Posted in Writing

How to Format Your Short Stories for Submission


When writing short stories in an educational setting, the formatting may defer from teacher to teacher. If you are looking to submit your fiction to magazines, however, there is a format that is expected, unless the editor specifically asks for something different. The following directions should be used for short story submissions to literary magazines, small circulation magazines, and consumer magazines that are looking for hardcopy submissions.

The Cover Page

The title should not be at the top of the page; it should be centered, bolded, and about halfway down the page. Your name should be centered, not bolded, and just below the title. Make sure there is a space between the title and name. There should be at least two more spaces until you start the story.

At the top left of the cover page should be your name on the first line, your address on the second and third lines, your phone number on the fourth line, and your e-mail on the fifth line. This is the only time in your story pages that your contact info needs to be mentioned. While everything in your manuscript starting with the title halfway down the page should be double-spaced, the five lines of contact info should be single-spaced, not double-spaced.

At the top right of the cover page should be the number of words. If your short story is 3,000 words, then write it as “3,000 Words.” The number of words in your story doesn’t have to be mentioned again in the rest of the story pages.

The Remainder of the Manuscript

The story should be double-spaced throughout. Two pieces of information should appear on every page starting with the second page throughout the rest of the manuscript.

One, make sure there are page numbers on every page, except for the first page. The page number should not be centered or at the bottom. The page numbers should always appear at the top right corner. To add page numbers on Microsoft Word, go to Insert and Page Numbers. Make sure the box to add a page number to the first page is unchecked.

Two, to the left of each page number, your last name should appear on every page starting on the second page. Your last name can’t be added on Microsoft Word by using the Page Numbers option. To add your last name at the top right on Microsoft Word, double-click on the top of any of the pages to form the Header. When you type in your last name, it will appear at the top left. Align the text to the right, and it should appear just left of the page number. The last name will appear on every page except the first page.

Hardcopy and Online Submission

In almost every case, manuscripts for hardcopy submissions should be formatted in the above way. However, the formatting for online submissions can change from magazine to magazine. Some magazine editors will ask you to submit your story in Word Doc or RTF format, and in such a case, keep the formatting the way it should be.

Some editors, however, ask for the story to be pasted into the e-mail. In this scenario, the contact info and word count should appear in the cover letter, and the last name and page numbers from the initial Word document are not applicable.

Finally, some magazines ask to have submissions sent through online submission managers, where you are required to enter all your contact details and cover letter before submitting your Word Doc or RTF file. Even though you’ve already entered your contact info in the required fields, as well as your word count in the brief cover letter, all the contact info, word count, last name, and page number should stay the same on the actual Word Doc or RTF file that you will be submitting.

These tips should help save you time and make your short fiction more professional and presentable to magazine editors. Most important is to always double-check the submission guidelines of each magazine before submitting your work. Good luck!

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