Trudy Graham


When you begin writing your story or novel, thinking about things like proper layout, margins and indents can feel like obstacles to putting your ideas down on paper.

Publishers, editors, agents and competition organisers require that all writing be formatted in certain ways. Apart from being visually appealing a properly formatted document is easier to read.

Some writers wait until their work is finished before they format their document, some find it easier to begin the way they mean to go on and others have templates ready for whatever they write. Depending on what you write, there is some basic rules for formatting that you can follow.

If you’re writing a novel, an article, or poetry there will be changes or additions to the following, but this guide will assist you in setting up your own template for short stories.

How to prepare a basic ‘short story’ template in Microsoft Word
1. Open a new Word Document
2. The margins should be set at 2.5cms on all sides. This is the default setting in MS Word so you shouldn’t have to change this.
3. Set the font to Times New Roman size 12, which is the industry standard.
4. Under the paragraph tab on the top ribbon, look at the indentation box and select 0cm for both left and right. In the Special box, select ‘first line’ and then in the ‘By’ box select 0.05cm up to 1.20cm, depending on your preference or your publisher.
5. All lines should be double spaced, unless you are instructed differently. You can set the line spacing under the indent box in the paragraph tab. Do not add an extra line space between paragraphs when you are writing.
6. The text should be aligned on the left-hand side of the page, not justified.
7. Use one space between sentences.
8. Add a footer and insert ‘page number’ using the same font and size you chose for the document. (A header using the same font and size can be added later if you are asked to include one.)
9. When your document is as you want it, save it, giving it a title like “Short Story Template”.

Every time you begin a new short story, open that template and save it with the title of your new work, even if it’s a working title; your template will be still be there waiting for your next story. (If you are entering a competition, you may need to change the font and size in your new document if the rules ask for something different.)

When you are ready to begin writing, start your story a third of the way down the page (for the first page only). Your title will be at the top, unless you have been asked to insert it into the header.

Now that you know how to do it, set up templates for all the styles of writing you do then you’re always ready to open a new document, forget the technical stuff, and do what you do best – write.