The 411 on Contest Guidelines and Formatting for Writers - Writer's Digest

The 411 on Contest Guidelines and Formatting for Writers

When submitting a story via email for a contest, how should it be formatted? Here's the inside scoop on what rules to follow.
Publish date:

Q: When submitting a story via email for a contest, how should it be formatted? Text format? Single or double spaced? You get the idea.— D. Holcomb


Competition submission guidelines—much like all writing guidelines—are determined by whoever is in charge of that particular competition. Because sponsors of the events vary, the submission process and formatting vary as well. It's most important to follow their guidelines.

For example, if Contest A asks you to single space, you single space. If Contest B asks you to double space, you double space. If Contest C asks you to quadruple space and add emoticons to the end of every paragraph, you do it. The law of the land is determined by the competition sponsor.

It's true that some competitions won't specify all the particulars, and you may be left scratching your head. When in doubt, you can follow these general guides when submitting for writing competitions:

• Double space (except for poetry and scriptwriting)
• Use a standard font, like Courier, Times New Roman or Arial
• Be sure your name and contact info is at the top of the submission
• Cut and paste in body of e-mail. (Don't send as an attachment unless specifically requested)
• Avoid using smart quotes (the curly quote marks). You can turn off the function in Word.
• Keep in mind that bold, italics and other formatting often don't come through when pasted into e-mails, so avoid them if possible.

Again, most competitions have their own guidelines and it's key that you follow their requests. But when in doubt, these specs should help answer your basic questions.

Follow me on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Check out my book.
Sign up for my free weekly eNewsletter: WD Newsletter


Plot Twist Story Prompts: Fight or Flight

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, it's fighting time.


Vintage WD: 10 Rules for Suspense Fiction

John Grisham once admitted that this article from 1973 helped him write his thrillers. In it, author Brian Garfield shares his go-to advice for creating great suspense fiction.


The Chaotically Seductive Path to Persuasive Copy

In this article, author, writing coach, and copywriter David Pennington teaches you the simple secrets of excellent copywriting.

Grinnell_Literary Techniques

Using Literary Techniques in Narrative Journalism

In this article, author Dustin Grinnell examines Jon Franklin’s award-winning article Mrs. Kelly’s Monster to help writers master the use of literary techniques in narrative journalism.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 545

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a cleaning poem.


New Agent Alert: Amy Collins of Talcott Notch Literary Services

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Amy Collins of Talcott Notch Literary Services) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.


5 Tips for Writing Scary Stories and Horror Novels

Bestselling and award-winning author Simone St. James shares five tips for writing scary stories and horror novels that readers will love to fear.


On vs. Upon vs. Up On (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use on vs. upon vs. up on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.