Formatting Your Manuscript – 25 Lines Per Page

by Jenny Hansen

When someone in my writing chapter asked me if I could “please, please, please write a blog about how to get 25 lines per page,” I responded “of course I will” even though I’d never done this setting in my life. I thought, I’ve been teaching Word since version 2.0, I can do a pesky Paragraph setting. Right?

Not so much.

I’ve been writing for nearly a decade and teaching computer classes for longer than that. Why had I never done this before, you ask? Mostly because I’m half blind. Times New Roman, for example, makes me crazy because when there is an “r” and an “n” next to each other, to me they look like an “m.” I secretly believe that if my manuscript is in an easy-to-read font like Arial or Tahoma, the editor (that poor soul who reads thousands of pages a week) will be more kindly disposed to buy my book. 

I was very excited about this whole blog topic as a learning exercise. I mean, the Paragraph dialog box is one of my favorite places in Word.  There is so much to do here! All you have to do is select the text you’d like to change (hit Ctrl + A on your keyboard to select the entire document) and go to the Format Paragraph dialog box. This is where most people have traditionally gone to set Line Spacing to single, double or 1 ½ space. It wasn’t until Word 2007 that there was a button on the Ribbon for this.

[Of course, you can also set line spacing with key strokes:

Ctrl + 1 = Single space
Ctrl + 2 = Double space
Ctrl + 5 = 1 ½ space]

While in this dialog box, you can choose the Indent setting of “First line” and indent the first line of each paragraph in your manuscript (the most common setting is .5 inch).

Paragraph is also home to that pesky “Widow/Orphan control.”  This feature is what makes all the lines in a paragraph stay together, even when you want them to separate to help you get 25 lines on a page. I have people tell me all the time that they can’t find this sucker – it is located on the second tab in the dialog box, titled “Line and Page Breaks.” The default setting in Word is that the “Widow/Orphan control” is set to ON. (Obviously no one polled us writers when they were deciding which features made the cut in Word.)

Are you catching on yet that Paragraph is a veritable party for us writers??

The last thing you need to know about before I give you “the 25 line secret” is that margins and font size – even font type – matter when you are trying to get your manuscript formatted to have 25 lines on a page. That being said, all of my examples use Word’s default margins of Top/Bottom – 1” and Left/Right = 1.25 inch because I like the extra white space. [Yeah, yeah…the rules that date back to 1980 say one inch margins only – once you learn how to use your Paragraph settings you can be the Word Dominatrix and MAKE your margins work for you.]

Note: For anyone who has never changed their margin settings, there are two easy ways to do it: older versions of Word – click on the File menu and choose Page Setup; newer versions of Word – choose the Page Layout tab and click on the Margins button in the second grouping OR double click on the vertical ruler to the left of the document when you are in Print Layout View. [You will not see the ruler to the left unless you are in Print Layout View.]

So, back to the Big Formatting Secret

I figured there must just be a quick Paragraph setting (get to the Paragraph dialog box by clicking on the Format menu in the older versions of Word OR on the Home and Page Layout tabs in the latest versions). I expected it would be a snap – four or five steps at the most.

First I looked around on the internet to see “how everyone else was doing it” and I saw at least four different methods for how to get 25 lines on a page, zero of which worked for me. I saw one blog where a guy actually went through a formula to calculate the 25 lines. (I’m not joking.) There will be no formulas in my writer-friendly Word column but if you would like to see this craziness, I’ve included the link. (If you follow the link below, just scroll down a bit to see what Allen, the math wizard, advises. Bleck!) http://www.askdavetaylor.com/how_do_i_set_a_microsoft_word_document_to_be_exactly_25_lines_per_page_1.html

Without further ado: the easiest way for us writers to achieve the hallowed 25 lines per page is below:

  1. Select all the text in your document that you want to change (for example, you’ll probably omit your title page)
  2. Open the paragraph dialog box (tips given above by version)
  3. If you haven’t turned off the Widow / Orphan control, do it now
  4. On the Indent and Line Spacing tab, go toward the bottom of the dialog box where it says “Line Spacing:” – click the drop down arrow and choose the word “Exactly”
  5. In the “At:” field to the right of where it now says “Exactly,” type in “25 pt”
  6. Click OK

I used the following font combinations:
Courier New – 14 pt
Arial – 12 pt
(The dreaded) Times New Roman – 12 pt

All of you who walk around feeling technology challenged, please keep in mind: everyone has to muddle around until someone trains them. This column is dedicated to writers like you.

Follow the six steps above to achieve manuscript formatting perfection. We hope you’ll let us know if this makes one small part of your work in progress easier.

Happy Writing!

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8 Responses to Formatting Your Manuscript – 25 Lines Per Page

  1. Charlotte says:

    Hey, Jenn, that’s good info – I think. I’ve complicated my computer life by writing in WordPerfect, which I find far more user friendly than Word. When the manuscript is complete, I convert it from WordPerfect to Word. In order to get the 25 lines (with a 3-line header), I set the bottom margin to .688 inches. Huh? Oh well, at least no editor has ever complained about my formatting.

    I hope I can find your blog again when I need it, cuz I know I will. Tx, Char…….

    • You are very welcome, Char. It’s always a shame for a writer to have to angst about manuscript formatting – I’d rather see them put their energies into writing a great book for me to read. :-)

      You can always get back to the site by adding us to your Favorites: Writers In the Storm blog.

      Jenn

  2. Vince Gibson says:

    Thanks Jenn,

    You can also save that to your normal.dot file as a default. I do have a question about fonts though. I too have trouble reading Times New Roman, and have switched to Helvetica. But a lot of people don’t have that, so I use a similar font included with Word called Trebuchet MS. It’s really easy for me to read. But the question is, is that an acceptable font to use when submitting your work?

    Cheers,
    Vince

    • Vince,

      Thanks, I’m glad you liked the blog. I agreed that you can save this as your global template and I have another blog about formatting your manuscript that I need to post. However, most writers just aren’t comfortable dealing with templates. (Bravo to you!)

      On the font issue, most editors don’t care what font you use as long as it is readable. That being said, a san serif font that is universal like Arial is always going to be better than a more obscure font that might require a font substituion on the recipient’s machine.

      Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have more questions – we welcome you and your fellow writers to visit often. :-)

      Jenn

    • Mari Adkins says:

      Most editors, agents, publishers have specific formatting they ask for – and if it’s not followed, the piece is rejected without being read. And they say so in their submissions guidelines. It’s better to follow their specific guidelines rather than someone else’s.

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