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  #1    
Old November 26th, 2010, 05:20 PM
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Hey, there's been a whole rash of this lately (as in, every other story submitted to the forums seems to have the same problem), so I figured I'd make a short thread about it to help authors out or to give reviewers something to link to/copy and paste when they want to talk about this subject. You're free to comment or ask questions about the subject and whatnot. This is just me putting my thoughts down on the subject.



Now, I know it sounds anal, but I just want to say that everybody's eyes and brains process things differently. Moreover, text on a screen is harder to focus on than text on paper. Keeping that in mind, you'll also want to know that in order to get the most responses, you'll need to make things as easy for a passing reader to get through as possible. That means making sure that you accommodate for all of those different eyes and brains.

How do you do this? Two ways.

1. Do not format your text. Little exercise for you. Use color tags to change your text to a dark color. (Purple is particularly good for this experiment, but black works too.) Post and switch your skin to Johto Elite. How easily can you read it without highlighting or copying your work to a word processor? Not as easy as reading a post written in the default color, right? Okay, now change your font size to 1 and write a very long post. Not quite as easily readable as the default font size, right? Sure, you might still be able to make things out, but it takes just a bit more effort than reading things written in the default font. For some people with not-so-great eyes, that means they have to strain in order to get through your work. That's not a good thing.

So, to make things easier for you, don't put font tags on your work. It'll be easier for your readers to see, which means they can focus more on your story than trying to figure out what you're actually trying to say.

2. The bigger problem that I've been seeing a lot is the fact that a lot of people don't hit the enter key as often as they should. As a result, fics tend to be blocks of text with no clear break between every new paragraph.

To make things clearer, there are two times when you need to create new paragraphs: whenever you change topics and whenever a different character speaks. A new topic happens in fiction when you go from describing one action or thing to another. For example, one paragraph might be dedicated to describing a setting, and the next might introduce the main character as he walks down a hallway. For another example, if you're writing about a battle, you might go from describing one Pokémon's move and its effects to describing another.

With dialogue, it seems to be a little-known fact that you need to space things out even here. No, it doesn't make things neater to take out all the spacing between each line of dialogue. You're still starting a new paragraph each time you go from what one character says to what another character says. (Or, in other words, if Character A has stopped speaking, start a new paragraph before Character B starts.)

Now, in print, you'd normally indent (hit the tab key) every time you begin a new paragraph, but unfortunately, you can't indent lines online. (There's an indent tag, but this moves the entire paragraph over, not just the first line.) So, you show a different paragraph just by hitting the enter key twice instead of once.

I know it sounds anal, but it's really important that you remember to do this. Like I said earlier, it's more difficult to focus on text on a screen than text on paper. For some people (like yours truly), it's hard to keep track of what line we're on if we don't have clear paragraph breaks on our screens. It makes us skip lines, reread lines, or generally have our eyes cross. In other words, it's really a pain, to put things bluntly. So, we're less likely to want to sit down and go through your work if we can't get past the formatting because, well, it'd be painful for us. Sometimes even literally if your text goes on for long periods of time.

As a note, yes, I'm aware that some people confuse the word "scene" with "paragraph." Scenes are complete breaks from the action to move to a different location, different time, and sometimes different group of characters. A paragraph, however, is a subset of a scene that captures one topic or character's dialogue. Considering the rules for separating paragraphs, you can't really just separate scenes with a single line of space. There's a variety of different ways to indicate scene breaks, so I encourage you to think creatively about how to do that. However, just keep in mind that a paragraph is (usually) much, much smaller than a scene and that whenever someone tells you to separate your paragraphs, they're not talking about all the action in one location at one particular time.

You may be wondering why I'm telling you all this. After all, the reader has the ability to change their skin or copy your work to a word processor, right? Well, that's the catch. You don't want them to do that because it distracts them from your story. Instead, you want them to be able to jump right in for each new chapter, and you can do that by removing as many obstacles between them and your work as possible. In other words, the easier it is for a reader to look at your work, the more likely they'll be able to sit down and enjoy what's going on, which means the more likely they'll be coming back.

