Monday, June 28, 2010

My writing life -- Formatting

I have been spoiled and now I am learning that some publishers want a writer to format their manuscripts according to their guidelines. While this is no real problem, it would be nice if they wanted the same things in their formatting. Also in their writing style. One editor has a thing about contractions. If you use one you must use them in every sentence. If not you must write our each in two words. What does this do but make a writer stop the flow of their prose to see if they are doing things right. Another difference is commas. I'm and only use commas when they're needed to make sense of a sentence. Some editors think each phrase must be set off with a comma. I've been praised for using few and told I was writing a rough draft when I chose not to use them

I've come to a conclusion about commas. The rules we've learned for sprinkling our prose with them are written for the person who reads aloud. I'll admit I'm a rapid reader and commas make me pause and sometimes lose the sense of the sentence. I'm not sure what a writer can do about either thing but to learn each publisher's ideas about what makes their story fit their house. Worrying about the story becomes secondary to figuring out the rules.

4 comments:

Wendy Marcus said...

Commas are my downfall. I once read that when you edit your work you should remove half of all the commas you used. I heard some publishers are changing comma guidelines to decrease print space to save pages.

JL Walters said...

Wendy, I'm doing an edit on one where the editor has put all the ones I left out back in.

Terri said...

That surprises me. In my short-lived foray into copyediting, I received a Style Manual from one large publisher and guidelines from another. The rules we were taught in school have changed. Commas we were once taught to place, such as be "too" when "too" comes at the end of a sentence are being eliminated. Ditto placement in series and in some compound sentences. Aside from the rules I learned in school, I had a whole subset ingrained in my during my many years as a journalist. I'm not sure whether the publishers are trying to save space or whether they think their readers will be confused.

Terri said...

Sorry for the typos, the extra comma and the missing comma! Sheesh. I must be more tired than I thought.