Monday, April 23, 2012

Standard manuscript formatting

“What is ‘standard manuscript format’?” I’ve heard that question many times at writers’ workshops and groups. I suspect that there are several answers, depending on whom you ask. Some of the “rules” you’ll hear undoubtedly relate to the more specific requirements but there are some basic ones that are applicable across the board. For submissions to The Alchemy Press these are probably sufficient. To remind you:
  • Double-spaced text
  • A standard, easy-to-read font, such as Times New Roman or Arial
  • A 12-point typeface
  • Indent the first line of new paragraphs (although the first line of the first paragraph of new sections or chapters may be left without the indent). Many publications, including The Alchemy Press, ask you not to use the tab or space bars when making indents – use the ruler guide instead
  • Left justified only
  • No extra line between paragraphs, but is acceptable between section breaks and chapters
  • Indicate section breaks and chapters with *** or similar (or the chapter title)
  • Do not use an extra space between sentences
  • Margins of 1.0-1.5 inches (2.5-3.0 cm) all round
  • Use italics for titles of films, books, etc (some publications may ask for these to be underlined)
  • Include the author’s contact details (address, email) on the first page (repeating this information on the final page may be useful, especially on longer manuscripts)
  • Read the guidelines: if they state a maximum story length up to 5,000 words do not send a submission of 8,000 words without checking beforehand. And if there is a theme and/or other requirements, ensure your submission meets them
Specific Alchemy Press submission requirements: 
  • Send the document as a Word or RTF attachment for email submissions; do not paste the story in the body of the email
  • The email subject line must include information that readily identifies your submission; use both story title and your name (not the file name if different)
  • Send the manuscript to the address listed in the guidelines for that anthology; general queries can be sent to the main Alchemy Press e-address
  • A short  covering letter or email is all we need, stating basic details. We don’t require  a complete list of previous publications. A link to your blog or website will be sufficient 
  • A brief biography of 50-100 words will be required if your story is selected for publication 
  • If you are a UK-based writer submitting to a UK publication, select A4 page size; it really does help. And set your spell checker to British-English
  • Speech marks: this is a bag of worms, and individual editors have their own preference. Read the submission guidelines. If you use double quotes, use single marks for quotes within speech (see the first sentence of this blog).
  • All submissions will be read after the stated submission period ends and then the selection process should take six-eight weeks. Please bear with us
  • Frequently, stories will be accepted subject to editorial suggestions/requests. Any such suggestions are intended to help the writer improve the story so consider them carefully
  • Should your story be selected, the final format will be altered to conform to the ‘house’ rules for spelling, numbers, dates, etc
These guidelines are not meant to be onerous. In fact, they will help the new writer develop his or her trade, to learn how to send professional-looking manuscripts to mainstream publishers. Smart, clean manuscripts are more likely to be read than ones presented in an idiosyncratic format.

Happy writing!


  1. Just so I'm certain, as I've seen it both ways, 1 or 2 spaces after a period?

    Thank you

  2. Hi, can you please confirm the submission address for Pulp Heroes? I tried pulpheroes[at] as posted on the Pulp Heroes page(but obviously with the [at] replaced by an @) but I got a delivery failure message. Thanks!

  3. Please read the post on the blog:
    It explains the situation, which, sadly, is still not resolved.

  4. Not sure if it's acceptable to submit at May 30, 10:30pm, Western Canada time, but I guess I gotta try.

  5. A day or two over is acceptable, seeing as you're on the other side of the 'pond' ;-)