Do I have to use the recommended font for my manuscript?
Published: June 23, 2011
Q: Many experts advise using Courier New, 12-pt. font for manuscripts but the print is so large that not many words fit on a line. My manuscript looks better using a smaller size or a different font, such as Verdana. Should I always follow the advice or go with what looks better on my manuscript?
A: I’m glad you’re looking into the industry standards for manuscript formatting. This is one important way that you show editors and agents you are serious and professional about your work.
While you certainly want to present a manuscript that’s pleasing to the eye, don’t agonize over white space and number of words on a line. You’re probably used to seeing fiction printed in published books, so a manuscript for submission will look much more open and light. But those qualities are exactly what agents and editors are expecting. They read manuscripts all day long. They may even make notations or edits as they read. As a result, it’s important to keep the font large and readable to make this process easier.
If a publisher or agent requests a certain font, use it. (And some do have a strong preference.) If not, choose from the fonts that fit the criteria—Courier New and Times New Roman are common choices—and stick with the standard 12 point size.
Brandi Reissenweber teaches fiction writing and reading fiction at Gotham Writers' Workshop and authored the chapter on characterization in Gotham's Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including Phoebe, North Dakota Quarterly and Rattapallax. She
was a James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for
Creative Writing and has taught fiction at New York University,
University of Wisconsin and University of Chicago. Currently, she is a
visiting professor at Illinois Wesleyan University.
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