“Good book, vicar? Would you like a parenthesis with that?”
Writing books has more than a few pitfalls. For example, which formatting do we use the more traditional, indented paragraph and dialogue lines, or a more modern straight block paragraph with no indents? Do we opt for traditional speech marks, “like these” or more modern parentheses, ‘like these’?
For my money, I’m rather traditional, so despite the extra stretch that it takes on the keyboard to get up to “ I prefer that, and opt for that as often as I remember to. (Though if traditionalists would like us to continue doing so, it might be a good idea to re-design the keyboard so that “ is more conveniently placed. You’ll see that ‘(single parenthesis) is in exactly the right place, and unlike “ does not require us to use the SHIFT key.
I am assuming that traditionalists who use “ ” will also use paragraph indents for dialogue, which I do think looks better, but can feel a bit arbitrary. When do we use paragraph indents, and when do we allow a paragraph to continue? In many cases, it seems to boil down to what looks good, which is fine, but not exactly good teaching. (“Just do what looks good, kids, and you’ll be fine….!”)
One thing is certain. I must not mix and match, or my characters’ lives can get very confusing, and the editor will be most annoyed. At the moment I am writing two books, in both of which I started out using different conventions, though I have now put both books into traditional format. Thinking about what is right or wrong is sometimes so confusing, I retreat to my usual line, that as long as I am consistent and clear, it doesn’t matter as much as I think it does, which is probably true.
Thanks for reading.
January 26, 2016 @ 4:42 pm
Interestingly Kindle have now begun using Booksie which is a font specifically design to make reading on and ereader more enjoyable so if you opt to use fully formatted for ebooks that might be overridden anyway. I think you hit the nail on the head though with your comment about consistency.
The idea of changing the keyboard scares me a bit as a touch typist – did you see that the French are thinking of changing their traditional one which differs slightly from the qwerty – I feel so sorry for French touch typists if they do that. As for paragraphs ! pfft, as you know all too well Fran grammar isn’t my best subject and I thank heavens for my editors.
January 27, 2016 @ 10:54 am
Thank you so much, Diane. There are two types of keyboard, now, the second being a straight alphabetical one, apparently. They tested relative speeds and they were exactly the same.
I love your comments, which are so helpful and on point.
January 27, 2016 @ 3:29 pm
Delightful description of a perennial issue. As a reader, I prefer traditional indents on paragraphs. Why? Because we have pages! Sometimes a paragraph ends at the end of the line, I turn the page, and lo! The next paragraph is NOT indented, and may or may not be an obvious paragraph change. Very frustrating.
One other frustration–when to use ” and when to use ‘. Some people mix and match–driving me crazy. But then I also get driven crazy when I’m writing and yes (you hit the nail on the head!) the ” takes more time and energy than ‘.
So let’s just do away with typing our written texts and speak them into an intelligent machine that will decide in a heartbeat what to do, and do it consistently. We might even be able to program it to do it the way we would like it done?
As a borderline perfectionist, I always read and edit my own stuff even after the official editor does his or her part. And yes, I always find something the editor missed…..and end up feeling as though formatting can be a disincentive to writing. And yet….
Happy writing, Fran! I can’t wait to see your next book!
January 28, 2016 @ 10:36 am
Hmmmmmm……I’d never really thought of it like that, Elouise.
Editing is interesting, and I was reading yesterday that writing is not when the story comes out, but only in the editing, which I do notice. So, the editing never ends, and I don’t (often) thinks that makes us perfectionists, really, but we see different things all the time.
I have another book up my sleeve, makes four, or five, if I am feeling ambitious. I just hope the ideas stay around until I can get to them.
Lots of love