I mention the standard manuscript format elsewhere…
12 Pt Ugly Ass Courier, DOUBLE spaced (or 24pt leading).
I thought this would be a quick, fun article to see WHY it’s important to get used to writing in standard format…
If you’re writing for yourself, writing and illustrating a comic yourself, it doesn’t really matter… BUT… the second, you bring someone else over to look at your writing (an editor or story consultant such as myself), its actually quite important, or more to the point, useful, if your work appears in standard format.
Standard format is the same for everyone and every project, it doesn’t matter if you’re writing a poem or an epic long-hand novel. And that’s what makes it so useful.
Standard format allows a professional to instantly gauge the scope of a project.
NOW, if you’re a novice writer, you might wonder “what’s the big deal about that?”
Depending on your situation, the scope of a project can actually reveal a lot of insight. To a good experienced editor, it can give them instant footing to HELP YOU. Which is why you’re hiring them in the first place.
When you don’t deliver your work in standard format, you force your editor or consultant to dig around and figure out what’s going on.
Sure they gotta dig to help you… eventually. To find the details and problems to help you improve your story and script, but why make them dig right at the start, just to orientate themselves? That’s super inefficient.
On to the fun examples!
These examples are extreme, but believe me, they are NOT far off from some of the crazy stuff folks have sent me over the years.
// I’m using a small portion of my Robot Kids outline for the demonstration. Just imagine if I set the entire outline like these samples, forget about it!!! //
Billy Bob Joe: “Nick, I’ve been working on this story outline for almost a year now. Can you help me straighten it out.”
Nick: “Wow, it must be pretty detailed and robust.”
Billy Bob Joe: “Ohh nah, man. The entire thing is less than a page long!”ThreeBEars1
Herman Murman: “Nick, I just started working on this story outline and realized I really could use some help putting it together. Can you help me straighten it out.”
Nick: “Sure, sounds like you’re not far along. I’d be happy to help.”
Herman Murman: “No, I’m not far along, but the document is actually 220 pages.”
Nick: “Wait, what?”ThreeBears2
This is one of the worst.
While most folks don’t typeset an entire document in a really messed up display type, I’ve seen plenty of scripts butchered by crazy font headlines. I’ve even seen folks set words within descriptions and dialogues with glaring different fonts.
Lipstick Betty: “Nick, I’d like to send you my outline to review.”
Nick: “Sure, that’s what I do.”
Lipstick Betty: “I’ll also include the fonts with the file, in case you don’t have them on your system.”
Nick: “Uh oh.”ThreeBears3
Believe it or not there are others, but I think you get the point.
Lastly, let’s take a look at what this excerpt of the Robot Kids outline looks like under standard manuscript format.ThreeBearsProper
Wow, look how clean courier looks! lol
Amazingly this same 2.5 page document uses the exact same copy as all the other PDFs on this page!
If you’re still not convinced of the value working in standard manuscript format, let me point out two last things.
Page 1 of the standard PDF is 217 words.
Page 2 contains 250.
This is exactly on point for the average number of words on any standard page (225-250).
Of course, there are exceptions to this average, like dialogue heavy scripts with a lot of speakers. But again, there’s the value of it, because if someone says they’re going to send me a 10 page standard format outline that contains a lot of dialogue, I instantly know, the story itself is likely not that complex.
But in contrast, if I open a 10 page document that’s written in a weird font at a weird size, all expectations go out the window! ▪
About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S. Visit NickMacari.com for social media contacts and news on his latest releases. Also, check out and go buy some stuff at Story To Script where the really crazy super advanced writing stuff lives.