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

Featured

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 #9 – Resources 3 – Formatting and Editing

2/22/18

Here I am back to writing resources again. As a new writer, I started from scratch in a lot of ways.  One of those was learning how to format a work as expected by publishers. For short stories, almost every publisher’s submissions guidelines say to use Shunn’s manuscript format. Between that and Word’s manuscript template, my short stories at least looked professional from the beginning.

Some publishers look for stories in non-traditional formats. In the submission guidelines for several publishers, they state they actively seek stories in non-traditional formats.  Examples provided include a story written in the style of a web chat or series of text messages. The concept of using non-traditional formats goes back at least as far as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and probably further, where the narrative appears in a series of journal entries and correspondence. More recently, the same concept was used in The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.: A Novel by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland. An author in my critique group experimented with using a Dracula-style format for her novel but abandoned the idea, citing difficulty in making it work. I have not tried the concept myself, though I did include an email exchange in one short story.

With formatting out of the way, I needed to learn stylistically how to write. Again, if your story calls for a non-traditional style, go for it. But for a traditional story, if I want to be published, the style should conform to that expected by most publishers. Stephen King advocates using The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. It’s short at about 80 pages. There’s also The Chicago Manual of Style.  I happened to have an abbreviated version of this lying around.

The reason I knew to use “lying” instead of “laying” just then was because of Blood from Your Own Pen: A Practical Guide on Self-Editing and Common Mistakes: For Beginning Authors Who Intend to Survive to Publications by Sam Knight. I love this book. I recommend it for any novice writer. For starters, it’s funny, which I always appreciate. Second, the advice is solid. I often found I’d read a chapter, and then the next time I was editing a story, I’d catch the mistakes Knight just told me about. Also, as I receive rejections of stories I have out now, I’m finding myself re-editing them to eliminate the errors he discusses. That makes the turnaround time for resubmitting those stories slower, but maybe the revised stories will appeal more to subsequent publishers.