Hope this helps a little!
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  #2    
Old November 26th, 2010, 06:19 PM
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Wonderful, Jax. I've been noticing these problems a lot lately too, and it's nice to see them made visible like this. Hopefully this will prompt a little change . . . if some people even read this forum, that is. :/
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Old November 26th, 2010, 08:02 PM
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Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
As a note, yes, I'm aware that some people confuse the word "scene" with "paragraph." Scenes are complete breaks from the action to move to a different location, different time, and sometimes different group of characters. A paragraph, however, is a subset of a scene that captures one topic or character's dialogue. Considering the rules for separating paragraphs, you can't really just separate scenes with a single line of space. There's a variety of different ways to indicate scene breaks, so I encourage you to think creatively about how to do that. However, just keep in mind that a paragraph is (usually) much, much smaller than a scene and that whenever someone tells you to separate your paragraphs, they're not talking about all the action in one location at one particular time.
Real quick on the bold part, I would maybe not exactly say "creatively" here. To be honest, sometimes scene breaks distract me when they have symbols all over like this:

&&&&***~~~++++*****~~~~++++&&&&

Which tends to stretch the whole screen, or

~&*$^(-)%@

Trust me, have seen breaks like those before in Serebii and FFnet. Perhaps say make the scene breaks also not straining on the eyes and a simple one like ~~~ might be fine.

Other than that, I believe part of the reason is they are a lot of fics posted in the way that's not pleasing to our eyes is we're having so many new writers now and hence why they're not getting used to how to post fanfics properly. The different font formats I don't see too often, but the blocks of text I've seen quite a few.

I can see this being helpful to the new writers that have trouble posting the right away, although hopefully the reviewers will be nice to pinpoint the format problems before referencing to this thread. :x
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Old November 26th, 2010, 09:51 PM
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I say, I do approve of this, as it is something I have also noticed in recent times. XD Another nicely-writen guide there, Jax. ;p

Do also agree with Bay that short line-breaks are better than long, overly-fancy ones.
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Old November 27th, 2010, 04:31 PM
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Maybe to make this more of a general guide (to possibly be linked to in the Writer's Resources thread? IDK. It's up to you) include a mention to not screw around with the font type. For example, itty-bitty Times New Roman font or giant awkward Arial Black.

That, and a reminder to use the Preview Post button before the Submit Reply button. That way, the OP can see how their post will look before anyone else sees it, so they can fix the formatting.

And that if they don't know what's up with their formatting, they can always shoot a PM to one of the mods. We're willing to help out.

Just going to add my agreement with the scene breaks. My personal favorite is "OoOoOoOoO". Love it.
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Old December 1st, 2010, 07:12 PM
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Scene-breaks wise, I just tend to use '***' Just a bit more uncomplicated.
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Old December 2nd, 2010, 11:32 AM
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I find that -- works for me. There is always much amusement to be had when people use their line breaks as "########||::[insert fic title here]:|########" or something of the sort. (Then again, I'm not entirely innocent with my "<--" thing signifying an alternate event happening in the same timeframe, but...)

Also, I see a button in the corner of the text box with two As in it, both in varying shades of blue, with a red X over them. This removes all text formatting and reverts it to the forum default. :3 Convenience!
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Old December 2nd, 2010, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
2. The bigger problem that I've been seeing a lot is the fact that a lot of people don't hit the enter key as often as they should. As a result, fics tend to be blocks of text with no clear break between every new paragraph.
Just a comment here: I've seen cases where writers also hit the enter key too many times, and it leaves this nice huge gap which serves no purpose but to make readers use their mouse wheel and scroll through it. I use to do this and not really realize how much of a pain my story was to read until I really looked. Doing it once is okay, like at the end of a chapter to emphasize something, but double/triple spacing paragraphs is too much.

I was probably in the minority with this problem, but hey it does exist. :p
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Old December 2nd, 2010, 08:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azurne View Post
Just a comment here: I've seen cases where writers also hit the enter key too many times, and it leaves this nice huge gap which serves no purpose but to make readers use their mouse wheel and scroll through it. I use to do this and not really realize how much of a pain my story was to read until I really looked. Doing it once is okay, like at the end of a chapter to emphasize something, but double/triple spacing paragraphs is too much.

I was probably in the minority with this problem, but hey it does exist. :p
Strangely, I've only seen this happen once, and that was completely an accident. O_o Most of the time, the opposite is the problem, where people just don't use line breaks because they don't realize it's actually necessary. Still, if people actually do that deliberately, sure, I could make a note of it.

