Home « Forum « Author Hangout

Forum: Author Hangout

Indented Text

Crumbly Writer

Another oddball formatting question.

Going with the assumption that the first line of text isn't indented, when does that apply and when doesn't it?

I'm trying to apply the rules I've learned to older stories, and I'm running into odd situations. I'm assuming that any new sources follows these rules (i.e. a new broadcast, not or report doesn't get indented, but any continuation does--to show their either new or old). But I've got a case where someone is telling various stories, so I'm also applying the same to story he tells, despite it being the same person talking. Each story starts out unindented, but in the story continues in different installments, it's indented.

Does this seem logical, or am I making too much of the often-ignored rule?

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Not exactly sure what you're after here CW, but the usual rules with indenting text have three basics:

1. The first line of a paragraph in a print book is indented to indicate the new paragraph, because there usually isn't a gap between paragraphs in print books.

2. The first line of text in an electronic document isn't indented, but there is a line left between paragraphs to indicate the new paragraph.

3. When displaying another document within your document (ie a letter or a telegram being shown in a story) the inserted document (in part or whole) is indented a little from both sides of the page in the way a blockquote is done. And the indenting protocol above is used.

Mind you, I do it a little different to the above, but that's the standard protocols used by most of the style manuals, but not all of them.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

That's just it, Ernest, I'm entering unchartered territory here. I've learned from an editor that you don't just not indent the first line of a chapter, but the first line of any section within a chapter. Thus if you have a section break, you begin with an unindented line.

That led me to the assumption that quoted material (ex: newspapers, broadcasts or notes) should also begin unindented--even though the whole segment is indented.

As far as the difference between text and print, that's not a hard and fast rule. Instead, you select either indented paragraphs or you skip lines between paragraphs. If you use indented paragraphs (first line is indented), then you Should refrain from capitalizing the first paragraph of any new section, whether it's electronic or print. But again, I haven't found any specific Style Guide references which specifically spell out any hard and fast rules on these issues. (The editor who pointed it out for me works with a variety of mainstream publishers, so uses their common 'in-house' standards rather than a specific Style Guide.

Since my stories tend to run so long, and the price of my printed books tends to be steeper, I avoid the 'blank line between paragraphs' and instead indent each paragraph, whether the entire paragraphs are indented or not. But that's simply an economic decision.

samuelmichaels

@Crumbly Writer

That's just it, Ernest, I'm entering unchartered territory here. I've learned from an editor that you don't just not indent the first line of a chapter, but the first line of any section within a chapter. Thus if you have a section break, you begin with an unindented line.

My informal review of old (20-th century) printed fiction books indicated that nearly all of them used indented first lines in each paragraph. Slightly more than half did *not* indent the first line in each chapter. Fiction rarely uses sections. Since the main rationale for first-line indent is to separate a paragraph from the preceding text, the first line in a chapter doesn't have this need. The same rationale seems to apply to sub-chapters.

I just reviewed a few non-fiction books which *do* have sections. Most do *not* indent the first line a section, as you mentioned. Further, most also omit indentation in the first paragraph following a graphical element such as a figure or drawing, even when not starting a new section.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I've learned from an editor that you don't just not indent the first line of a chapter,


CW,

I was taught you're supposed to indent the first line of every paragraph in print book. The indent is anywhere from about a fifth of an inch to half an inch. Not just the first line of the section or chapter, every paragraph.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Not just the first line of the section or chapter, every paragraph.


What CW said his editor said was not indent first paragraph only, but rather indent every paragraph except the first in a chapter/section.

The difference between the rule you are supporting and the one CW is asking about is exactly one paragraph in all cases.

Bondi Beach

@Crumbly Writer

That's just it, Ernest, I'm entering unchartered territory here. I've learned from an editor that you don't just not indent the first line of a chapter, but the first line of any section within a chapter. Thus if you have a section break, you begin with an unindented line.

