Must you be so technical?

A lamenting Quora questioner posed, “Are indentations in writing becoming a thing of the past?”

It’s not so much the demise of the indent as it is a morph into the use of new technology. Word processing programs were built around the conventions of their predecessors (typewriters).  As such, the format held that one space would appear after a comma, colon or semi-colon, two after a period, and four to indent a paragraph. These were in place for ease of legibility and were in part, a descendant of newspaper typefaces, but that’s another story.

Monitor Message 1 hour

Early word processing programs helped to shortcut the indent by allowing use of the tab key to simulate the typewriter’s four spaces. However, the move from word processing for print to writing for the web affects what “looks good” for the reader.

When early HTML code, extra spaces and graphics all met on screen—

well let’s just say the surrounding text looked like

a Taylor Swift fan in a mosh pit at a Machine Head show.

Because of the nature of fonts and their effect on individual letters, the four-space indent of yesteryear never follows an eyeballed line south from paragraph to paragraph. One problem is kerning; the adjustment of the spacing between letters in a given word and font.

Pick your favorite font and take a close look at the following combinations of side-by-side letters placed against the left margin:

WO

Rm

yG

No way you can line them up perfectly.

Another culprit is tracking, which is the spacing between words or sections of text. You’ll notice tracking differences most easily when you set your alignment to justified. There each line of text spreads over the width of the page regardless of the number of words or letters in each line.

Don’t despair. When the aliens come and take all of our computers, the indents may rise again.

Building from an Outline

Working from an outline helps writers to maintain focus and to avoid detours that can confuse the reader or take them entirely off topic.

Great advice. Give me an outline and I’ll write War and Peace with the flow of the outline in mind at all times. But write an outline of my own?

No way!

Since elementary school, I have been an A/B outline maker.

A. Premise

B. Interesting Hook

Then Whammo! Like a homemade volcano at the Science Fair, I could no longer contain the extraordinary idea bubbling in my brain. Fearful of losing my inspiration, the pen in my hand flew across the paper consuming copious amounts of blue ink from my Bic.

Masterful in their result, the Premise and the Interesting Hook dare I say captured imaginations. By contrast, the Primary Story and the Ending lacked the quality of the former.

The Moral
Balance the beginning of your tale and it’s hook with the Primary Story and the Ending; otherwise, what’s the point? Excuse me while I go work on my outline.

Spring Cleaning

Are there phrases that you often use that make your writing as dull as the last few days of winter?

Make it a point to spring clean your writing to remove any clichés.

Scour your next written piece for any evidence of those weary words to ensure that you replace them with fresh polish. Better yet, invent a few new ways of approaching your subject by adding imagery.

Which is more interesting to read?

Walter opened the door to a dusty, sparse room save for an old four-poster, long in need of replacement.

vs.

Walter opened a door in the dark hallway exposing a tiny room, its air heavy with the musty smell of a summer cabin open for the first time in a season—the mattress dank with mountain dampness.

The scene uses the same character entering a room but the second invokes a feeling and smell that is lacking in the first. Use of imagery can make your writing more interesting to the reader. Honing this aspect of your work during editing will be worth the time spent.

Break out the lemon juice and get scrubbing.