Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where do you put the page numbers? -answer

There are only two REALLY wrong answers and those are:
(1)on the page top, and
(2) on the page bottom.

If you do that and the pagination changes (such as when I reformat your ms to have doublespacing, 1" margins, TNR not Courier, and remove all the pretty graphics) you end up with p. 32 somewhere in the middle of the text on page 61.  And that my writer friends is NOT something you want.

The correct answer is lower right footer.

Here's the answer in lovely graphic form to show rather than tell:










and certainly not on the top of the page



Or on the bottom








NOTICE IT SAYS **FOOTER**




Now, if someone wants it done to their own specifications you follow their directions. But if you just need to do it right in absence of instructions, this is the way.

There's a reason this is the correct way: if a manuscript is printed out on paper for any reason, and it's in a stack, and you need to find page 62, you flip through the pages to find the right one. Where do you look?  Upper left hand corner? Sure, if you're writing in Hebrew. Upper right? Well, OK, I guess, but try it.  (It's awkward as hell) Lower right footer is the easiest and most natural way to flip through pages IF you are right handed.  Thus it is the industry norm.


Any questions?

I thought not.

Fortunately you all write a whole lot better than you format. Reading your entries is really cutting in to the amount of time I have to lallygag around tormenting the minions.

39 comments:

Lauren B. said...

Interesting. I write in Scrivener, and its manuscript format output puts it in the top right corner like this:

Shark / TITLE / 2

I'm assuming they didn't just make that up, but I wonder where they got it from.

Robin Connelly said...

I've always heard it was in the right hand corner of the header.

Robin Weeks said...

Wow. No wonder you decided to quiz us, since it appears most of us got it wrong. Methinks agents should start putting their MS formatting preferences on their websites next to their query preferences. :)

So glad you're not rejecting based on formatting. :D

Eric Steinberg said...

I've always heard right hand corner of header also.

Meaghan said...

Lauren-

This is by no means an "official" answer but to my observings it seems:

It really all comes down to purpose- for the purpose of submitting to an agent, bottom footer right is the least distracting and causes the least impediment to re-formatting.

In house though, pages and names need to be prominient so that copy editors and proof readers can flip through quickly. It's more helpful for physical copies, but is helpful in digital as well.

Joelle said...

Twenty some years ago I learned from a Writer's Digest formatting book to put it on the top right corner and I've done it ever since. Not sure when things changed, but I didn't get that memo. No one's ever said a thing to me. SCBWI agrees with you, Janet, so I will join this century. But only for my final draft because otherwise I'll never be able to figure out what page I'm on.

Miguel DeMoravia said...

Wait, I'm confused. If I put in page numbers as a header in Microsoft Word, there is nothing you can do to the sentence spacing that would make the page number move to the center of the page. In fact, the only thing that will happen is that you'll add more numbers to the end of the manuscript (when you space out the manuscript from single line to double line, you'll add quite a few more pages).

Gina Black said...

Granted I'm not an agent, but I've read a lot of manuscripts and I've never seen them anywhere but in the top header on the right. So, this is a surprise. :)

Jan Rider Newman said...

Who changed the rule and when? This is not to say, "I don't believe you, Janet!" It's a bid for information. I agree with Joelle and Miguel. Totally missed the memo, and no way the number can end up anywhere else on the page if it's in the header. Otherwise the number position also will change when placed in the footer. Well, this was educational. I don't care where the page number goes and am willing to place it anywhere. Thanks for the heads-up.

J.W. Alden said...

Count me another who's always been told that right top header was the appropriate place when not specified.

That probably has a lot to do with William Shunn's manuscript format guides, which a lot of people go by.

The Happy Amateur said...

I have a question, please:
so, it's just the page number, no name or title?

Jessa Russo (Stadtler) said...

I'm with Happy Amateur on this one. If page numbers are bottom right footer, instead of top right header, is it safe to assume my last name and title should be bottom left footer, instead of top left header? :-) Thank you for dropping so much knowledge on us!

Nathan Rudy said...

You know, I used to put them there and then looked it up on-line and a bunch of places said to put it at the top.

However, back to the old way we did it in Lucent PR, and the way Janet Reid tells us: bottom right. Your explanation is dead on.

Rachel Pudelek said...

Yay! I actually did it correctly. I thought for sure I'd somehow goofed and read the wrong advice on formatting. :)

Gabrielle Prendergast said...

It's top right header in screenwriting. I've always done bottom middle footer for fiction, but I stand corrected.

laurathewise said...