That led me to the assumption that quoted material (ex: newspapers, broadcasts or notes) should also begin unindented--even though the whole segment is indented.


The traditional way is what you described: the first paragraph of a chapter is not indented. Nor, generally, is the first paragraph following a vertical space, such as that used to indicate a shift in viewpoint, time, location, or whatever, although I've seen it commonly both ways in the latter case.

So, do not indent the first line of the first paragraph of a chapter. If you want to go really old school, use small caps for the first 3-5 words in that first paragraph.

For the first paragraph of a "section," i.e., after a vertical space, you can indent or not, but I think not indenting looks better. Rarely do you see the small caps thing on a section break, however.

Fiction frequently uses a vertical space for a change of scene, change in time, etc., etc.. SOL uses a horizontal rule for the same purpose.

I've seen "indented" material, e.g., correspondence, a news article, or whatever follow the same pattern, i.e., do not indent the first line.

I think making your digital book look like a printed one is a good idea. Not all agree.

Crumbly Writer

@samuelmichaels

Fiction rarely uses sections.

Sorry, I didn't mean "sections", but "the first paragraph following a section break" (i.e. whenever you include a dashed line to denote the scene has changed in a fiction book, not every time you include a table or graph).

Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

I've seen "indented" material, e.g., correspondence, a news article, or whatever follow the same pattern, i.e., do not indent the first line.

That was essentially my question (carefully buried under useless explanations): if I don't indent news articles, do I do that in each instance, or only when it's a new reference. Or, in the case I'm wrestling with where the MC is telling parables, do I not indent for each parable, or not at all because the same person is speaking for all of them?

I suspect I'm confused because no one else wrote themselves into this particular situation before. 'D

I think making your digital book look like a printed one is a good idea. Not all agree.

Thanks, Bondi. I put the extra effort in to differentiate my books from the thousands of ebooks released every single day and help justify the prices I'm forced to charge since I can't sell thousands of each book.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


That was essentially my question (carefully buried under useless explanations): if I don't indent news articles, do I do that in each instance, or only when it's a new reference. Or, in the case I'm wrestling with where the MC is telling parables, do I not indent for each parable, or not at all because the same person is speaking for all of them?


I'd treat each news article as a new "section. If each parable is a new "section," as we're calling them, i.e., separated by a vertical space, I would treat each one as you do a new section or first para in a new chapter-do not indent the first line.

If you're not separating them, how does the reader know where one parable ends and the other begins? I'm guessing whatever means you use to separate one from another would indicate a new "first paragraph" where the first line is not indented.

In Redemption (soon to begin posting at SOL) there are two news articles. Each one begins with the line flush left, i.e., not indented. I checked the Washington Post to confirm they follow the same pattern, i.e., first sentence of first paragraph is not indented.

bb

Switch Blayde

@Bondi Beach


Fiction frequently uses a vertical space for a change of scene, change in time, etc., etc.. SOL uses a horizontal rule for the same purpose.


That's true for print books where you have control of formatting each page, but I read that for ebooks you need a blank line followed by a centered * * * * followed by a blank line. The reason being, with ebooks, you have no control over where the scene ends/begins so the blank line could go unnoticed.

CW,
I don't believe it's worth the risk of screwing up so I indent all paragraphs, even the first in a chapter. I once did a quick look at transitionally and self published books on Amazon and saw it done both ways.

Bondi Beach
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


That's true for print books where you have control of formatting each page, but I read that for ebooks you need a blank line followed by a centered * * * * followed by a blank line. The reason being, with ebooks, you have no control over where the scene ends/begins so the blank line could go unnoticed.


Good point. I've seen it in my books. You could also use some small innocuous curlicue or the like. EDIT: But I'd still put the first line of the following paragraph flush left.

bb

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

That's true for print books where you have control of formatting each page, but I read that for ebooks you need a blank line followed by a centered * * * * followed by a blank line. The reason being, with ebooks, you have no control over where the scene ends/begins so the blank line could go unnoticed.


