Post #25 – Spaces

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6/14/18

How many spaces should follow the end of a sentence, one or two? I grew up using, and continue to use, two spaces. I’ve read several articles claiming one space now is the norm. The are two arguments for this.

First, we, as a society, have gotten away from using monospaced fonts. When every character takes up the same amount of space, including a period, like in a monospaced font, it’s easier to differentiate between two sentences with two spaces at the end. Most print does not use monospaced formats any more.

The second argument states people read most content online now in shorter bursts, so one way to save space (no pun intended) is to eliminate a space after each sentence. Supposedly, the formatting is better online when there’s only one space.

It’s true monospaced fonts are not the norm in the writing I see every day, and I know nothing about online formatting. Still, I still don’t buy it. For starters, many of the submission guidelines I read want a story to be in a monospaced format like Courier. If that is a requirement, then it follows two spaces to end a sentence should be required.

Not even that argument addresses the main reason, at least for me, to use two spaces. That is to eliminate confusion. It doesn’t happen often, but what if a sentence ends in an acronym with periods? With only one space after that sentence, a reader won’t know a new sentence started. The more immediate reaction is there is a typo. For example:

“The regulation finally was passed by the members of the E.U. When the matter first appeared, the initial response was appeasement.”

Putting aside the passive voice, which is prevalent in everyday writing, my initial reaction would be the capitalized “w” is a typo. A reader doesn’t know otherwise until finishing the sentence. By then the reader is confused, and the flow of the story is broken.

Most submission guidelines and the standard manuscript formats cited therein say it doesn’t matter whether one or two spaces separate sentences. However, I know of one Australian market’s guidelines requiring one space. I’m planning to test Word’s find and replace function the learn if it can remove a space after each sentence. Since I’m a two spacer, all my manuscripts don’t comply, and I don’t plan to take the time to remove those spaces for this one market.

Because I want to deny I’m getting older and out of touch, I’ve experimented with training myself to use only one space when typing these blog entries. (You may have noticed.) It hasn’t gone well. I regularly must go back through an entry and make the number of spaces consistent, usually using the number of spaces most prevalent. Not to discount the wise sage Yoda, but it’s hard to unlearn what you have learned.

Now there is scientific proof that two spaces are better than one! According to renowned (or not) Washington Post Magazine humor (or slightly funny) columnist Gene Weingarten, a Skidmore College experiment found two spaces after a sentence enhances clarity and makes reading easier and faster.  That’s enough for me.

Let me know your thoughts on the great space debate.

Photo credit: LUM3N via Pixabay

Post #24 – Submission Guidelines

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6/7/18

Aeryn Rudel addressed some of this on his Rejectomancy blog post titled New Author Starter Kit – Submission Prep. Here are my thoughts.

For starters, I will echo the first thing most editors include in their submission guidelines: before submitting READ THESE GUIDELINES CAREFULLY. Do it. Don’t skim; read all the way through. Then go back and read them again.

Like the pebbles on the beach in this post’s featured image, every set of guidelines is different. Even if I’ve read them five times, I read them each time before I submit in case they’ve been updated. Then I read them again. On the second time through, I make each required formatting change to my story as it appears in the guidelines, just so I don’t miss any. For example:

Editor prefers Times New Roman. Check. Editor wants all identifying info removed (author name and address, byline, last name in page number header, author listed in the metadata). Check. Editor requires document saved as an .rtf or .doc file instead of .docx. Annoying but check. Editor accepts submissions only via email with “[New Submission]” in the title. Check.

There are too many permutations to remember when, like me, you’re submitting 15+ stories to a dozen or so markets.

I also recommend periodically double checking that the editor for a market hasn’t changed. It can’t look good if you address your cover letter to the editor who left the magazine two months ago. Editorial teams change, and submission guidelines often change with them.

Submission guidelines are a great resource. An editor is telling you exactly what he or she wants, which means your submission will have the best chance at acceptance. If you’re a salesperson, which we writers are, in what other industry are you able to know your customer’s personal preferences so as to market your product to them most efficiently? Okay, I’m choosing to ignore the new world of Facebook, Google, and Amazon where the sales companies know everything about us.

My only complaint is how much of a time suck reading and complying with the various guidelines is. I realize each editor has different preferences, so each editor’s guidelines will be different. But the time it takes to conform a story and submit it according to the guidelines is time I’m not writing or editing. Can’t they all agree to use the same guidelines, personal preferences be damned?

Many submission guidelines say to use a standard manuscript format.  Most cite Shunn’s manuscript format for short stories.  However, a few cite an alternate version posted on the SFWA website here.  They essentially are the same.  Luckily, the manuscript template in Microsoft Word follows these formats for the most part.  It’s when an editor deviates from the norm you must be careful.  That’s why you read the submission guidelines and then read them again.

Let me know in the comments your experiences with submission guidelines.

Photo credit: globenwein via Pixabay

Post #23 – Cover Letters

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5/31/18

This should have posted Thursday. Apparently, I’m still learning WordPress.

Submission cover letters for short fiction are an often covered topic, so I won’t go into too much detail. Instead, two excellent posts by Aeryn Rudel on his Rejectomancy blog are Back to Basics: The Cover Letter and Back to Basics: More Cover Letter Components. As the titles suggest, he addresses the minimum content (and often the maximum content) that should be in a short fiction cover letter and then addresses the few occasions when additional types of information should be included. I won’t rehash those.

I will talk about my on experience.  Looking back at my first cover letters, I very much violated these tenets.  As one example, I often included a paragraph explaining the inspiration for the story.  Like I said, cringe worthy.  Luckily, I made such faux pas only the first couple of times.  Then I found valuable resources online that pointed me in the right direction, which is the less, the better. Half the submission guidelines I’ve read even say a cover letter is optional. I still include one to make me feel better.

In fact, I’ve written so many I keep a folder of previous cover letters for each market. When I submit a new story, I simply change the story’s name, genre, and word count. This saves me the time otherwise needed to look up that market’s editor (for addressing purposes) and what, if anything, that market specifically asks be included in a cover letter.

In contrast, the sources I’ve read state cover letters to children’s’ book publishers are completely different. Since I’ve written and submitted a couple children’s book manuscripts, I’ve had to pay attention to these entirely different expectations. Maybe the differences have something to do with these publishers still requiring paper submissions. Their slush piles are actual piles of paper, not an electronic inbox of files or a dashboard like Submittable or Moksha.

For children’s book manuscripts, the cover letter not only includes the story’s title but a sentence or two describing the story. The cover letter also should explain why the manuscript is a good fit with that publisher. The guides I’ve read recommend reviewing recently published books by that publisher and relating your manuscript to those.  Also, if you have any relevant experience in the field in which the manuscript takes place, or other publication history, that should be stated. It’s almost like a query letter for a novel manuscript. That’s a lot of extra work compared to short fiction.

My first submissions were of children’s book manuscripts, so maybe I can chalk up my short fiction cover letter mistakes to applying different expectations.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve made any cover letter faux pas.

Photo credit: slightly_different via Pixabay