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I plan to write a novel, but before I do so, I need to know if Microsoft Word's manuscript format is accurate.

  • Use the simple high school MLA format, I use it and it seems a lot cleaner than anything else I've used in the past. – Aspen the Artist and Author Jul 4 '17 at 3:18
  • @AspenRand MLA format is different from novel writing. It is designed with the purpose of research writing and presenting facts backed by resources. – ggiaquin16 Jul 5 '17 at 17:30
  • To answer your question Galactic, there seems to be a ton of custom templates you can insert into Word and a quick google showed a bunch of templates for manuscripts. This how to format manuscripts might be what you are looking for or help you gauge accuracy. – ggiaquin16 Jul 5 '17 at 17:36
  • @ggiaquin Oh, I'm still using MLA in school, so that's what I use for writing drafts. It can still be useful if you're looking at sources and want to keep the original search 🔎 .. – Aspen the Artist and Author Jul 7 '17 at 3:12
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I'll go one step further. (I run a publishing company). Do as little formatting as possible!

Italics, bold -- ok. Lists, numbering -- ok. Justify -- turn off. line spacing, indenting, page formatting -- avoid tinkering with that.

I would use only two styles from the MS Word styles: the Title style (or Heading style) and the Body style. Then I would modify the Body style to choose a more readable font (like Calibri, Cambria, Candara, Consolas and Corbel). Edit the Style -- not the text itself.

A publisher will accept a digital copy, then import the content into their own template. Any extraneous formatting needs to be manually removed.

Each publisher is different -- and if they have guidelines, you will need to follow them. But generally, the fewer things you format, the better.

  • You mention turning off justification and august in their answer also said to turn it off but leave the ragged edge. Since MS word defaults to left justification, and you have to pick one of the options, how do you not justify something? – ggiaquin16 Jul 10 '17 at 17:37
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    @ggiaquin16 They mean a ragged right edge. By "justification" they mean do not allow it to add space between words so sentences all end at the same point. – Amadeus Apr 16 at 16:03
  • Great answer, thank you. Is there a comma missing after "indenting"? Are you saying that new paragraphs should be indented or it should be turned off? The default in Word is not to have indenting and you say to avoid tinkering with it. – Cyn Apr 16 at 16:55
  • Actually, even though I've already upvoted this, would you ahem reformat paragraph 2 to be clear what is on or off? This is super useful info and I'm finding it hard to parse that paragraph. Thanks! (just noticed this is 2 years old...so no worries if you don't see it or don't want to bother) – Cyn Apr 16 at 16:56
  • It's generally not a good idea to make a style which globally affects indenting. There may be special cases -- verse, etc, but the reading system usually handles what happens to all paragraphs. – idiotprogrammer Apr 16 at 20:28
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It actually depends on to whom you submit: some want no tabs, others want certain fonts or certain headers and pagination. Your best bet is to forget all templates and rely on this:

Double-spaced 12 point Courier or Times New Roman; ragged edge (do not justify---ever); page numbers in the top right corner; your name at the top, and, quite possibly, the title of the MS on every page.

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It's actually good, if you're talking about the default supplied Word MS format.

I don't use Word, I use Scrivener, but I checked it against the template I use and it's almost identical. TNR 12, double spaced you can't go wrong with and the header is professionally laid out.

The only things I changed for submission were:

  1. Larger chapter headings that start halfway down the page.

  2. Not to indent the first paragraph at chapter start and following line breaks for time (I think this looks more professional).

  3. All caps for my header (just a personal preference).

If you're submitting to agents, they're human beings. They aren't going to toss a great MS because it uses a slightly different MS format/template. All they really want is something easily readable. But check the submission guidelines for every agent/publisher you submit to and make sure its in line. Most just say a standard 12pt font double spaced, and no more than that.

You're onto a winner with that template though, it's fine.

Good luck!

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