The reason for this is there's a lot of software that will display a multiple white space (ie blank empty spaces) as a single space or line. HTML is known for doing this unless specific code for multiple spaces is used.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

That's true for print books where you have control of formatting each page, but I read that for ebooks you need a blank line followed by a centered * * * * followed by a blank line. The reason being, with ebooks, you have no control over where the scene ends/begins so the blank line could go unnoticed.

I've published 13 print and ebooks in various formats, and I've NEVER included "* * * * *" (it looks incredibly amateurish). I started with dashed lines "__________", and upgraded to graphical section breaks (I don't include these on SOL, since Lazeez doesn't have enough server capacity to handle graphics within chapters). For both ePubs and most self-publishing converters, as long as the display is 300dpi, it fits it to the screen (ex: "width=75%" in ePub and html).

This shouldn't be an issue for most of us, as it's above and beyond the call for most of us. The majority of the readers are into the story, and they expect online stories to be basic. However, I see what the mainstream publishers do to highlight their books, and I like the results. So I like taking a similar approach to highlight my stories (mostly because my books are not price sensitive (i.e. I sell the same amount whether I charge $.99 or $5.99). I've got a very small purchasing fan base, so I want to make the purchased stories worth more than the free stories)).

Yes, blank lines are easy to miss, but section dividers, either text or graphic based, is easier for the reader to manage.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

I don't include these on SOL, since Lazeez doesn't have enough server capacity to handle graphics within chapters


He doesn't? That's odd, because there are a number of illustrated stories on SOL.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Dominions Son


He doesn't? That's odd, because there are a number of illustrated stories on SOL.


The ones I've seen have a small image at the start of the chapter. I've included a number of images in different stories and part of the issue is to keep the total image size down while still being good enough to display the content well.

The thing to remember is there is a file size limit for each SoL chapter and an image will often take up a significant part of that limit. Thus the use of multiple images will affect the amount of text. That's why I try to have the images in the forward / prologue / ToC etc and not part of the general story file. But that doesn't always work out for the best.

edit to add: Lazeez does accept some images with stories, but if people start to go wild using them he may end up killing them off due to the extra cost involved. Responsible authors limit the images for display at SoL.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

The reason for this is there's a lot of software that will display a multiple white space (ie blank empty spaces) as a single space or line. HTML is known for doing this unless specific code for multiple spaces is used.


Not talking about multiple spaces, but blank lines.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

@Switch Blayde

Not talking about multiple spaces, but blank lines.


Lulu's conversion software strips out blank lines in Word. They way around that is to set the line spacing after the last paragraph before your jump to some multiple of whatever your template is set for---for example, 18 pt if your normal line spacing is 4 pt between paras.

bb

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Lazeez does accept some images with stories, but if people start to go wild using them he may end up killing them off due to the extra cost involved. Responsible authors limit the images for display at SoL.

In my case, I include my covers whenever I post a chapter but I won't include my graphic chapter headers or sections breaks, because repeating the same graphics tend to chew up resources.

@Switch

Not talking about multiple spaces, but blank lines.

For multiple spaces you have to use 'hard spaces' ( in html) or a hard line break ( < br / > in html), but the idea of spacing text by typing twenty spaces or including eight blank lines is always a no-no.

Switch Blayde

@Bondi Beach

Lulu's conversion software strips out blank lines in Word.


That's why I submit epub and not doc to Amazon. I want to be in control.

