It’s been a while since I’ve updated my own standard manuscript file, so I took some time this morning to do that. Most of this week’s post, then, will be found as downloads from Athans & Associates Creative Consulting.

But first, here’s a handy guide for some basic formatting stuff:

Always only ever use 12-point Times New Roman.

Formatting, in Word, is actually pretty easy. If you’re using a PC (I’m a Mac guy) the interface might be a little different, but the basic settings are under:




Set General:

Alignment: Left


Set Indentation:

Left: 0”

Right: 0”

Special: First line by: 0.5”


Set Spacing:

Before: 0”

After: 0”

Line Spacing: Double


Then click on: Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style

…and you’re 90% of the way there.


Then, under


Choose: AutoCorrect

click on: Automatically correct spelling and formatting while you type.


Under AutoCorrect, Math AutoCorrect, and AutoText, uncheck all other boxes.

Under AutoFormat As You Type, check only“straight quotes” with “smart quotes” and Hyphens (–) with em dash (—).


Then set your headers:

First, under Format/Document

Go to: Layout

Click on Different first page

The default margins should be 0.5”—leave those as is.

There should be no header on the first page and no footer on any pages.

For page 2 and beyond, set the header flush right to look like this:

Your Name/“Title of Story”/page number


Your Name/Title of Novel/page number

The header can be in 11-point Times New Roman.


But there’s more, which I’ve presented in three handy formats.

Click here for .docx

Click here for .doc

Click here for .pdf

Of course, write in any format or lack thereof that pleases you, but when you’re ready to get this ready to send to an editor, agent, or any other reader, make these easy but essential formatting changes!


—Philip Athans

Follow me on Twitter @PhilAthans

Link up with me on LinkedIn

Friend me on GoodReads

Find me at PublishersMarketplace

Or contact me for editing, coaching, ghostwriting, and more at Athans & Associates Creative Consulting.



About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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  1. Michael Tedin says:

    For those of us who use Scrivener or some other writing software, it’s probably a good idea to check to make sure it is exported with the correct formatting. I think I assumed it had exported it correctly, but there were some margin and indentation errors.

  2. Pingback: No Wasted Ink Writers Links | No Wasted Ink

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