These are the guidelines for how to format a short story for submission to a possible publisher. As stated, these are guidelines and are not an absolute industry standard. There is no absolute standard. Different publications have different submission requirements. Always check the submission guidelines of any publication you submit to because they may vary from these guidelines in important ways. If the publication does not give conflicting information, however, fall back on these guidelines to get you through the process.
How to format a short story – paper
- The paper should be white, unlined, and 8.5 x 11 inches.
- Outside of the United States and Canada, A4 size paper is used in many countries. If you live in one of those countries, you should already know this. If you are submitting to a foreign country, you need to check on the paper standards for that country.
- Only use one side of the paper; do not print on both the front and back of pages.
How to format a short story – type
- Use a standard, readable typeface/font. Times / Times Roman, Helvetica, and Arial are typical fonts.
- Font size should be at least 10 (point) at most 12 (point).
- NEVER use a script-style font.
How to format a short story – margins and spacing
- Leave a 1-inch margin on all sides of your manuscript.
- Except when specifically instructed to do otherwise, double-space your lines throughout the story.
- Do not include extra space between paragraphs.
- You are not required to indent the first line of each paragraph. If you choose to, you may indent the first line 1/2 inch from the left margin.
How to format a short story – page one
- At the upper left-hand corner of the page, include the following information. It should be flush left with each item of information on a separate line. This portion of your manuscript is the only portion that needs to be single-spaced.
- Mailing address
- City, state or province, zip or postal code (and country if sending outside of your own country
- Phone number(s)
- In the upper right-hand corner of the page, flush right, include the approximate word count, rounded to the nearest hundred for stories under 10,000 words and to the nearest thousand for stories above 10,000 words.
- At the exact center of your page (vertically and horizontally) type the title of your manuscript. You may use title case or all capital letters.
- Two lines below your title, centered, include your byline. This is either your real name or a pseudonym.
- Begin the body of your manuscript (your story) four lines below your byline. This portion of your manuscript needs to be double spaced.
How to format a short story – pages other than page one
- In the upper left or right side of each page include the page number and your last name. This should appear about four lines above your body text.
Things to avoid
- Never include your social security number
- Do not type -30-, the end, or end at the conclusion of your manuscript. Just end it.
- Don’t staple or otherwise bind your manuscript. You may use a paperclip or a butterfly clamp to hold pages together.
- Do not include information about rights, a copyright notice, or any other personal details on your manuscript. If you must discuss these, do so in a cover letter
- What is a Short Story?
- Escaping the Slush Pile
- Where to submit short stories
- 325 Paying Markets for Short Stories, Poetry, Nonfiction