CW, in HTML you can force multiple spaces with the &nbsp (with a ; at the end). Not that it's multiple spaces, but I'm thinking of using it in the future, rather than using the ellipsis code, to create an ellipsis the way CMOS says to do it:

xxx . . . xxx

I plan to do a global change/replace to change the ellipsis to

&nbsp.&nbsp.&nbsp.&nbsp

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

CW, in HTML you can force multiple spaces with the (with a ; at the end). Not that it's multiple spaces, but I'm thinking of using it in the future, rather than using the ellipsis code, to create an ellipsis the way CMOS says to do it:

ellipses can be tricky, since you can't guarantee where the line will break (the other issue is when the line breaks between the last period of a paragraph and the final 'curly quote'). Instead of building your own ellipsis, I'd suggest going with:

&nbsp &hellip &nbsp

The reason for this is simple, ellipses are controlled by the specific font a use selects, rather than on what an author happens to use to write his story. Thus it fits better into the user experience. Also, typing that many control characters can be a bitch. Generally, I only include the above where there's more of a chance the ellipsis will display improperly, rather than as a matter of course.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


The reason for this is simple, ellipses are controlled by the specific font a use selects


That's what I've been doing, replacing Word's generated ellipsis with the &hellip when I convert doc to HTML (without the spaces before and after).

Lazeez made a comment on this forum that he doesn't like the way the ellipsis looks with some fonts. I tend to agree with him. So why not create my own using a combination of &nbsp and dots? This way I'm not dependent on the font's ellipsis.

This is what it looks like with this font:
xxx . . . xxxx

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Lazeez made a comment on this forum that he doesn't like the way the ellipsis looks with some fonts. I tend to agree with him. So why not create my own using a combination of and dots? This way I'm not dependent on the font's ellipsis.

Except, since SOL is already stripping out the hellip for plain text, you're essentially duplicating Lazeez's efforts for no net gain and the loss of the user controlled display on their own devices.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

the loss of the user controlled display on their own devices.


(This has nothing to do with SOL.)

Why am I losing the user controlled display on their device? An ellipsis is 3 dots (with or without the space between them). That's what I'd be providing. And the dot will be their choice for their device (font, size, etc).

Joe_Bondi_Beach

@Switch Blayde

@Bondi Beach
Lulu's conversion software strips out blank lines in Word.

That's why I submit epub and not doc to Amazon. I want to be in control.


The way to include vertical space in Word is to increase the space below the line from whatever is the default to 12 or 18 pts or so. And of course go to 1.5 line spacing generally. Save the reader's eyes.

But that works for me because Lulu's converter for Word produces an acceptable result for ebooks. (My ebook formatting requirements are pretty modest.) I'd never trust it for a printed book. Submit a camera-ready PDF instead.

bb

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Why am I losing the user controlled display on their device? An ellipsis is 3 dots (with or without the space between them). That's what I'd be providing. And the dot will be their choice for their device (font, size, etc).

Some people (like me) pick some really attention grabbing fonts that project something about them on their phones. As a result, childlike or sci-fi or fantasy fonts will have dramatically different ellipses than the traditional dot-dot-dot. That should be left up to the font designer and not have the author decide to wrest control from them.

In the case of the ellipses, normally they take less space that three dots because each period is kerned so the next sentence will be properly spaced, but I've seen a few fonts where the ellipses takes more space than the traditional three dots. I've also seen a few 'playful' fonts where the three dots aren't all in a row. The point isn't so much 'what does the reader lose' as it is: why do you feel the need to control things beyond your particular bailiwick? I've got a bit of a control fetish, but I know where to draw the line between things that I'm responsible for and areas that I'm not.

However, I doubt anyone will complain if you invest the time breaking down the structure of the internet one dot at a time. I just don't see where you gain anything from it. In most fonts, you won't see any visible difference at all, so why bother?

@Bondi Beach

But that works for me because Lulu's converter for Word produces an acceptable result for ebooks. (My ebook formatting requirements are pretty modest.) I'd never trust it for a printed book. Submit a camera-ready PDF instead.

The exact same process works with print books, the key is putting the changes in you Style definitions rather than coding it into the story ('in-line editing').

