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Manuscript Formatting Basics

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Summary

Manuscript formatting is a crucial step in preparing an article for submission to a journal, and understanding and following journal guidelines are sources of frustration for many authors. Below are answers to some questions commonly asked by authors.

Manuscript formatting is a crucial step in preparing an article for submission to a journal, and understanding and following journal guidelines are sources of frustration for many authors. Below are answers to some questions commonly asked by authors.


Why is manuscript formatting important? Ensuring that your manuscript is properly formatted reduces the time to publication. Manuscripts that do not meet journal formatting requirements, particularly with respect to title page information, abstract structure, and reference style, are often sent back to the author without review, potentially weeks after the manuscript was first submitted.


I followed the author instructions, and now my formatted manuscript looks completely different from articles published in the print and online versions of the journal. Should I change it to make it look like the published articles?
No. The requirements for how the manuscript should be formatted for the review process may be different from the format of published articles. For example, journals often require that manuscripts submitted for review use double line spacing, which makes the text easier to review and edit, but they may then use single spacing in the published article to save space. For the initial submission, always follow the guidelines laid out in the author instructions.


I need to include a reference to a webpage/government report/working paper/conference presentation in my reference list, but the journal guidelines only include examples of how to format books and journal articles. How should I format the reference?
The best place to start is to look at a recent issue of the journal and try to find an example of a similar reference in one of the articles. If you can’t find one, try to format the reference so that it is similar to one of the examples that are provided. As an example, if you need to reference a government report, you can use the book reference example as a template and insert the agency name as the publisher and the agency headquarters as the publisher’s location. If that fails, try to provide as much information as possible. For instance, if you want to reference an online document, include the author, title, URL, and date you accessed the information.


The journal guidelines don’t include any instructions regarding font, line spacing, margins, or other layout issues. How should I format the text of my paper?
Consistency and simplicity are essential. The font should be easy to read, and the layout should be consistent throughout the paper. Times New Roman size 12 font, double line spacing, 1-inch margins, and half-inch indentations at the beginning of each paragraph (using the tab key, not the space bar) are widely accepted standards.

We hope that this information is helpful in preparing your next manuscript. If you have specific questions about formatting, you can always contact us. Good luck!

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About the Author: Kelly Sheeran