Formatting Your Short Story For Winning

Posted on: 20th July 2014

If you only knew how many times stories have been sent to the thrash can for wrong formatting, you would never take it for granted again. Most writers feel that if the story is a masterpiece, it does not really matter how it is submitted. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The truth is that to win a prize, the judges should first be able to read your story. If they cannot read because of wrong or annoying formatting, your entry is as good as not sent. Do not risk rejection because of a basic thing like formatting. Here are a few guidelines on the “right” formatting. These tips/ guidelines do not supersede those give in the rules of the contest. Hence, read the rules and regulations first and if they have guidelines for formatting follow those.

  1. Short Story FormattingMargins – normally, you should leave 1 inch on all sides of the paper. This makes the document look neat and easy to read. The paper size to use (in word format) is 8½ x 11.
  1. Left justify your document – this means that the document need not be right justified. The lines should align on the left; on the right side it should look ragged.
  1. Standard indent – if indent is required, use five spaces inside at the beginning of every paragraph. You could also use non-indented paragraphs. This depends upon your preference.
  1. Font type and size – generally Times Roman or Arial size 10 or 12 are comfortable to read. Stay away from anything larger than 12 and smaller than 10; it would cause eye strain and could have your entry rejected.
  1. Avoid unnecessary highlights -  bold, italics, highlights are meant to attract the attention of the reader to a particular important aspect of the story. If it is encountered too often in the text, it becomes a strain to the eyes and mind.
  1. Double space your document – to read easy, have your document typed in double space. In case you are submitting your entry online (meaning you type the story directly online) it is best to use single line, but have the paragraphs as short as possible; no more than 4-5 lines each.
  1. Dialogue presentation – it is very important how you present dialogue because if it done clumsily, it will kill the joy of reading it. Every time a new speaker enters the conversation, the new line is started.

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