As for the scene breaks, fair 'nough there.

But with the preview idea, I've never actually tried this before, but is it actually possible to switch themes while previewing a post without losing any changes? Because the drop-down box isn't on the preview page, which would mean users would have to change their styles via the User CP/another page and then hit refresh to get an idea of what their post will look like in other themes, right? Just checking before I edit anything in.
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Old December 2nd, 2010, 08:41 PM
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IDK. Let's experiment.

So the post goes in, and Astinus checks to make sure the history of the world is readable, and...zie can't change the forum skin on another page and have it stick. So zie has to go all the way to the User CP, change it there, and then it works.

So there's no easy way to see how the story looks on different skins without a bit of frustration. I guess that means that while the preview button is good in theory, it doesn't work that well in practice. It might work if you want to see if you missed closing a format tag (and even then, that's a lot of scanning!), but to see how the font color works on each skin, there are problems.

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Old December 4th, 2010, 03:04 PM
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Actually, for some reason, when I paste stuff over from my OpenOffice, it displays in the box as paragraphed neatly and everything. However, when I go ahead and Submit (or Preview) Post, it comes up with two or even three blank lines between every paragraph, which must be removed manually. I think that's what Azurne was talking about - I always go through and fix the paragraph breaks, but writers with less patience (or, perhaps, consideration - grr), it would seem, don't bother with it.
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Old December 4th, 2010, 05:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Misheard Whisper View Post
Actually, for some reason, when I paste stuff over from my OpenOffice, it displays in the box as paragraphed neatly and everything. However, when I go ahead and Submit (or Preview) Post, it comes up with two or even three blank lines between every paragraph, which must be removed manually. I think that's what Azurne was talking about - I always go through and fix the paragraph breaks, but writers with less patience (or, perhaps, consideration - grr), it would seem, don't bother with it.
Strangely, I also use OpenOffice but never encounter this problem. O_o Even when I used Word, which is the program I've seen spacing problems crop up more often from other writers, spacing wasn't too much of an issue. Like I said in that earlier post, writers who encountered that problem took care of it normally, and the only time they didn't was a complete accident instead of actually a conscious decision on their part. The guide, on the other hand, deals with intentional spacing -- an attempt to convince writers that, yes, consciously avoiding the norm when it comes to paragraph spacing is a problem, not a stylistic choice.
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Old December 4th, 2010, 10:10 PM
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Yeah, I remember having a problem with that when I was posting my fanfic. I heard that others were selecting parts of text and that it didn't show up well. But I used the Remove Text Formatting box and it worked and I can change the font and stuff from there.

But good point JX. I'll most definitely keep this in mind for future posting
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Old December 5th, 2010, 04:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Misheard Whisper View Post
Actually, for some reason, when I paste stuff over from my OpenOffice, it displays in the box as paragraphed neatly and everything. However, when I go ahead and Submit (or Preview) Post, it comes up with two or even three blank lines between every paragraph, which must be removed manually. I think that's what Azurne was talking about - I always go through and fix the paragraph breaks, but writers with less patience (or, perhaps, consideration - grr), it would seem, don't bother with it.
That's probably the cause of using whizzy-wig the WYSIWYG format editor.

Anyway, this is a real great guide, Jax. I'll be sure to bare these things in mind if and when I write some stuff.
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Old December 5th, 2010, 04:41 AM
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This, of course, is great help for writers out there. I'm more of a poem guy but this will definitely help me when I finally write something for the heck of it.
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Old December 9th, 2010, 09:31 PM
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There's a very small problem I have with this - I double space most paragraphs, but between certain parts of dialogue, I only put a single space. I remember Dagzar screaming at me for that when I first posted my fic up here, but I haven't gone past Chapter 2 here (the other 28 chapters that are currently completed are available only on Bulbagarden).