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

An ellipsis is 3 dots (with or without the space between them)


Trues for a visual font, however, if the person is using text to speech software the system will recognise the ellipsis code and say "ellipsis" but if you have three dots with spaces it will say "dot, space, dot, space, dot" instead. You may want to consider that in your plans.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

if the person is using text to speech software the system will recognise the ellipsis code and say "ellipsis"


Never thought of that.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

why do you feel the need to control things beyond your particular bailiwick?


I feel the space between the ellipsis dots is too small (basically non-existent). When I look at a printed novel, there's more white space between the dots. I like the look better, and I guess so do the traditional publishers (and of course CMOS which is maybe why the publishers do it that way). I just think it looks more professional. I don't know why the font designers cramp the dots together.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde


Never thought of that.


Neither did I, at first. Until a reader who uses speech to text software sent me an email about the issue, because that's how I used to do it. Now I go out of my way to avoid using an ellipsis, and when I have no option (voice trailing off or being interrupted) I use a proper ellipsis.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I feel the space between the ellipsis dots is too small (basically non-existent). When I look at a printed novel, there's more white space between the dots. I like the look better, and I guess so do the traditional publishers (and of course CMOS which is maybe why the publishers do it that way).

Sorry, but the mainstream publishers do that using fonts, rather than physically typing "space dot space dot space dot space". They insist that authors submit it in that format, but I don't believe for a second the editors leave it in that format.

The reason for the extra space is because each period (full stop) is designed to have an additional full non-breaking space following it to set off any following sentence (i.e. the reason for the spaces doesn't apply to ellipses).

But as I said, as much as your approach runs counter to the current design philosophies, I'd say go ahead with the global substitutions (or simply turn off the automatic conversion for ellipses). Readers will never notice, or even care if they do, and it will save you further aggravation. However, using non-breaking spaces will ultimately add several additional lines to your finished document (which is a negligible amount anyway).

By the way, that's also why I continue to use publishing marks (en and em-dashes and curly quotes), so they'll appear like professionally published books on whatever device they're viewed on.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Bondi Beach

@Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

But that works for me because Lulu's converter for Word produces an acceptable result for ebooks. (My ebook formatting requirements are pretty modest.) I'd never trust it for a printed book. Submit a camera-ready PDF instead.
The exact same process works with print books, the key is putting the changes in you Style definitions rather than coding it into the story ('in-line editing').


For the vertical space in question, the paragraph style must be changed individually. Even if you did create a new "Paragraph with more vertical space style," Lulu's converter probably would choke on it since it only accepts limited styles.

There's a better solution, thanks to SB? you? whoever? pointed it out just a day or so ago: put a little ornamental (*not* a horizontal rule, in my view) figure to separate the change of scene or whatever you want to use the empty vertical space for. Eliminates the need for special treatment of the paragraph above, and ensures the separation will show up no matter where or how it is displayed. Problem solved.

As for conversion to print, the conversion goes OK, but what you get is a printed version of the source Word doc (obviously), and while the ePub conversion result is OK for an eBook for me, it's inadequate for a printed book. (Aside from layout problems, which LaTeX handles much better than Word, you're limited to the three (I think) fonts Lulu permits.

bb

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

(or simply turn off the automatic conversion for ellipses).


That's the worse thing to do. If it's not an ellipsis (by font or with the non-breaking spaces), one or more of the dots could end up on the next line.

Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

For the vertical space in question, the paragraph style must be changed individually. Even if you did create a new "Paragraph with more vertical space style," Lulu's converter probably would choke on it since it only accepts limited styles.

I use a variety of different "centered" line styles just for this purpose:
- extra trailing space
- no space whatsoever - which I use for my section breaks
- Double space and bolded with trailing space for more important messages (like "Continued ...")

There's a better solution, thanks to SB? you? whoever? pointed it out just a day or so ago: put a little ornamental (*not* a horizontal rule, in my view) figure to separate the change of scene or whatever you want to use the empty vertical space for.

It was me, and if you're interested, I've got a selection of images I've can get you at a reasonable price.

