What I learnt about formatting a book—part 7

I’ve always felt grammar was a gospel that must be strictly adhered to or lightning would strike me down!

 

Grammar and style sheets

I get by when it comes to grammar and if I wasn’t sure about something, I checked online.   I would check a few sites and get a consensus as everyone has their own opinions when it comes to the gospel of grammar.  These are the main things I looked out for when it came to grammar.

  • People these days write the same things as either compound, hyphenated or as two words.  As terms become more popular, it seems as though they have gone from two words to being hyphenated and then become one word.
  • Know the difference between hyphens, en dashes and em dashes and when to use them.
  • Try to eliminate plague words from the text.  These are unnecessary words according to the grammar gurus, such as really, that, quite, also, and only.  I used to write you, he or she often in my writing but found them easy to eliminate and train myself out of using them.  If you are wanting to use the word ‘that’ in a sentence, see if it makes sense without it.  This was my plague word of choice!
  • Research writing numbers and fractions correctly. Straight apostrophes/quotation marks can be used for the symbols of feet and inches.  These are available using alt keys.
  • Although I am an Aussie, I used inches in my books to appeal to the American market and because the quilting industry generally uses imperial measurements.  I hasten to add I was born after metric came in!  I use both imperial and metric for different things in my life and it suits me well.
  • I avoided slang or my country’s colloquialisms as much as possible.  Not every country will get the saying.  Sometimes we tend to say could of instead of could have or a half instead of one half.
  • My editor told me my main issue with grammar was using too many commas in sentences.  I think I did this because I pause a lot when speaking.  If a sentence flows better without them, don’t use them.  I found if a sentence starts with words like however, although or if, I tend to put a comma in there somewhere.
  • Pay attention to the length of the paragraphs.  Long ones can be off putting.
  • There’s no nice way of saying this if you don’t know the grammatical meanings of these words.  Avoid widows and orphans—of the grammatical kind.  These are those pesky one line of a paragraph that appear at the top or bottom of a page.  You may need to rewrite a sentence or two to eliminate them.  It’s better to have a larger negative space at the end of the column then one line of a sentence.

 

Widow-and-orphan-Fiona-Schiffl

Single word on a line and a single line of text otherwise known as an ophan and widow.

 

Style sheets

These are pre-programmed rules and options that you can set up in the word processor.  You can set the size and font there as well as bullet points and spacing.  These are good as sometimes a similar font will sneak in if you’ve copied and pasted text in from another document.

You can decide here about justification and hyphenation.  It looks like most authors and publishers like left aligned justification and use hyphenation.  For me and my books, I like full justification with the last line aligned left.  I feel this looks neater and I can fix any anomalies along the way.  Sometimes the solution is to rewrite the previous sentence so the justification works.  I don’t mind doing this, it can make the paragraph more succinct.  I feel there is no point to having hyphenation these days.  More people skim text or are speed readers and probably don’t appreciate words being cut in half.  That’s my opinion but do what works for you.

By using a style sheet for the headings, the headings can automatically be transferred into the table of contents.  This way, there will be no mistakes in the contents pages and if any changes are made within the book, it will automatically update the contents page so you don’t have to worry about it.

Writing has changed in the last couple of decades.  You can put more of your personality into it (gone are the days of formal writing for the most part) after all, you want to encourage, entertain and teach people something with your writing.  Go for it.  Writing isn’t all about grammar and technique but if you can get your writing and formatting into a reasonable shape, readers will forgive a mistake or two if they love your work.  As long as you’re consistent, that’s the main thing.

Happy writing and quilting,

Fiona

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