How to format your work for publication

This isn’t a fool-proof guide, all publications will have their own style, but these are some tips I’ve picked up on throughout my schooling.

1. Indenting

The first line of every paragraph should be indented, except for the first line of a new chapter/after a chapter break.

Screen Shot 2019-03-24 at 11.55.10 am

2. Seriff or Sans Seriff

Most mainstream publishing houses prefer Seriff fonts (such as Times New Roman), though some online or non-fiction publications will ask for Sans Serif (Arial, Calibri). I use Times New Roman as a base for everything.

3. Spacing

Try to use at least 1.5 line spacing for submissions as it’s must easier for editors. As an editor, I prefer 2.0 so that I have space for copy-editing in hard copy.

4. Dialogue

Dialogue of a new character should always be on a new line. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a new line for every new piece of dialogue.


She coughed loudly. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about!’

‘Don’t lie to me, Kara.’ I was trembling with rage now. ‘I know you started the rumour. Just tell the truth for once in your life.’

5. Quotation marks

According to the Australian Style Manual¹, you should use single quotation marks for dialogue in fiction (as above), though (thankfully) this is up for debate. Personally, I prefer double as that is how I’ve grown up writing. But many publishers and publications have their own style, especially with quotation marks, so when in doubt — ask!


The best way to maintain your format style across all of your work is to create a Style in MS Word. Here’s how to do it!

1. In your Home toolbar you’ll find your Styles Pane. You can see in the image below that I’ve already created my own ‘Writing’ Style. All I have to do is press it at the beginning of everything I write, then all the formatting will be done for me!

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2. To create a new style, click on the ‘Styles Pane’ button. A Styles sidebar will appear like below. Select ‘New Style’.

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 7.08.07 pm

3. Give your new style a name. Most of it can stay the same. I chose to make mine Times New Roman, size 12 font, 1.5 line spacing, aligned left.

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 7.08.19 pm

4. To change the indent settings, go to the ‘Format’ drop down menu at the bottom left, then select ‘Paragraph’.

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 7.08.39 pm

5. In ‘Paragraph’ you can change the indentation.

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 7.09.04 pm

6. Go to ‘Special’ and choose ‘First line’, then decide how large your indent will be. I use 1cm, but some publications go to 2cm. It will show you an example of the indent size below.

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 7.09.27 pm

7. Select ‘Ok’, double check your newly made settings, then ‘Ok’ again and you’re good to go!


As far as I’m aware, there’s no way to keep your first paragraph flush (unindented), as it’s hard for Word to be able to recognise beginnings and chapter breaks. So you have to remove the indent of your first paragraph yourself.




Disclaimer: I do not work in the publishing industry. This is information that I have picked up from my Professional Writing and Editing degree at RMIT University, and from research of Australian publications and publishing houses.



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