Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Few Formatting Basics

Hola readers!
1194993859534275110calligraphy_svg_medI just finished my school work (for the most part) for this week and now am able to do my work while I listen to Christina Grimmie’s new album (links for her work is at the end of this post).
Before I get to my work, I decided to drop in and give you all a short lesson in book formatting, which doesn’t just apply to book formatters but writers as well.
So, when you’re writing a fictional story, here’s some simple things to remember:
  1. Don’t use Bold! I mean, ever. Don’t. Use. It. When you want to convey something with power, we don’t use bold. It’s annoying. We use exclamation points and italics. No bold.
  2. Don’t use ALL CAPS! Don’t do it. I have seen this used – rarely – in some books – but only single words, NEVER FULL SENTENCES or PHRASES. ONE word only, if you MUST.
  3. When indenting your paragraphs, don’t use tabs and don’t use the space bar! You will enrage your formatter. If you don’t know how to set the indent spacing on your word processor (i.e. Microsoft Word, Word Perfect), then don’t use indents at all. Just double space your paragraphs. It’s so much easier than having to go through and remove all of the tabs (by hand!) or spaces. So either learn how to indent your paragraphs (if you don’t know how and you want to learn, you can message/email/contact me and I’ll give you a hand) or just don’t indent.
What I just did above… don’t do it. That’s why I did it. I’m hoping you’re the learn-from-others’-mistakes type of person.
The difference between formatting fiction and nonfiction is that the rules that I mentioned above, don’t necessarily apply to nonfiction:
  1. You can use bold. You should use it sparingly still. I mean, if you can’t convey your message powerfully without the help of bold, italics, or underlining and all that, then you should be rewriting that message, not covering it up. Can you use bold in nonfiction? Yes.
  2. You can underline words. Again, use it sparingly. Only when you really need it. I once formatted a nonfiction book where each numbered paragraph started like this one. With the underlines. It was scary and I couldn’t actually focus on what I was reading.
  3. The ALL CAPS rule for nonfiction is the same for nonfiction. It isn’t exactly a good idea, but you can let one slide rarely. By rarely I mean, once per 500 page novel.
  4. If you are using Bold, Italics, AND Underline in one article or chapter – you seriously need to reconsider. Take out everything you can. Replace it with the classic exclamation point when you want to make – well – a point.
Right now, I’m reading a great nonfiction book for my theatre class: Theatre Arts: Fundamental Theory & Practice by Frank Pickard. There are some severe formatting issues with it… I mean some things that really bugged me. But one thing that is extremely right in the book is the *lack* of bold italic and underline usage. It has more of a continuous read feel to it.
There’s some bold and plenty of italics, but everything that I’ve just discussed in this blog post is very right in that book. So, take a peek at that if you want an example of how to do it right.

(Who the heck is Christina Grimmie? Latest YouTube singing sensation, her new album was released last June.)

If all the world were to form one human, he would be perfect, because there is at least one thing that each person does perfectly.

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