Presenting Your Work Professionally for Publication

You know what a screenplay looks like, generally, right?  And you know what a blog post looks like, obviously.  But what does a short story look like?

When you submit your work to professionals to review, whether you’re submitting a screenplay or story or submitting your blog for the world to see, you do so in a particular, expected format.

The appropriate format helps those professionals take your work seriously.


Using the right format suggests that you’re “in the know” and have some experience, even if you’ve never published anything in your life.  Even though all work “should” be judged equally, it’s not, and that slush pile is big, so you might as well get your big toe in the door with some polished work and professional presentation.

To start, double space.  This means adding a space between lines that is the same height as the line of text itself.  This is VERY easy to do using MS Word–just experiment with the formatting palette/toolbox/or menu buttons, depending on which version of Word you have (or consult the “help” function”).

Double-spacing helps the reader clearly and cleanly scan your work.

Next, make sure the double-spacing is uniform, which means there should be no extra space between paragraphs.  Having an extra space won’t kill you, but it just doesn’t look as together.  MS Word wants you to have an extra space, so, again, you’re going to need to fiddle with your formatting.  Get into its brain.

Third, indent the first line of each paragraph, including the first line whenever a character speaks.  Unlike a blog, which uses breaks between paragraphs to indicate when the next graph starts, prose (a story) shows that a new paragraph starts because of the indentation.  

How to head your paper:

On the upper left side, include your full name.  Beneath that, include your address, phone number, and email address.  You want them to be able to contact you!

In the upper right side, include your last name to the left of the page number.  Set up auto pagination with your name appearing to the left of the number in Word.

Keep in mind that if you’re submitting for a contest, the rules might prohibit your name from appearing anywhere on the manuscript.
Always follow a particular company or journal’s guidelines carefully.

The cover letter:

Include the publication’s name and address in the upper-left corner.  
Your contact information goes two spaces below that.
Two spaces below that goes the date.
Two spaces below that goes the salutation (Dear Fiction Editor).  Use the editor’s name if you can find it.
Two spaces below goes the body of your SHORT letter.
Two spaces below goes the closing (Sincerely, Best, Cheers . . .).
Four spaces below goes your typed name.  
Your signed name goes between the body and the typed name.

The body of the cover letter:
Do not double-space.
Indent the first line of each paragraph.

What to include:
Any publications you have to your name.  The name of the story you are submitting should also be included in quotation marks (Perhaps, Please consider my story “Story” for publication in [name of publication].  

The body can be short–get to the point and get out of there!

Then, decide whether to paper clip or staple your story (from editing experience, I recommend a paperclip, since your last name is on every page anyway).


Awesome Journal
XXX Story Road
Winter Park, FL 32792

Amazing Writer
XXX University Blvd.
Winter Park, FL 32792

May 25, 2012

Dear Fiction Editor [use name if possible],

I am an emerging writer from Florida who loves writing about hurricanes and cats.  Please consider my short story “The Fantastic Adventure of Tiger the Cat” for publication in Awesome Journal.  I am looking forward to reading the next issue.


Amazing Writer

Now, a good story will stand out no matter what, but polished, professional presentation is very important.  Get out there!  Read, write, revise, and send out.  One more thing, and that’s the reading.  Read the journals before you submit!

You can use sources like and

Good luck and happy writing!


About Em-dash Lady

Em-dash Lady enjoys creative writing most of all, but her interests include art forms from music to writing to visual art to indie films and so forth. She's especially interested in how the art forms influence each other and blend together. She's a creative writing teacher and writer who mostly writes memoir and poetry about her favorite activity, watching TV. I would say I'm kidding, but I'm not. Naps are also her favorite. Too many favorites to count! Enjoy following Em-dash Lady as she figures out how she fits in the ever-evolving world of art.
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