Tuesday 6 November 2018

Paragraph indents, or lack of

Hi everyone - greetings from Greece! (I know those aren't Greek flags, but I wanted something to wave at you (and I haven't downloaded yesterday's photos yet – we were too busy winning the quiz.) Can you tell from them where we were a couple of days ago?)

I was asked a question via twitter, which I've only just seen. It went something like this ...  'When an editor asks for no paragraph indents, what should I do? Add a space or symbol? It looks odd with nothing.'

As one person is wondering, it seems likely others are too, so I've decided to answer on here. All you do is leave out the indents (or if, as is likely, you can't help but put them in as you write, take them out again afterwards).

If you think about it logically, the editor will have asked for the story to be sent without indents because she doesn't want them (if you look in the magazines, many don't use them). If you have indents, or anything else including blank lines, then these will have to be removed. That takes time; not much time per story perhaps, but it is 'one more thing'.

I do agree that it looks odd – and I confess that I can't write without something to diferentiate the paragraphs, but I do try to remove them before submitting if that's what the guidelines request.


Simon Whaley said...

It’s not just the indents they take out ... they take out the double-spacing between lines too. It does look weird, but the software they use for page layout design can “see” the carriage returns from when we hit the Return key, so the ‘new paragraph’ information is still there. It does look weird when you’re not used to it, though!

Bea Charles said...

I type without indents but have the layout set to ‘add space after paragraph’. Then before submitting by email I just ‘remove space after paragraph’. It’s easier than having to trawl through the whole document paragraph by paragraph at the end, but makes the ms easier on the eye when I’m drafting.

Captain Black said...

Endorsing what Simon said, I'd presume that the actual published formatting, including paragraphing, line spacing etc, is largely done algorithmically these days.

Indentation could be added or removed using your word processor's tools, rather than having to do it manually for each paragraph. The details of that would obviously depend on your choice of software, but a global search/replace for newline character sequences would probably do the trick. Or perhaps a macro to adjust 'ruler' settings?

Sharon Boothroyd said...

I've never bothered with indents.
When I first began writing womag stories I was told off by other writers for not doing so.
Yet fiction eds haven't got back to me,asking to send the story again with indents.
I also don't use double line spacing, unless its a comp entry and the comp rules ask for it.
I've always used 1. 5 and this seems to be ok.
It doesn't matter so much now we're emailing work, but when I started out, all the mags required paper/ snail mail submissions.
Double line spacing took up an awful lot of printing ink and paper.

Red-Lucy said...

Thanks Patsy.
People's Friend still requires paper submissions for short stories hence my question about marking a new paragraph. Still I suppose they wouldn't ask for no indents (and therefore no change of paragraph) unless they have good reason. They do specify double spacing though.

I'll send as is and see if I get any luck.
Cheers Nita

Patsy said...

@ Simon – I hadn't thought of them being able to check where we've started a new paragraph, but you're right, they could do that (assuming we put them in properly to start with.)

@ Bea and Captain Black – I add or remove mine automatically too. Doing one at a time would soon get boring.

@ Sharon – You're right to go with what editors, rather than other writers, want.

@ Red-Lucy – good luck!

Fay Knowles said...

Thanks for this, Patsy. Most helpful. And thanks for everyone's comments too.