About ten years ago an agent told me not to submit manuscripts in fonts other than Courier (or Courier New) and to double-space lines. He said editors were prejudiced against manuscripts that looked like they were written on a word processor (as opposed to a typewriter, I guess).

Assuming this was ever true, do editors still expect to see the monospace Courier font?

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    A lot of ground has been covered in these responses but what I find interesting is that no one has said how courier differs from courier new and whether agents and publishers will accept Manuscripts in courier new. Is there a difference? – user18450 Apr 2 '16 at 13:33

A significant proportion of agents and editors still want submissions in Standard Manuscript Format, which includes using a serif monospace font such as Courier. Many of them have become less fussy about the particular font and will also accept a proportional font such as Times Roman. However, in no case should you use a non-serif font, or anything that you wouldn't use in business correspondence. Double-spacing is still pretty much a universal requirement.

In general, you'll always be safe by sticking to the most conservative standard, as no one will be bothered by it, and some people still require it.

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    Not unlike wearing a suit to a job interview. ;) – rianjs Mar 23 '11 at 15:26
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    I would agree with everything in that link above other than Courier; I'd use Times. For me, it's because Courier is so obviously pretending to be a typewriter that it's actually a distraction. Most actual novels you pick up are either in Times or something close to it. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Mar 23 '11 at 16:09
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    If the editors have a problem with the font, it takes a few clicks and it's a different font. It's not like back in the 90s where you had to print the manuscript out. – Ralph Gallagher Mar 28 '11 at 0:54
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    @Lauren Ipsum All of the publishers I work with require their editors to make sure the manuscripts are in 12pt Times New Roman. Whether the formatting people change that afterward, I'm not positive, but I don't think they do. – Ralph Gallagher Mar 28 '11 at 0:56
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    @JSBangs printed novels are set in a variety of fonts. USually it'll tell you in the first few pages (with the library of congress info) or in the back – gmoore Mar 28 '11 at 2:06

When I was doing work as an Editor I loved the Courier font, or any fixed pitch font for that matter. As nice as Times New Roman looks, after reading 100+ first pages it starts to wear on the eyes. A fixed pitch font just makes it easier to read page after page and in the end readability wins when it comes to formatting and fonts.

But as for what an editor expects. If they say they want it in Courier send it in as Courier (it goes back to the rule of Always Follow the Submission Guidelines).

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    Yep, once you get used to seeing manuscripts in courier, they just look...right. – Ash Mar 24 '11 at 8:33
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    I'd like to +1 the pointer about submission guidelines. You don't need to guess; they'll tell you what they're looking for. If you've got an agent for your novel, s/he should also know. – Standback Mar 27 '11 at 21:41

When I edit MSS, I find it easy and natural to work on copy that's 'typed' in Courier and double spaced. Another fixed-pitch font might be OK, I guess, but Courier is by far the most familiar and the easiest to edit, AFAIAC.

It's impossible to edit matter set in a variable-spaced font;1 there's just not enough room2 to insert proofreaders' marks quickly and accurately.

So why not give an editor what she's used to? It can't hurt.

-- pete

1 Times is the worst, the total pits.
2 Because it's a virtue to set variable-spaced fonts tightly, in the least horizontal space. For example, try to correct the spelling of 'spellling' as it's set here. Can you even see the error?

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  • Courier doesn't italicize well. Is it the convention to underline instead of italicize in manuscripts? – Robusto Aug 18 '11 at 11:12
  • @Robusto -- In my days as an editor, it was the convention to underline matter that's to be italicized. Maybe it's changed: that would be a good thing. But, in the end, the publisher will always tell the author what convention to follow. – Pete Wilson Jan 13 '12 at 11:53

First step: check the publisher's web site for their specific submission guidelines! They probably say right there how they want to receive your manuscript.

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For reading purposes, stick to a good, well-known serif font (like Times New Roman), or slab serif font (like Courier). The reason I say this is because - regardless of your manuscript looking like it was written with a typewriter font - serif fonts are much easier to read in print than sans-serif fonts (like Arial).

On a writing course I've done, they gave the following recommendations as well:

Definitely stick with the double spacing of your lines. Use a new line for paragraphs rather than a spaced gap i.e. the spacing between the previous paragraph and the new one is the same as your line height. Indent each paragraph / new line, except the opening paragraph of the chapter/section.

I'd also recommend using single quotes for speech, rather than double quotes.

Edit: Note that these are likely UK-based styles, particularly the single quotes.

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    Single quotes, what? I've never heard of anything like that, especially since in most fonts there is no visible difference between a single quote and an apostrophe. – JSBձոգչ Mar 23 '11 at 15:25
  • Can't say I've had that problem. The sorts of fonts that you're likely to use for a submission should handle it just fine. Editors like Word handle the correct characters perfectly fine, too (at least in my experience with fonts like Times New Roman, Bookman Old Style etc.). – Craig Sefton Mar 23 '11 at 15:52
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    Single quotes for speech is the British style; double quotes for speech is American style. Punctuate for your audience. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Mar 23 '11 at 16:06
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    No. Just no. I will personally kill any author whose manuscript comes to me with single quotes instead of double for dialog. Then I'll go kill the acquisitions editor for accepting the piece. Even working with British authors and publishers like @Lauren said, I've /never/ seen this be acceptable. Single quotes are not for dialog. – Ralph Gallagher Mar 28 '11 at 2:19
  • @Ralph Gallagher: Never? To help start your kill list, a quick look on my bookshelf suggests you hunt down William Gibson, Steven Erikson, and Isaac Assimov. Admittedly, that was only three out of the four books I checked, but that's good enough to start. (Although I think Assimov is already dead, so perhaps his editor or publisher would suffice). – Craig Sefton Mar 28 '11 at 7:16

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