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:


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.

49 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?

      1. Thank you joe I really appreciate for the format and story thank you

    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. Pre-1970's Author

        Does it have to be explained that if you make the manuscript hard for the editor to read, you probably won’t get published, no matter when you were born? Current “individualism” doesn’t matter one iota if you are pushing your own ways of submitting on to the editor. That’s a sure way to get that rejection letter and your individually formatted submission right back to your mailbox!

  2. How to write a story

    1. William Robinson

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


      1. Joe Bunting

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

    2. Dr. Punnoose Chithrapuzha




  4. William Robinson

    Oops! I meant “BREAK.”

    Thanks again!

  5. Jonathan Hutchison

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

    1. Joe Bunting

      Thanks Jonathan! Appreciate your support. 🙂

  6. 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!

  7. Ike Allen

    That faithful morning I bump into him while rushing to meet my auntie who just return from 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

  8. Victor C.

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

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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. Nancy Bennett

    Joe, do you write The End at the end of a short story?

  13. ojasvita

    Hi Joe! Thanks,its a good article. But why to include top header with our last name?

  14. The exact information I was looking for. Thanks Joe!

  15. question

    so you indent the paragraph and don’t press enter?

  16. Well, you’re at the top of my Google search. Must be a reason for that. Your format is one I’m familiar with (but I’m 59, so I may be used to the old, chew-up, spat out version you mentioned). I was just curious if online submissions require the same. I guess they do, based on what you’re saying. Thanks Joe.

  17. Curious About Quotes


    What is the standard for introductory quotes? Should they simply follow directly after the title and author, halfway down the first page, directly before the text begins? Should they be centered, with sources centered below each quote? Thanks in advance for any input you can offer.

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  19. Is there a standard format for the subject line (if not indicated)?
    I usually use Short Story: (Story Name)

  20. Katherine Frazier

    If writing under a pseudonym, should I include my real last name or my working last name in the top-header with the (shortened) title? I know the pseudonym goes in the byline and my real name should go in the signature block, and I assume the pseudonym should also go in in header, but I’m not sure. Thank you!

  21. Olle Erlandsson

    Hi, Joe!
    Thank you for the simple and informative checklist. I have only one question. It may seem a bit stupid, but:

    You say to include the word count in the top right corner of page 1, but is that the word count for only the story itself, or including all the formatting stuff, like name and title and all that?

    Thank you again, and sorry for replying about 5 years too late!

  22. Alex Muad

    Hi, one question about separating sections. Let’s say we have a new scene or change or location, I read somewhere that we should use a new line with a “#” centered, but, should we include blank lines around it? I mean, after the last paragraph ended, should I add one blank line, then the centered #, then another blank line, and then the first paragraph of the new section/scene? Or what is your recommendation? Thanks!

  23. Very sound advice. Individualism is excellent in some aspects of life, not all.
    Now the counter is it can drive change, and I’m all for that. If the poster responding with “1970’s” can get it by their way, great, but they could stand to humble themselves some, in my opinion. Snarky, sarcastic comments do not help in the advancing of agendas. It is a natural deterrent.

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