When to use a separate title page | Proper Manuscript Format | William Shunn

When to use a separate title page

A reader writes to ask:

At the recent meeting of our local writers group we got involved in a discussion about formatting. Several of us were having problems with the header/footer and page numbering aspect of our word processing program. My problem was setting the page for "different first page" and how to begin the numbering with page 2.

Our president showed us how she set it, but the way she did it, the page numbering started on the second page but numbered it page 1. Her point was that the very first page of a manuscript was simply a "cover page" and as such should not be considered part of the numbering process. She did not have anything on her "cover page" except for name and address, word count, title and by-line.

I, on the other hand, use your format—the first page includes name, address, word count, title etc., with the story starting a third of the way down the page. Our president said that was something that would get a manuscript kicked back from an agent/editor very quickly.

This is the first time I have heard of such a thing, and I'm wondering if there have been any changes in required format that I don't know about?

You raise a couple of different issues here. The first is the question of whether or not to give your manuscript a separate title page. I suspect the confusion between you and your group president stems from the fact that novels and short stories employ slightly different formats. You may be trying to format a novel like you would a short story.

A book-length manuscript, whether for a non-fiction work or a novel, should have a separate title page. The title page will have your name and address in the upper-left corner, the title and your byline centered in the middle of the page, and an approximate word count centered at the bottom of the page. The text then starts on the second page of the manuscript, and that page should be numbered 1. You can study a portion of a sample novel manuscript here.

A manuscript for a short story or article should not have a separate title page. It should be formatted similarly to what you find here.

I would always recommend using a separate title page when submitting a novel, but I have talked to successful writers who routinely submit their novels in short story format. I doubt a manuscript would be rejected for that reason, but you should play it safe and go with standard novel format.

Now, to the second issue you raise. How do you prevent a page number from appearing on the title page of your manuscript? And, in the case of a novel manuscript, how do you adjust the numbering so that the second page of the manuscript gets numbered 1?

Before we get started, if you need instruction in creating page headers in the first place, see my earlier entry "Automatic page numbers in Word." Up to speed? Let's continue.

If you're using MS Word 2007 or a more recent version—the version with the tool ribbons at the top instead of pull-down menus—then go to the Page Layout ribbon. In the group of tools labeled Page Setup, click the little diagonal arrow icon in the lower-right corner to pop up the Page Setup dialog box. Click the Layout tab, then check the box labeled Different first page. Click OK to close the dialog. This will cause your page header to not appear on the first page of the manuscript.

For a short story manuscript, you're done. The header will not appear on the first page, and the second page will be numbered 2. If it's a novel manuscript, though, you need to go through one more step to make the second page numbered 1.

Set your cursor on the title page of the manuscript. Select the Insert ribbon. In the group of tools labeled Header & Footer, click Page Number. Choose Format page numbers from the menu that appears. A Page Number Format dialog box will pop up. In the Page numbering section, click the radio button labeled Start at. Set the number in the adjacent box to 0. Click OK to close the dialog. This will set the title page's number to zero, causing the second page of your manuscript to show up as 1.

You should find similar options in other word processors.  

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