Should A Novel Be Double-Spaced?

If you’re in the process of formatting your novel for submission to a publisher or editor, or in preparation for self-publication, you might be stuck on the spacing.

To double-space or single-space – that is the question!

Chances are, publishers will toss a manuscript that doesn’t follow their preferred formatting. Don’t risk it!

The wrong choice can waste your editor’s time, meaning money loss for you. And if your plan is to venture down the self-publishing route, bad formatting can result in bad reviews.

When it comes to spacing your novel, there is a general industry standard most publishers and editors want to see. It’s easy to learn and simple enough to remember.

Read on to learn whether your novel should be double-spaced, single-spaced or in outer space!

Double-spacing: the industry standard

Most publishing houses and editors follow the industry standard, which is to double-space your novel.

Double-spacing means your manuscript will have extra space between lines.

While this is general practice, it is important to check each publisher’s submission guidelines, as some may stray away from the crowd on this rule.

Similarly, ask editors what format they prefer if you aren’t sure, or check their websites for a style guide. Fortunately, these days you can find most information you need online.

Where does this industry standard come from?

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where the double-spacing industry standard came from and why it has become such common practice.

Of course, impeccable grammar and spelling has always been expected, but why is it so important for a novel to be double-spaced? Why not single-spaced? Or 1.5 spaced?

The fact of the matter is that the industry standard for novel publishing is as generalised in its definition as its origin. Meaning that your desired editor or publisher may not follow it to a T!

As with the process of writing your first novel, it can help to stick to established guidelines when formatting, too.

There’s always time to break the rules later on as you gain more experience.

Why is it important to double-space?

Most writers understand the important of following grammar and spelling rules. The same mindset should apply to formatting your work correctly.

If you haven’t adhered to industry standards, publishers, agents and editors will need to re-format your manuscript before they can start their work.

For editors, this means time wasted fixing formatting you could have done yourself – and if this is factored into the project cost, it’s a money loss for you too.

Most publishers and literary agents receive dozens, if not hundreds of manuscripts every week. If your manuscript doesn’t adhere to their formatting standards, it will give them a reason to dismiss it.

Always do your research to ensure you are submitting your novel in the right formatting for the publisher or agent you want to work with.

Image via Pexels

What about self-publishing?

If you want to self-publish your novel, it is still important to follow the industry standard and double-space your novel for editors, proofreaders and typesetters. But why?

Doing as much formatting as you can yourself will help make these professionals’ jobs more straightforward, and could save you money.

They can charge more if you haven’t submitted your novel in a workable format, because it will take extra time for them to re-format it before they can get on to the work you actually hired them to do.

How to double-space your novel

On Microsoft Word, press Ctrl-A (Windows) or Command-A (Mac) to select all the text.

Then select Format > Paragraph > Spacing. Choose the double-space option.

On Google Docs, select all the text again and navigate to Format > Line spacing.

If you’re using a writing program like Scrivener, the formatting will likely be done for you when you export your manuscript. It’s always a good idea to double check, though!

Are there any exceptions?

If your novel is just for your friends and family to read, you don’t necessarily have to double-space it. You can format your manuscript however you wish.

However, keep in mind that even they may be distracted from your fantastic story if the formatting isn’t what they’re used to, or is squashed up in single spacing and therefore harder to read.

Beta readers, on the other hand, should be treated like editors, since they are critiquing your story rather than just reading it. Format your manuscript the way you would for an editor.

But what about ebooks? Novellas? Short stories? Poetry? Flash fiction? Blog posts? Email newsletters? Essays?

Double-spacing is industry standard for ebooks and novellas too. For the rest, it depends on the purpose of the text, or the place you’re sending it to.

Check their style guide or ask them if you are unsure. The editor, submissions manager or marketing manager is usually the person to go to.


The simple answer to whether you should double-space your novel is: yes.

The longer version is: yes, but don’t assume it’s the rule for all publishers, agents and editors.

Do your research and check their submission guidelines, style guides and websites. If in doubt, ask.

The good news is that once you know how to format your work appropriately, you can feel more confident pitching to the professionals and wowing them with your perfectly formatted work.

Tegan Atkins

I'm a 25 year old Australian who quit journalism to pursue my love for rock climbing and creative writing. I currently freelance and teach english online, while I work on a contemporary fiction novel about a millennial woman's romantic rollercoaster of first love. You can read my stories from the heart on Instagram: _teganatkinswriter

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