Wednesday Writing: Manuscript and Cover Letter Format

So you’ve finished writing that story and you’re thinking about submitting it to a publisher. But how do you format the submission so it looks professional? Follow this guide and you’ll be indistinguishable from the pros. You may also want to adapt your basic writing routine to match this style. There are real benefits, for example, to using a monospaced font like Courier in spotting errors which is why it’s preferred by many in the industry. Not to mention it saves you from needing to reformat. So, here we go…

Jason Tanner                                             500 words
Member SFWA
1234 Street Lane
City, ST, 12345
(123) 456-7890
                         Manuscript Format

                            by J. Tanner
     The first page of the manuscript will contain a single spaced

address block in the upper left and the approximate word count of

the story in the upper right. The page will have one inch margins

all around (reduced proportionally for this example due to Web


     Drop down about a third of the page and center the name and

byline. Drop down two more lines and write the story. Indent all

paragraphs. Double space. Use Courier New font at 12 point size. 

When you want something to appear italicized, underline it.

Leave the right margin of text ragged; do no use right-justify.

If you want a scene break center the # character on a line.


     Excepting the first page, all following pages will have a

Page two and beyond…

                                        Tanner / Manuscript / 2 

header in the upper right corner that has your last name, a key

word from your title, and the page number in case the pages

get separated somehow. The manuscript will not be stapled,

but you may use a paperclip of some kind that can be easily


     When you reach the end of the story, center the word END

or the symbolic equivalent ### and you're done.


Your cover letter, if you’re including one, will be similarly formatted. It’s acceptable to use any basic font like Times or Ariel for the cover letter but I just keep it simple and stick to Courier. My “Member SFWA” only goes in if it’s going to an applicable market. I don’t put it in mystery story submissions. If you don’t have any credits, or don’t have credits remotely similar to the magazine genre you’re submitting to, it’s probably best to leave that whole paragraph out. When it’s included, don’t go beyond the three or so most prestigious credits–a laundry list looks silly.

Keep it short and sweet. Here’s my template…

Jason Tanner                                September 12, 2011
Member SFWA
1234 Street Lane
City, ST, 12345
(123) 456-7890

[magazine address]

Dear editor:

Please consider the enclosed story [story title] for publication 
in [magazine name].

I've had fiction appear in [X], [Y], and [Z].


{handwritten signature here}

Jason Tanner

That’s all there is to it. Just follow the rules and don’t overthink it. Save the thinking for the story, not the manuscript formatting.

This post is based conceptually on the similar guide from William Shunn that goes into much more depth into why the format is the way it is. If you want all the reasoning behind the advice here, check out the link.


One thought on “Wednesday Writing: Manuscript and Cover Letter Format

  1. Pingback: cover letter format » UTILITY DOCUMENTS

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