@Switch

That's the worse thing to do. If it's not an ellipsis (by font or with the non-breaking spaces), one or more of the dots could end up on the next line.

Good point. In that case, replace the standard ellipsis replacement with one using non-breaking spaces.

richardshagrin

A different kind of space program.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

A different kind of space program.

Combining related threads: The Capital/Space program, a typical government program where astronauts are put to death once they return to Earth.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

The Capital/Space program, a typical government program where astronauts are put to death once they return to Earth.


Gee, and here I thought that The Capital Space Program was a plot by libertarian billionaires to secretly build a giant rocket under DC and launch the whole city into space.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

I think that plot is the Capitol Space Program. Homonyms: Capital/Capitol.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

:-P

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

Well there is the oldie (and maybe, possibly a goodie) about why Ireland is so rich. Because its Capital is always Dublin.

Doubling and Dublin aren't really homonyms, but if you are willing to squint a little, maybe.

tholepin

@Crumbly Writer

I've seen italics used in applications such as you describe; however, some formats don't support italics. Not sure about this list.

When in doubt, go with Chicago.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@tholepin

I've seen italics used in applications such as you describe; however, some formats don't support italics. Not sure about this list.

I'm not sure of any publishing sites which don't allowing italics, though editors from on excessive formatting (aka. publishing companies discourage their use by newbie authors). Many newbie writers will include italics, bolded, underlined and/or color coded text in the same line. In the olden days, little was specially highlighted (i.e. there weren't many italics used in the 19th century). Now that it's easier to include, it's usage for alternate purpose (to convey specific meaning) has likewise grown.

But again, the biggest rule in formatting is that it's unappreciated. Few, if any, readers will ever notice and/or comment on formatting, although including it will help readers enjoy the book more. Just like with published graphics, it doesn't generally generate a response but it adds to the 'feel' and perception of the story. Whether it's worth the effort that authors, designers and publishers invest in it is purely a matter of faith, as there's scant evidence that readers give a shit one way or the other.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

But again, the biggest rule in formatting is that it's unappreciated. Few, if any, readers will ever notice and/or comment on formatting, although including it will help readers enjoy the book more.


True, but some will comment if you don't make use of the format option. They'll go on about how hard it was to work certain things out from context alone.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

True, but some will comment if you don't make use of the format option. They'll go on about how hard it was to work certain things out from context alone.

I just posted to a new site, and since it took a couple days for them to post the story (after submission) I didn't immediately check it. They didn't include the first-line indentation in paragraphs, as a result the entire first chapter read like one broken up paragraph. Aargh!

You never can tell which aspects of html any given site will willfully chose to ignore. Strangely, despite claiming that they don't support curly quotes (smart quotes), they do, as I'd inadvertently left a left-single quote in the story--which I've since removed, however, I assume they don't convert it to the PC equivalent rather than leaving it as the html version which will display on any device.

Dicrostonyx

@Crumbly Writer

Another oddball formatting question.

Going with the assumption that the first line of text isn't indented, when does that apply and when doesn't it?


As to the original question about indents, this isn't so much an answer as a bit of context. I think that what you're seeing with print books is basically a result of the publishing industry adopting styles from formal writing, but not having the constraint of having to adhere to a specific style.

The major point of the different styles has to do with citation: different disciplines put varying emphasis on authorship and quotation. However, because these styles are being taught academically, they also include all sorts of other details such as paper size, indent depth, spacing, font choice and size, and so on. This ensures not only that assignments are consistent but that students are practising the format they'll need in that field.

There are several major styles used in academia, the most important being:

APA (American Psychological Association) is used in the social sciences. It has two indent styles: first line indentation and hanging indentation. Most paragraphs have the first line start 0.5" to the right of the other lines (first line indent), but reference lists use a hanging indent where the first line starts to the left of the rest of the paragraph (like a bullet-point list).

