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University of Texas at Austin
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Preparing Your Manuscript

Preparing the Manuscript

Since UIL prose and poetry contests are reading events, a manuscript should be used for competition. Preparation of that manuscript is a vital part of the process as a whole. Rules of the contest state that “The contestant should perform the selections using manuscripts or copies of the selections that are in a binder. Students shall not read from books or magazines.” Contest rules also state the manuscript or copies of the selection should be available to the contest director, if needed at the contest, to aid in addressing question or concerns.

Most competitors use a black stiff-backed 3-ring binder, approximately 9” x 6” in size, as their manuscript
folder for several reasons:

  1. Black is less obtrusive than other colors. You want the focus of the audience and judge on your performance, not your binder.
  2. 3-ring binders make page turning easier. Avoid binders with back-mounted rings because they make the binder unwieldy to hold open properly for performance. Rings should be mounted in the spine. Also avoid binders with plastic see-through covers.
  3. 3-ring binders allow greater flexibility in arranging your manuscript.
  4. 3- ring binders easily accommodate “slicks” (plastic sheet covers).
  5. The 9” x 6” size is easy to handle and less obtrusive than other sizes.
  6. Most binders have pockets to accommodate documentation. (Before standing in front of the audience, be sure to empty the binder of everything but the selection you are about to perform.)


Type the manuscript in Landscape format. Use a clean, plain font that is easy to read. Arial is an example of a clean font. Increase the font size to 16 or larger, and double space the lines, so there’s room to add scoring notes. Break the selection down into “beats”, which are edited units of time or thought. Print only on one side.

Many competitors have turned to the 9” x 6” binder with the plastic sheets because it facilitates the handling of the manuscript. Not only do the “slicks” keep the manuscript intact and prevent it from falling out of the folder, but they also add a stiffness that allows you to turn pages smoothly, one page at a time. Slicks and binders can be ordered from office supply stores or The Black Book Depot ( your manuscript on black construction paper or black card stock before insertion into the slick is advantageous because it provides some rigidity for the page and it allows the eye to focus more readily on the page.

The binder is meant to serve as a constant visual reminder that the words you relay to the audience are not your own but those of the author of the literary work.