“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.

Girl Reading-Jean Baptiste Camille Corot

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