How to Format a Short Story Manuscript for Submission: a Checklist

When you submit a short story to a literary magazine, the editors expect your story to be formatted in a very particular way. Before you submit, make sure to follow the following guidelines:

Books

The Short Story Formatting Checklist

  • Write your name, address, phone number, and email address in the top left corner of page 1.
  • Include the word count in top right corner.
  • Always use 12-point, courier font.
  • Always double-space.
  • Use 1-inch margins.
  • Include the title of your story and your author name ½ of the way down the first page.
  • Indent your paragraphs (like a book). Don’t use line breaks (like a blog).
  • Include a top-header with your last name, the abbreviated story title (no more than 3 or 4 words), and the page number in top right corner, beginning on page 2.
  • Use a pound sign (#) to separate any line breaks.

Submission Package

If you mail your short story:

  • Do not staple your pages. Leave them unstapled, loose leaf.
  • Include a brief cover letter mentioning the title of your story, a 30-word bio, and any major publications you’ve been accepted in.
  • In the package, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

To see an example and read a fuller explanation of standard formatting, get your copy of Let’s Write a Short Story! a guide for writing and submitting short stories to literary magazines.

About Joe Bunting

Joe is a ghostwriter, editor, and author. He writes and edits books that change lives. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Free Updates!

Subscripe the newsletter and get notified about free articles, story workshops, new resources, and other updates.

20 Replies

  1. I'd rather post as guest

    Courrier font? you must be a line from Guidelines published in some 1970s magazine that was torn out of paper, chewed up, spat out and somehow entered the brain of Joe Bunting, who seem to be born in late 1970s or eaerly 1980s.

    1. J.J.

      You submit the way they want you to submit, whether you approve of their style or not, or they throw your piece out, it’s that simple. If they want you to submit your piece all in Wingdings, with a graphic page frame, you do it. Courier is legible, period. It’s not a question of what aesthetic you like, it’s only ever a question of what the editor likes. If they still like Courier, you submit in Courier, end of discussion. What’s the problem?

    2. Joe Bunting

      Ha! Ok?

      Unsurprisingly, most editors were born well BEFORE that. That’s standard manuscript formatting, whether it fits your “modern” sensibilities or not. Sorry!

    1. William Robinson

      Joe,
      What do you mean when you state don’t use a line breat?

      Thanks

      1. Joe Bunting

        Just that you don’t have a gap between paragraphs.

  2. MARTHA

    GREAT INFORMATION, THANK YOU!!!!

  3. William Robinson

    Oops! I meant “BREAK.”

    Thanks again!

  4. Jonathan Hutchison

    Thanks. This was a very helpful article. I stumbled upon it as I was doing some research. I am a member of thewritepractice.com another valuable resource especially for new writers.

    1. Joe Bunting

      Thanks Jonathan! Appreciate your support. 🙂

  5. Jo

    What does seem to be missing from this article is whether one should align one’s work left, full, or all. I know some editors can get very picky about this, and you don’t address the issue at all. Is it because it varies widely, or is it because you assume we already know the answer? In either case, I do not know the answer… Me admit, me dopey.

    Also, what is the generally-preferred file format for electronic submissions? .doc? .rtf? I’m guessing it’s *not* .pdf… Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Joe Bunting

      Left is fine.

    2. Joe Bunting

      For e-submissions, each publication is different. They’ll tell you on their guidelines. It’s usually .doc but sometimes .pdf is accepted. Thanks!

  6. Ike Allen

    That faithful morning I bump into him while rushing to meet my auntie who just return from Lagos.watch were ur walking he said as he bends to pick the papers which fell during the accident.i never bothered to say sorry I only had a quick glance at him and never stop walking like who is being chased by an angry lion,auntie blessing have been in Lagos for 13year so I can’t wait to see her.when I was close to the train station I decided to call her to know her position so i deep my hands into my pocket to get my phone but I couldn’t find it

  7. Victor C.

    Very informative article. Thank you for writing this, I’m glad I accidentally stumbled upon this.

  8. Thanks for your tips. Reading these comments and some people are so fkn ungrateful. You’re appreciated.

  9. Thanks for this. I have to say I am a bit shocked about Courrier and the insistance on it. I was sure any font that was fixed with, Times Roman or Times New Roman I think, is what I always use. No wonder I get rejected right? I have never put my name and address on the short story itself as many submissions ask for a blind copy. Meaning the writers details only go in the email not on the story itself. Good to know this so I can get my act together. Cheers

  10. Jim Bartlett

    Hi Joe
    Just stumbled on this (and will be picking up your book) as I was researching short story submission formatting. Up to now I’d always placed my contact info in the upper right, with the word count just below the title and author info mid-page, which is how I had been taught. But folks in my writing group have constantly been “correcting” my work, with the suggestion I use your format. (Nice to know they have been right!) My question, after that long-winded intro, is, do you indent the opening paragraph? Once again, I’d been shown that opening paragraphs for each chapter (or the beginnings to a short), as well as any paragraph following a scene break, were NOT to be indented, as this helped clarify “a new beginning” as it were. I’ve also used an inch and a quarter margin, which is probably minor detail, but the devil is in the details, now, isn’t he? The rest, including the use of the 12-point Courier font, double-spacing (here I was taught 15 lines on the first page, and 25 for all subsequent), and header info falls right in line with my old school learnings. Thanks for reading, and thanks for the info – very helpful!!
    Take care
    Jim

Leave a Reply