How to use Standard Manuscript Format

In manufacturing, a standard refers to a set of rules the manufacturer must follow for their product to qualify. If you go into any multitude of manufacturers, their rule set will be identical, so long as they are working to the same standard.

That same logic does not apply to manuscripts…

At the end of last year I entered a competition that stated all stories must be submitted in “standard manuscript format” which I vaguely knew as double spaced, 12pt, regular font, not wingdings etc.

Not wanting my submission to be auto-rejected due to bad formatting I decided to research what was meant by Standard Manuscript Format. I found several articles, all with detailed pointers on line spacing etc, but not one of them had identical ‘rules’ to any of the others.

Some specified that you must use Courier New as it was the most like a typewriter font. Also you must use — instead of ( or ). Another stated that you must never use Courier New, it was a thing writers did in the past during the early days of computers. Now publishers wanted it in Times New Roman. Each article had its own unique variation that the writer claimed was integral.

Eventually, even more confused than when I began, I gave up. I went for Times New Roman, 12pt, 1 inch margins and double spaced lines. I did the cover page (which the competition did give guidance on) used page numbers and a header. Trying to get page numbers to start on page one and not appear on the cover page was a mission in itself… Not for the faint of heart or technophobic.

I think in future if the competition or publisher doesn’t link to a specific article or give clear guidance on what their standard is then I’m just going to rehash this format.

What format do you use? Is this standard thing a myth? Do publishers really care so long as it is readable?

Happy formatting x

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