Short Story Format, Pg. 5

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An earlier version of this article was reprinted in Writers Write: The Internet Writing Journal, December 1998

                                               Shunn / Format / 5

The surname and keyword are important because sometimes unbound

manuscripts happen to fall off editors’ desks and become mixed up

with other manuscripts.  The header helps the editorial staff

reassemble yours in the proper order.

     Except for paragraph indentations, the left margin of your

manuscript should be ruler-straight.  The right margin, however,

should be ragged, not justified.  Right justification messes up

the spaces between words and sentences and makes the manuscript

more of a chore to read.

     In the days of typewriters, the usual practice was to put

two spaces after the end of every sentence, and also to put two

spaces after every colon.  This helped make the separations

between sentences more apparent, and helped editors more easily

distinguish periods from commas and colons from semicolons.  With

the dominance of computers, that practice is changing, and it is

more common now to see only one space between sentences.

Ingrained habits die hard, though, so if you’re used to hitting

the spacebar twice after a period, you shouldn’t stress out about

it, particularly if you’re using a Courier font.

     If you intend a word or phrase to appear in italics, the

convention has long been to indicate this in your manuscript by

underlining.  This practice, too, is beginning to change.  In

Courier you should continue to underline, since italics in

monospaced fonts are easy to overlook.  In Times New Roman,

though, it’s becoming more and more acceptable to use italics

directly.  (Again, consult submission guidelines when you’re in

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Now go ahead and study a sample excerpt from a novel manuscript.
What similarities do you notice? What differences?

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