Monday, May 14, 2007

Not Actually a Dumb Question

Dear Rejecter,
I have what I now am thinking is the dumbest question in the world. I mean, I should know this but I honestly don't. And the question is... am I supposed to be using indentions for each new paragraph in my query letter? In my novel? I don't want to look like I don't know what I'm doing, but I don't know if indentions are just something they teach you back in elementary school (like putting two spaces after a period) or if they are actually supposed to be used.
- A Reader

In your query letter, it doesn't matter, as long as you put a space between paragraphs so we know where they end. In your manuscripts, use indents, and no spaces between paragraphs, like a normal book (except that it's double-spaced).

How using indents or spaces between paragraphs will make you look like you don't know basic grammar, so stay away from doing that.

I honestly don't know where this double-spacing business started, but I'm not a huge fan. NO ONE DO THIS, but I find 1.5 perfectly acceptable. When you figure the cost of paper, the cost of ink (especially if you don't have a laser printer), and now these increased shipping costs for weight, huge manuscripts are generally bad, in my opinion as a writer and as an assistant. We're not a huge fan of the 800-page unsolicited manuscripts. It's bad enough that they're unsolicited, but I'm not much of a weight lifter as it is.

9 comments:

Don said...

Actually I recently signed on with an on-line critique site. I've found that I can't really do anything with anything less than double-spaced if I want to really interact with the text. For a casual read, yes, single-spaced is fine, but if I've got pencil in hand to make notes, I want space between the lines.

1.5 space is probably fine for some fonts, no doubt.

What I always thought was odd though, was the requirement that theses and dissertations deposited in the college/uni library had to be double-spaced. That was just a waste of paper.

John said...

The double spacing is pointless for reading, but essential for editing. I'm a copyeditor by trade, and you really need the space if you're going to mark changes clearly. The only alternative is the galley approach - single space but use only a single narrow column on a page so that there's plenty of space to write around it. If the copy isn't in particularly good shape, the double spacing actually works better - galleys are better for text that's basically OK and just needs tweaking.

So, the double spacing is there so that the full MS can be passed straight on to the copyeditor. It's not really for the initial read through.

pax et bonum

Maria said...

For magazine submissions, especially online subs, read the guidelines carefully. There are a number of magazines out there that want single spaced. Some want an extra line only between paragraphs, some don't want indents, some do. And since those magazines assume you will only be submitting to them, they expect you to read the guidelines and follow their unique formatting rules...

:>)

Richard said...

I prefer a space between paragraphs to using an indent.

Are you saying that no one cares if you are format challenged in a query letter, but they will in your final manuscript?

I always thought you had to dress up your cover letter so it looked like it was wearing an Armani, not oil stained coveralls.

Actually, that begs the question, should your cover letter reflect your manuscript’s subject matter and intended audience. For example, would a query letter for Get Filthy Rich by Moving in the Right Social Circles be better received if it was on fine linen paper and marked with a seal, possibly scribed by a meticulous monk using a goose quill? Would a query letter for Get Your Dirty Hands Car Maintenance be better received if it was a little crumbled, possibly with a coffee stain?

Do you ever automatically reject a query letter without even reading it?

Thomas said...

I assume that MS formatting is standardized so that the page count is fixed. If a space were added between each paragraph then the length of a work would vary greatly depending on the density of the text.

Kaylea said...

When I was in high school, I took typing classes. I never joined the future secretaries club of America, but we did learn to format business letters -- here's an online reference that shows the same formatting rules I learned: http://englishplus.com/grammar/00000150.htm

-K

Heather said...

I'm with you on the 1.5. I've always used it for my drafts, and only adjust to 2.0 when I get it ready for submission.

Anonymous said...

It does matter a little in the query letter. Either use block paragraphs (no indentation) and a space between paras, or use indentation and no extra space between paras.

Using both indentation and an extra space between paras is like wearing both a belt and suspenders. People do it, but it's tacky.

Anonymous said...

Since we're talking about formatting, here's one I haven't seen.

Do you start the chapters at the top of the page, the middle of the page or where, exactly?

Thanks so much!