How to Format an Unpublished Novel in Word 2007

by Katelyn Kelley

Proper formatting is the first step to a successful submission in the publishing industry. When editors are looking for a reason to reject, a poorly prepared manuscript is the easiest to spot. Formatting an unpublished manuscript requires making setting changes to the margins, the paragraph indentations, the line spacing, and the font. Microsoft Word allows you to make these changes easily and present your manuscript to editors in the standard manuscript format they expect.

The First Line Indent

Create a backup of your manuscript file. When trying something new, never use your original file as a test subject.

Open Word and open the manuscript file you want to format. Unless a publisher's guidelines indicate otherwise, editors expect the first line of paragraphs to be indented .5 inches.

Figure 1 - The Select Panel Under the Home Tab

Select all the text in your document by pressing the Ctrl and A keys together at the same time or by going to the Home tab, all the way to the right and choosing Select-->All from the last panel at the top of the screen. (See Figure 1). Be CAREFUL when you have all your text selected that you don't accidentally hit a key on the keyboard or you'll delete everything!

Select the Page Layout tab at the top of the screen, then click the Margin icon and check that your margins are set to 1 inch all around, which is the default setting for Word 2007.

Figure 2 - The Format Paragraph Panel

Select Paragraph from the Home tab, and click the tiny icon (box with arrow) in the lower right of the tab panel to expand the panel into a dialog box (see Figure 2).

Figure 3 - The Format Paragraph Dialog Box

Choose "First Line" from the drop down menu under "Special," and check that .5" appears in the value box next to the menu (see Figure 3).

Line Spacing

Choose "Exactly" from the drop down menu and enter 25 pt in the value box. (Note: the value 25 has no correlation to the number of lines expected. For example, 27 pt will not yield 27 lines per page. It's just a coincidence that 25 pt gives 25 lines per page.)

Click to add a check in the box next to "Don't add space between paragraphs," and verify that the boxes for Space Before and After are both 0.

Click the tab at the top of the Paragraph dialog box that says "Lines and Page Breaks."

Figure 4 - Format Paragraph Lines and Page Breaks Box

The only box that should be checked on this screen is "Don't Hyphenate." In particular, make sure that "Widows/Orphans" is not checked or you will not get 25 lines per page. Click OK when done. (See Figure 4).

Click anywhere in your document to un-select all the text you had highlighted to change the formatting.

Add a Header

Select the Insert tab at the top of the screen, then click the Header icon and choose "blank" for the style.

Type your last name and the title of your book in this format: Last Name/THIS IS MY BOOK TITLE. This is your "slug line." If your book title is very long, put an abbreviated version in the header. Do not include any secondary titles.

Press the TAB key twice to space over to the right hand margin and get ready to place your page number. Never type a page number in by hand. Let the computer do it for you or you will be forever updating numbers whenever you edit your manuscript. Also, typing a plain number in the header section means that particular number will appear on every page, not sequential page numbers.

Insert a Page Number

Click the "Page Number" icon in the Insert tab panel and choose "Current Position-->Plain Number."

Do NOT choose Top of Page instead of Current Position or you will delete your slug line.

Figure 5 - The Header/Footer Close Button

Click the Close button (big red X) to exit the Insert Header panel. (See Figure 5).

The Title Page

Start a new document (Office menu-->New-->Blank Document-->Create) and save it with a name that indicates it is your Title Page.

Go to the Home tab-->Paragraph, expand the paragraph panel into a dialog box and choose "Single" from the spacing box (by default, Word usually sets a new document to have 1.5 line spacing. You want regular single spacing for the title page.) Click OK.

Go to the Home tab-->Paragraph panel, expand the paragraph panel to a dialog box and click the "Tabs" button down the bottom. You need to set a tab stop, because on a title page some information is on the left margin and the right margin of the same line.

Figure 6 - The Format Tabs Dialog Box

Enter 6.5" for Stop Position In the Tabs dialog box and check off "Right" for the type of Tab. Click OK. Click OK again to exit the Paragraph dialog box. (See Figure 6).

Type your name at the top of your document at the left margin. Use your real name even if you are using a pen name.

Figure 7 - Example of a Formatted Title Page

Press the TAB key to move to the right margin and type the approximate word count for your manuscript rounded to a whole number. Hit Enter/Return. (See Figure 7 for an example of a title page).

Type your street address, your city, state, zip code, phone number, and email address on the next four lines. Hit Enter/Return.

Press Enter/Return until you are about halfway down the page. Click the "Center" alignment button in the Paragraph panel of the Home tab at the top of the screen. Type the name of your book in ALL CAPS, hit Enter/Return twice, type the word "by", hit Enter/Return twice again, and type your name (or pen name if you are using one).

Save your changes, and print the document when you print the manuscript for submitting.


  • check Always read publisher guidelines before submitting. Follow the publisher's directions exactly, even if they ask you to deviate from the "standard" manuscript format. The Title Page goes beneath your cover letter, and in front of the first chapter of your manuscript. Print publishers may have different guidelines than electronic publishers. Always double check. Microsoft Word's default font is an acceptable one to use for any manuscript. However, if you wish to change your font at any time, use the Select--All command and the Font panel under the Home tab to do so.


  • close Always back up your work onto a separate disk or folder after you make changes. Do not send your only copy of a manuscript to a publisher. Make duplicates.

Items you will need

About the Author

Katelyn Kelley worked in information technology as a computing and communications consultant and web manager for 15 years before becoming a freelance writer in 2003. She specializes in instructional and technical writing in the areas of computers, gaming and crafts. Kelley holds a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and computer science from Boston College.