excellent layout/formatting information). Poetry should not be double-spaced. All the information about layouts is available on the internet. But, remember that publishers vary – it’s important to give what is asked for. Especially if they ask for e-submissions only, or postal submissions only.
1. Use 12-point Times New Roman: 12-point text is easiest to read, and on a screen, the editor will be set up for it.
2. Double space the text: it allows an adjudicator/editor to make notes between lines. The exception is Poetry, which should be single-spaced. You can use the ‘double-spacing’ in the computer’s formatting menu and save hitting ‘return’ twice at the end of each line.
3. Except the first paragraph (start at left margin) indent paragraphs by 4 or 5 spaces; don’t leave an empty line between paragraphs. Each new paragraph, and line of speech, should be indented. There’s an option to indent the first line of each paragraph automatically in the formatting options on computers. E-documents usually have a blank line between paragraphs but this style should not be used in text documents.
3a. If you want to mark a change of scene or time (usually a blank line is used in a printed book) mark it with 3 or 4 centred asterisks. This will be visible when the text is copied into other software for typesetting. An empty line would disappear in translation.
4. Leave margins of roughly an inch. Don’t shrink the margins to get more text onto the page, or enlarge them for the opposite reason.
5. Headers and Footers: It’s important to have the title of manuscript as a ‘header’ on each page, and pages numbered (centred as a ‘footer’ looks good).
6. Use A4 paper. Don’t try to use ‘book’ size pages
7. Title Page. Manuscripts should be accompanied by a Title Page, unless it is stated that this is not required. There are different ideas on this one. Check if your publisher has asked for information. Fairly standard is to have the author’s name and address, phone number and e-mail address in the top left of the page, single spaced, left-justified If a pseudonym is required, this usually should be a one-word name. And obviously the identifying information should be omitted in the top left. The word count, rounded up or down, and should be adhered to if required by a competition or publisher. Sometimes the name of your writing group will be asked for – as in SAW competitions.
Your cover page should accompany all mss. Put the title of your submission and your pseudonym on top right-hand header of each page for competitions.