It's mainly because when I do it, double spacing implies a complete separation of ideas, and between exchanges of dialogue between two people, I don't really like to separate them too much. If I do separate lines of dialogue by two spaces, it means that it's somehow not a regular conversation.
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Old December 9th, 2010, 11:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Dragonite Ernston View Post
It's mainly because when I do it, double spacing implies a complete separation of ideas, and between exchanges of dialogue between two people, I don't really like to separate them too much. If I do separate lines of dialogue by two spaces, it means that it's somehow not a regular conversation.
A lot of people have this misconception, but it's really not true that the space is signaling too much of a division between lines of dialogue. You see, you're sort of right in that a line of space is the separation of one idea from another. However, what a lot of people don't realize is that every person's line of dialogue is an idea in its entirety. This is also why you would, in printed form, indent every line of an exchange as if it's a new paragraph -- because it is by definition. You're going from one concept (what one person says) to another. I'd hate to be a bit hard about it, but this is one of those things where it's actually pretty inflexible and also not a justifiable stylistic choice (even though you're certainly not the only one who believes otherwise). To be frank, it's more or less like any other rule of grammar. You don't disregard period rules because you want to tie every single sentence in a paragraph together with commas, so you really shouldn't do the same sort of thing whenever you should be adding in the signal for a new paragraph (which is, online, hitting the enter key twice to create that line break).

Also, think of it this way: if you go on for too long, the dialogue gains the same effect as a wall-of-text. It becomes difficult for some readers to navigate, and it just doesn't look neat to a reader's eye. If anything, it actually makes you seem as if you're not consistent about paragraph rules in general.

Again, I don't mean to be biting and a bit hard about paragraph spacing with dialogue, but there really is a reason why someone tried to correct you about that.
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Last edited by JX Valentine; December 9th, 2010 at 11:14 PM.
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Old December 17th, 2010, 11:22 AM
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Old December 17th, 2010, 03:36 PM
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And don't bump, Patience.
This is a guide on paragraphing, not general writer behavior. This is why I didn't cover all the things writers do that could potentially piss readers off (of which there are many). :/ If you are interested in writer behavior in general, though, I wrote a separate guide linked in my sig (under "reviewing advice and stuff") as well as the resource thread.
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Old January 15th, 2011, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
A lot of people have this misconception, but it's really not true that the space is signaling too much of a division between lines of dialogue. You see, you're sort of right in that a line of space is the separation of one idea from another. However, what a lot of people don't realize is that every person's line of dialogue is an idea in its entirety. This is also why you would, in printed form, indent every line of an exchange as if it's a new paragraph -- because it is by definition. You're going from one concept (what one person says) to another. I'd hate to be a bit hard about it, but this is one of those things where it's actually pretty inflexible and also not a justifiable stylistic choice (even though you're certainly not the only one who believes otherwise). To be frank, it's more or less like any other rule of grammar. You don't disregard period rules because you want to tie every single sentence in a paragraph together with commas, so you really shouldn't do the same sort of thing whenever you should be adding in the signal for a new paragraph (which is, online, hitting the enter key twice to create that line break).

Also, think of it this way: if you go on for too long, the dialogue gains the same effect as a wall-of-text. It becomes difficult for some readers to navigate, and it just doesn't look neat to a reader's eye. If anything, it actually makes you seem as if you're not consistent about paragraph rules in general.

Again, I don't mean to be biting and a bit hard about paragraph spacing with dialogue, but there really is a reason why someone tried to correct you about that.
Somebody told me about that on Serebii as well. My fix was to triple-space where I had double-spaced and double-space where I had single-spaced.

But, coming from what you're saying, it seems like I should be spacing them all equally, correct?
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Old January 15th, 2011, 08:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Dragonite Ernston View Post
Somebody told me about that on Serebii as well. My fix was to triple-space where I had double-spaced and double-space where I had single-spaced.

But, coming from what you're saying, it seems like I should be spacing them all equally, correct?
That depends on why you were using double-spacing in the original version. If it was supposed to be a scene break, then you can actually get away with spacing it out a little further. Otherwise, yeah, you'll want to space all of your paragraphs (within the same scene) equally with one line of space between each.
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Old January 15th, 2011, 09:00 PM
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Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
That depends on why you were using double-spacing in the original version. If it was supposed to be a scene break, then you can actually get away with spacing it out a little further. Otherwise, yeah, you'll want to space all of your paragraphs (within the same scene) equally with one line of space between each.
Okay, that means equal spacing, then. I double-spaced where it would be appropriate to double-space, most of the time.
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