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03 Before You Start Writing


- Planning the work

- Length

- Naming your files

- Formatting and presenting your manuscript

- Sample material

- Submitting your manuscript

It is essential that you read and understand this section before you start writing and that you implement the instructions consistently throughout your manuscript.

Keep in mind while you are writing that your work may appear in digital form (e-books, online products) and not just traditional printed book format. This has wide-ranging implications on the way that you must write and format your text so that it supports all desired formats and functionality. If you need assistance or further information please contact your OUP Editor at the start of the project.

Planning the work

You will have discussed the content and presentation of your work with your OUP Editor at the proposal stage. Many aspects will depend on the subject area, but you must consider the following general points:

  • the target audience and the best writing style to use for this audience;
  • the structure of the text, including any features you want to use and how they will benefit the reader;
  • the implications of online publishing (see section on Main text in the Components of Your Manuscript);
  • whether your work is to be included in a series and if so how this will impact on the work.

If you have any questions about your approach to writing, please contact your OUP Editor before you begin.


Writing to the agreed length is a crucial part of organizing the work, and this is stated in Schedule I, Clause 1, of your Contract. It may be expressed in words or pages and will include a combination of main text, footnotes, references, figures, and tables, unless otherwise specified. Your OUP Editor may also have agreed a word count per chapter with you.

Tip! Keep track of the word count as you write to ensure that the finished text does not exceed or fall short of the commissioned length. If you are struggling to keep to the contracted extent, it is very important to contact your OUP Editor as soon as possible in order to discuss solutions for bringing the manuscript within the correct extent.

Naming your files

Clear and consistent file-naming conventions are crucial. You must create a separate document for every major subdivision of the text:

  • prelims sections
  • individual chapters
  • end matter sections (with individual items in individual files)
  • any illustrations, figures, tables, and so on

Name each document meaningfully and consistently using the following example formats:

[author surname]_contents.doc

[author surname]_list_illustrations.doc

[author surname]_preface.doc

[author surname]_ch01.doc

[author surname]_appendix01.doc

[author surname]_bibliography.doc

[author surname]_list_fonts_used.doc

If in special circumstances you have agreed to use software other than Microsoft Word, you may need to use a different convention. Your OUP Editor will agree this with you.

Formatting and presenting your manuscript

Tip! Allow time in your writing schedule for formatting and preparing the final manuscript (which can take longer than you expect).


Templates are provided by OUP Editors for a small number of subjects. If you have received one, much of the formatting is applied automatically. The instructions that come with the template override these notes at any point where the two differ.

Special symbols

  • If you are using special symbols—for example, accented characters, mathematical symbols, non-Roman alphabets—there are measures that you need to take to ensure that all characters are set as you expect them to appear:
  • Let your OUP Editor know where you have used special sorts and the font used to set them, so that this information can be passed on to your Production Editor.
    Use a unicode font when submitting your text as this will ensure that special characters and symbols display correctly in both print and digital formats—if you are unsure which font to use, please contact your OUP editor for advice.
  • In addition to the standard Word files, please supply a full PDF of your manuscript, with all fonts and characters correctly displaying.

If your title has frequent use of special sorts (occurring on approximately 90% of the pages), please contact your OUP Editor before you start writing for further guidance. For information on unicode fonts and special characters, visit the Unicode Consortium website

Any mathematical special sorts used should be written in MathType only. Ask your OUP Editor if you are unsure how to use this plug-in.

Tip! Unless using a template, do not submit your manuscript formatted as it will look once published. Our typesetters will do this.

Quick reference table of formatting requirements

Submission format

Electronic only. If, in special circumstances, you are required to submit a hard copy of your manuscript, your OUP Editor will let you know at an earlier stage.


Microsoft Word (unless otherwise formally agreed with your OUP Editor).

Formatting and Page Layout


Times New Roman

Font size

12pt (except for distinguishing heading levels)

Page numbering


Begin numbering after prelim pages.
Paginate chapters individually.
Paginate all end matter.
Position bottom right.
Use Arabic numbering (1, 2, 3).

Line spacing

Double space all material (including contents pages, quotations, bibliography, and so on).

Word and sentence spacing

Single space between words, including after a full stop.

Paragraph spacing

Allow an extra line space between paragraphs.
Do not indent.

Text positioning/justification

Text: left-justified throughout (including headings); do not centre.
Numbers in tables: right-aligned or aligned on decimal point.

Part/section opener pages

If your title is divided into parts or sections, begin each one on a new page. Ensure you include a part/section number and title.

Chapter opener pages

Begin each chapter in a new document and include chapter numbers that run sequentially through the text and chapter titles that accurately reflect the chapter content.


Distinguish by using different font sizes, bold, and italic, or by using a numbering or lettering system. See Components of Your Manuscript.
Sentence case only (except for proper nouns).
Left-justify; do not centre or indent.
Use heading structure and formatting consistently throughout the manuscript.

Hard returns

Hard returns at paragraph ends, after headings, and in lists and tables.
Do not use within paragraphs.


Indenting in the main text should be avoided. Where necessary for displayed text use the tab key, not the space bar.


Do not hyphenate words at line endings.


Use a hyphen or the en rule dash from the ‘symbol’ menu.
Use the en rule between number ranges.
Use the em rule to mark off parenthetical statements. See House Style.

Bold, italic

You can use both of these. Please use italic for emphasis. The use of bold should be discussed with your OUP editor


Best avoided; all underlined text will be set italic, unless specifically stated otherwise.


Use MS Word table templates.
See Tables for further details.

Placement indicators for tables, illustrations, figures, displayed features, or boxed features

Position indicators on a new line at paragraph ends in angle brackets.
For example:
<Insert Figure 1.2>
Remember you should also use call outs in the main text (see Artwork).

Displayed text not to be edited

For example: quotations, equations, linguistic material, extracts from legal documents.
Indent to ensure the start and end of display material can be clearly differentiated during typesetting.

Footnotes and endnotes

Use automatic footnote and endnote functions.

Some common causes of delay, confusion, and regrettable errors are listed here; make sure you avoid these when writing and submitting your own manuscript or editing any submissions from contributors:

  • The wrong version of the manuscript has been submitted.
  • Files are/appear incomplete.
  • Missing material, including figures, tables, illustrations.
  • Figures are not usable because of quality (see Artwork).
  • Missing placement cues indicating positioning of figures and other features.
  • Inconsistent/inaccurate keying.
  • Inconsistent formatting of heading levels.
  • Application of design material that needs to be stripped out before typesetting.
  • Files are password protected.
  • Any permission grants or patient consent forms are not submitted (see Other Legal Issues).
  • Any requested Abstracts and Keywords are missing.

Sample material

While you are writing, you may be asked to submit sample material that contains all the different elements in your text. Your OUP Editor will let you know if this is the case. Examples of all features to appear in the text:

  • main text (including any cross-references or glossary terms)
  • headings
  • bullet or numbered lists
  • tables
  • artwork
  • boxes
  • figures
  • references
  • special symbols such as:
    • accented characters
    • non-Roman alphabets
    • mathematical symbols

Your sample material will be used to assess writing style, content, and typescript presentation, and in some instances for work on the design.

    Tip! Unless otherwise agreed with your OUP Editor, your manuscript will not be sent for review on submission, so consider sending chapters to colleagues to read and comment upon at an early stage.

    Submitting your manuscript

    Once your manuscript is complete, you should submit it to your OUP Editor electronically by email, unless otherwise agreed. You must also ensure:

    • you have completed the Manuscript Submission Checklist and submitted this with your manuscript;
    • you are submitting the final version of your manuscript; you will not be able to make any substantial changes once your book has entered production.