:( I have been doing it wrong all this time! Years of MLA format from high school and college have beaten the "RIGHT HEADER" number into me, I guess...it makes me wince to even think about changing it, like some English teacher is going to swoop in with a red pen...

Charley said...

Just googled *novel manuscript formatting page number* and the top three sites that came up say: name/title/page# (or title/name/page#) in right header. Footer looks non-standard though valid option, but not clear where you want title/name in that case. Hmmm, most curious.

Rick said...

I agree with all the others; for years I've always seen/read/been told upper right header.

Not saying you're wrong, obviously, but somewhere along the way someone pulled a fast one on us writers!

Feaky Snucker said...

Well, I would have said lower right. Every book I open, I look to the bottom for the page number.

Even when it's not there. :)

I would have gotten it right! Now, if only I wasn't a Canadian:(

Feaky Snucker said...

I meant the right side of the footer (which is at the bottom). *sigh* It's been a long week already.

Rayna said...

Ugh. And here I was, thinking I'd done it right. So, boss lady, where do we put our name and title tag? Lord knows I can't get a straight answer from my trusty writer websites.

Nancy Thompson said...

No offense but I think this is a preference, not a standard. Ask a few professional editors (which I did a couple of years ago) & some will say right, others left, but most all in the header. And if you think about it, when a right handed person flips through pages, they'll do it at the top right. Not the bottom. Because your light source is in front of you behind the book, not in your lap, which is where it would have to be to actually see the pages when flipping at the bottom, ergonomically speaking. Of course, you da man, Ms. Reid. If you want 'em bottom left, then that's where they should be when submitting to you. But in the end, if the book is good, who really cares where the pages are.

Gayle Carline said...

HA HA I WAS RIGHT! Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

Sophia Chang said...

I also missed this memo! In fact, I've seen others who ask for upper right, with name and title (Scrivener style). I will definitely be marking this so that hopefully I can remember Janet's preferences.

E.Maree said...

Count me in the 'right-hand side of the header' club, this is the first time I've seen the footer as the preferred location.

Bill Plante said...

Valuable standard. Next, proper way to insert page break. Resolves many fluky issues.

Bill Plante said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joyce Tremel said...

Count me as another one who has never heard--or read--anywhere else to put the page numbers at the bottom. Almost all manuscript guidelines state to put them in the top right header.

Cara M. said...

Vindication!!!
I always figured that the header was too cluttered. the X/X/# looks vaguely screenplayish to me. But putting them at the bottom of the page? You mean, like, by hand? :( yikes.

Conni said...

So http://www.shunn.net/format/novel.html is not the correct standard? Since that's what SFWA links to as their standard manuscript format, it's the one I use, as does pretty much every SF writer I've talked to, since that's the link they all give when they say "use this format for your manuscript."

LateToTheParty said...

So, it doesn't go under the staple?! WTF? Now I'm expected to be practicle and wrote gud two? Forget it, I'm goin' back to brane surjory.

Amy said...

Contests like the Golden Heart generally demand that page numbers be in the header. Thus I've come to see that as the standard and format my manuscripts that way by default.

TC Avey said...

Glad to know I'm not alone in NOT knowing this. Thanks for the education.

Robin Ruinsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robin Ruinsky said...

Just in case anyone isn't familiar with how to add page numbers.
In MS Word go to Insert, choose Page numbers.
Then choose Position: Bottom of page (footer)
Alignment: Right
The page numbers will automatically appear.

Lanette said...

Yay! We write better than we format. At least there's something positive in all this.

I used to put the page number in the footer on the right with my last name and title in the header on the left because that made sense to me, but last year I found a blog that goes in depth on how everything is to be formatted, and the blogger said everything goes in the header on the left. Maybe I should stick with my instincts.

MittensMorgul said...

After being told by AgentQuery.com to put the page numbers in the header at the right (as well as numerous other formatting sites), and then jumping through hoops to find a tool that would accomplish this feat in OpenOffice, I'm darned displeased to learn that putting them in the footers is equally acceptable! GAH! I wasted hours figuring out how to do it all wrong! ::Gnashing of teeth and rending of hair::

The Writer Librarian said...

It doesn't talk about page numbers (I checked), but Janice Hardy's blog entry Not My Type goes over some other formatting basics. This was really helpful to me when I was getting started.

A3Writer said...

I made a picture of manuscript format based on one of your posts many, many moons ago, and have been using it for my students. I modified the picture for you use, if you like: manuscript format

I've also uploaded the original Word doc to GoogleDocs if you want to download it for your own modifications: Manuscript format doc

Thanks for all your work edumacating us writers.