Harvard style is very similar to APA, but is used more in the UK and Australia, especially in the humanities. Notably, Harvard recommends getting into the habit of indenting paragraphs as you write, the other formats assume that you'll put indents in later as part of the formatting process.

MLA (Modern Language Association) style is the format most commonly used in the liberal arts and humanities, especially in the USA. In MLA, the first paragraph of a chapter or section has no indent, and all following paragraphs are indented. This is the format that I'm most used to using (West coast Canada, English dept.).

CMS (Chicago Manual of Style) is uncommon at the undergraduate level, but sometimes used in the humanities; it is mostly used for history and economics. CMS recommends that all paragraphs be indented using the TAB key. This is a growing issue since some ebook formats don't recognise TAB as a standard indent format.

The other two major styles in use are Vancouver, used in medical and science papers, and Turabian, which is a version of CMS adapted for students rather than being focused on publishing.

So if you are really worried about consistency, you might actually want to pick up a style guide and stick to it. Failing that, I'd say to just go with whatever makes you comfortable and don't stress it. Most people really won't notice.

Personally, I mostly use MLA when writing. I'm used to it, and I'd rather use a formal style when writing casually than have to break myself of bad habits later if I go back to school.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Dicrostonyx

The major point of the different styles has to do with citation: different disciplines put varying emphasis on authorship and quotation. However, because these styles are being taught academically, they also include all sorts of other details such as paper size, indent depth, spacing, font choice and size, and so on. This ensures not only that assignments are consistent but that students are practising the format they'll need in that field.


A good overview of the various style guides, but I doubt many SOL authors are overly concerned with non-fiction or school-based style guides. The main fiction guides are Chicago and AP (in America, at least), although you can discard many of the non-fiction specific references, as the rules for fiction and non-fiction are fairly distinct, though the styles guides don't stress the differences.

In my case, since I've never tried to submit my stories to a traditional publisher, I've never had to chose the publisher's required style guide. As a result, I've largely mixed and matched the best of each, basing my selections on feedback from other authors. That allows me to format consistently, while also not being hemmed in by a centuries old guide originally designed for newspapers.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

The main fiction guides are Chicago and AP


Actually, AP (Associated Press) is the style guide for journalism, not fiction.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Actually, AP (Associated Press) is the style guide for journalism, not fiction.

I'd thought it was like the Chicago Style Guide in that it's applied to ALL forms of writing by the publishers that insist on it's use. But, if that's not the case, then what's the common alternative to the Chicago Manual (used by the biggest fiction publishers)? I'd thought it was the AP, but then again, I've never been one to read Style Guides, instead getting my advice from Grammar Girl or the other grammar websites.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

But, if that's not the case, then what's the common alternative to the Chicago Manual (used by the biggest fiction publishers)?


I believe the CMOS is used by all publishers.

I guess the alternative would be "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White.

Newspapers and such are concerned with the amount of paper used so the AP Style guide makes things shorter, such as:

AP = 2-year-old
CMOS = two-year-old

and

AP = xx...xx
CMOS = xx . . . xx

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

what's the common alternative to the Chicago Manual


Whatever the publisher you're using, or want to use, says is the guide to use. That's why it's so simple for s self publisher to use their own.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

AP = 2-year-old
CMOS = two-year-old

and

AP = xx...xx
CMOS = xx . . . xx

And that's why I elect to construct my own Independent Style guide. Since I'm not constrained by paper costs, I prefer the CMOS usage in the first example, but a combination version for the second ("xx ... xx").

I'm not constrained by paper costs, but I'm also dealing with modern technology which features custom designed fonts cable to displaying properly designed fonts.

richardshagrin

Is Dented Text like Broken English? Maybe just sprained instead of broken?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

Is Dented Text like Broken English? Maybe just sprained instead of broken?

For some odd reason, broken English is associated with poor verbal skills. Dented text sounds like printed books with scratches or impressions in the paper, or maybe scratched ebook readers where you can't tell whether it's a scratch or a period.

Back to Top