Manuscript Prep.

Manuscript preparation for work posted online need not conform to the standards set for print publication, but there are still a number of things to remember.

1. Try to use MS Word and save as a doc or, if you don’t have word, save as an rtf.
2. Use 12pt Times New Roman, Georgia, or similar font.
3. One-inch margins on all sides is fine.
4. Use single line spacing.
5. Insert a line space between paragraphs.
6. Do NOT indent paragraphs.
7. New dialogue and paragraphs should start on a new line.
8. Set text justified left with ragged right edge. Do not use full justification.
9. Do not use chapter headings in a short story.
10. Title and page number in upper right-hand corner of each page, in the header.
11. Number your pages consecutively.
12. At the end of the story, type “THE END” so the editor will not be left wondering if she is missing the last page.

If in doubt, check the formatting of any story for verification.

First rule of thumb, proofread your work. While we here at the Hive Mind are all well aware that typos happen, you should still make every effort to check that your work is polished and presentable. That said, we won’t get uptight about US vs British spelling: both are acceptable, but use one OR the other.


  • it’s = it is.
  • its = belonging to it, used exactly the same way as his or hers.
  • there = a location, as in: over there, there it is.
  • their = belonging to them, as in: their house, their car.
  • they’re = they are, as in: “They’re coming right at us!”
  • your = belonging to you, as in: your hat, your glove.
  • you’re = you are, as in “You’re starting to annoy me.”


  • Terminal period and commas inside closing quotation marks.
  • US-writers may use the serial comma, as in: (They publish crime, adventure, and erotica.)
  • Question marks are only used after a direct question.
  • Watch out for excessive use of exclamation points.

Quote marks
Use standard, American-style dialogue format with double quote marks. It’s easier for all concerned.

Scene breaks

  • Flashbacks and dream sequences should be separated by one blank line above and below.
  • Scene breaks should be indicated by * * * or the hash symbol # with one blank line above and below.


  • Use ellipses to indicate incomplete sentences or a speaker’s voice trailing off.
  • Use ellipses when presenting one side of a telephone conversation, as in:
    “Yes?…I think I can but—”
  • Always use three-point, un-spaced ellipses.
  • Capitalize the first word in a complete sentence after ellipses.

Em dashes
Use an em dash (formed by typing two hyphens, then “ENTER” in Word Docs) to indicate breaks in dialogue and to indicate when one character interrupts another’s speech. No spaces should appear before or after an em dash.


  • Use to indicate internal monologue.
  • Italicize the names of specific ships and other vessels, such as Apollo 13.
  • Italicize unfamiliar foreign words and phrases.


  • Spell out percent, degrees in running text.
  • U.S. and D.C. except in addresses.
  • Spell out state names in running text.


Try to avoid:

  • Susan painted a sun, which was yellow.
  • Susan painted the sun that was yellow.

Try for:

  • Susan painted a yellow sun.

Spell out numbers in dialogue, unless they have decimals.

Use blonde as a feminine noun only:

  • She was blonde.
  • She had blond hair.

Specific Words

  • All right; e-mail; good-bye; good night; Internet; Web site; fax.
  • Afterward/Backward/Forward/Toward — No “s” at the end.
  • Also is an adverb, not a conjunction.
  • Charismatic: eyes are not charismatic, people are.
  • Earth, as in referring to a body in the solar system:
    “We spotted Earth from the surface of the moon.”
  • Earth’s orbit, but earth when talking about soil.
  • e.g. and i.e. both take a comma, as in e.g., / i.e.,
    (e.g., = for example; i.e., = that is to say).
  • Emigrant is one who leaves a place.
  • Enormity does not mean “enormousness”; it is used in the “enormity of the crime”.
  • Dilemma, as in choice, not problem.
  • Immigrant is someone who comes into a place.
  • Nonetheless, all one word, please.
  • Onto indicates motion as in getting on top of; you hold on to something. “On to” also means “proceeding,” as in, “The elevator opened on to the fourth floor.”
  • Use farther to indicate physical distance and further to indicate time.
  • For “whom” the bell tolls. Please, if you have to use the word whom, make sure you know in what context.