Introduction to fiction formatting

It has recently come to my attention that there are some new writers out there that aren’t sure how they should be formatting their manuscripts.

So this post is going to be dedicated to explaining the basic nuts and bolt of fiction formatting – basically how the text is laid out.
It’s important to stress that we are referring to fiction formatting, because formatting for fact based essays follows a different set of rules.

So, here we go:


There is no standard font that you have to use, but as a general rule, if you’re writing for print, you should use a ‘serif’ font, and if you’re writing for a digital medium then you should use a ‘sans-serif’ font.
Serif fonts are ones with little tails and flicks at the end of the letters (such as Times New Roman or Georgia) and Sans Serif fonts are those without (such as Arial and Verdana).
This is because the font affects the readability of text, and for reasons too technical to go into, that is the way that works best.
Personally, I like to use Courier New, which looks like what comes out of a typewriter, because it just looks more writerly.
Also, don’t make the font too small – it’s not just painful for people whose eyesight isn’t perfect, it’s uncomfortable for people with 20/20 too.


Don’t leave line breaks (vertical space) between paragraphs. They should be snug above and below each other, with the exact same amount of space as there is between lines of the same paragraph.


New paragraphs should be indented by about a finger’s width – except the first one of a chapter  (I know, who comes up with this stuff? But that’s the way it is buster, so get used to it).

Line spacing

Use 1.5 or double line spacing. Otherwise the text ends up looking too dense and people’s eyes get lost while trying to read it.

Column width

This is more relevant for digital publishing, but make sure your columns aren’t too wide. Newspapers use narrow columns because they are easier to read. If the eye is forced to travel too far from left to right, then it loses its place and ends up skipping lines or rereading the same one twice.