How to Format a Manuscript in Word 2010

October 12, 2010, By Christian Cawley

I’m currently writing a couple of books; one is a novel, the other a non-fiction account of a TV series. Naturally I’m using Microsoft Word 2010 in order to do this – but it came as a surprise to find that there aren’t many good manuscript templates.

As a result, I’ve been through trial and error process of adjusting various settings in Word 2010 in order to find the right look and layout to meet the standard requirement of wide margins, double line spacing and the usual header and footer information.

How to Format a Manuscript in Word 2010

I’m going to go through the various settings that you need to use in Word 2010 in order to successfully style your document as a manuscript that will be acceptable to agencies and publishers.

Formatting Your Manuscript

The main requirement of agencies and publishers is that the text of a submitted manuscript is correctly formatted. The generally accepted font or type face for this is Times New Roman 12 pt; although there has been a switch away from this in recent years, it is still the standard. You can set this option by selecting your text use the tools in the Font section of the Home tab.

At this point, you should edit the Header to include your name, the title of the book (this may be shortened) and the page number, which can be entered via the Page Number > Top of Page tool.

Applying Double Line Spacing

Formatting your document to be acceptable to publishers means also adjusting the line spacing and margins. Margin requirements can differ, but I would recommend bring them in by around 1cm on each side. You should check the submission requirements for clarification on this, and adjust the margins for the entire document via the Margins > Custom Margins tool in the Page Layout tab.

Meanwhile, double line spacing should also be set. This is a convention that enables agents and publishers to quickly read the manuscript as well as make notes (the same reason the margins are widened). You can adjust the line spacing by selecting all text, right-clicking and choosing Paragraph… from the context menu. Here, simply change the Spacing option to Double.

Alternatively and much more effectively, you might use the Styles section of the Home tab. Go to Change Styles > Style Set > Manuscript to apply the double line spacing across the whole document.

Don’t Want to Manually Format Your Manuscript?

If you create a new document in Word 2010 and search the templates for “manuscript”, you will find a single suitable template file. However this doesn’t offer the level of flexibility that it probably should, and is suitable only for novels and short stories.

However if you don’t have time to manually format your manuscript, you should use this option. What you certainly shouldn’t do is to attempt to meet the requirements laid down by publishing convention by using the wrong functions; for instance, don’t go through your entire document using the Enter/carriage return key to “double-space” the text when it can be done with a single mouse click as outlined above.

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