Showing posts with label Formatting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Formatting. Show all posts

The WEB: Your Writing at Risk

How The Web Can Kill Your Writing Career

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning The Frugal Editor

I recently read a grammar and editing column in my local newspaper, the Glendale News-Press. In  June Casagrande’s “A Word Please,” she groused about the problems so many writers having with hyphens. She noted the sad (or not so sad) influence of the Web on our grammar, punctuation, and style choices and there are enough of them to give the average author who pulled down As in English a big headache!

June mentioned the disappearing hyphen as one of the things we authors must contend with. but that is just the beginning. The Net also encourages us to push all kinds of words together. Let’s call that the "domain name influence" or, perhaps the domainnameinfluence or maybe #hashtaginfluence. Do we write “book” or “bookcover?” “Bookfair” or “book fair?” “Backmatter” or “back matter?” “Hard copy” or “hardcopy?”

You’ll never know because generally the trusted Chicago Style Guide doesn’t weigh in on these trends and dictionaries haven’t caught up with the quickly changing domainnameinfluence or the #hashtaginfluence either. And the spell checker in Word? Well, it doesn’t put a red squiggle under either “Hard copy” or “hardcopy.” That leaves the writer—whether she’s writing fiction or a resume in a style-choice pickle.

In The Frugal Editor, I suggest the zero-tolerance approach to keep authors out of hot water with agents and publishers (and therefore make it more likely they'll get published).

Still, I admit I love to stick words together. It isn’t really a new thing. I mean, word-bonding is a time-honored tradition in English. The word therefore is an example. We’ve been using words like that for eons. Word-gluing goes back to the English language’s Germanic roots. German is a creative language. The Deutsch do things like push the words for finger and hat together to make the word for thimble (fingerhut).

Poets have pushed words together for ages, too. So, except when I am trying to get something like a pitch or a query or a book proposal past a gatekeeper, I make combined-word style choices for myself and let the so-called rules be damned.

We authors can have it our way—we just need to be careful where we choose to exercise our independence!

Back to the zero-tolerance thing. If you want to impress a literary agent or prospective boss, please don't put hyphens in words they are convinced are correct only one way. If you think your contact believes it's nonfiction, not non-fiction, there is no point flaunting your style choice.

You won’t get a red squiggle with either version from your Word spell checker (or spellchecker), but that doesn’t mean your run-of-the-mill agent or future employer won’t be more judgmental.

I could go on and on about the way the web has mislead us. It practically coaxes us to overuse ampersands and most don’t have the faintest idea we’re being misled. We see question marks and exclamation points and caps and titles overused.

What if we emulate those affectations because they start to become so familiar we think they’re being used correctly?

Agents and publishers will hate it, that’s what. And that can be disastrous for our careers.

Then there is improperly punctuated dialogue. We see it on the web and even in books. There are many other grammar idiosyncrasies that your English teacher never told you but that are sure to annoy the feature editor at The New York Times or the powerful agent you want to impress.

The list is endless. Lucky that writers have June Casagrande's grammar books like Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies (Penguin), and my multi award-winning book, The Frugal Editor,  to help them through the grammar and syntax swamps, isn’t it.

Note: June's column may be read in the Glendale News-Press's website and she is the author of two of Carolyn’s favorite grammar books, Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies, and The Best Punctuation Book. Period.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including the first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter, and the second. Her The Frugal Editor, now in its second edition, won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. Her most recent book in series is , How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts.

Fear of Formatting

I have a novel forthcoming from MuseItUp publishing, a science fiction novel for tweens/young adults, and as part of the novel, I created a poet and wrote thirty-one of his poems. Eight of the poems appear in the novel, and I wanted to publish the whole collection to go along with the book. I dragged my feet - first about obtaining permission to use the poems that appear in the book, and second, when I had permission, about putting the book together.

Fear of formatting held me back, but at last, with the deadline approaching, I jumped in.

I created the cover on the above using my image and a CreateSpace template.

Covers: This was my first sticking point. But fear not, designing one's own book cover is easy with CreateSpace, as they have cover templates and images you can use. Or you can use your own photo, or go to one of the many websites that offer photographs and buy one. I went to Bigshotphoto to purchase the image for the cover of "Sand in the Desert." It cost me $2.99 for the small size.

For the cover of SandInTheDesert, see Karen Cioffi's post:

For the formatting, alas, there was no cure but to jump in. CreateSpace does have templates you can download and use for the various size finished documents. They have predefined layouts, page styles, and the like, and you fill in the blanks (or sometimes, generic text) with your own.

I downloaded and used one.  And now, many hours later, I have just ordered my second proof copy - the first had problems with both formatting and content -- and I know a lot more about formats.

I use OpenOffice rather than Ms Word, so the menus will be slightly different, but here are some of the things I learned to watch out for:

Page setup options as to the distance from the top and bottom and from the sides.
Whether the format is MIRRORED or not. 

Header and Footer: Do you have them? Do they have the same contents left and right?

What format follows this one? I got hung up on this because the LEFT page format had LEFT as the next format instead of the RIGHT page format. The RIGHT page format had the same problem - RIGHT was the next format instead of LEFT. This screwed up my page numbers.

Paragraph: Line spacing and distance between paragraphs.

Fonts: This one is pretty straightforward in your document, but CreateSpace wants the fonts embedded in the document. OpenOffice doesn't appear to have an option to put them in a .doc file, so I had to select "export to PDF" and check the  option to include the fonts in the PDF.

Size of your finished book:  The page formats include the page size, which will, of course, affect how much space you have for text. The CreateSpace templates will give you a guide as to how much space to leave for the margins - the INNER is the critical one, as you will need to leave enough room for the binding.

Proof Reading: There's no substitute for proof reading. Proof read for formatting, and again for content. I read through for the formatting, then again for the order of my poems, and once again for the poems' content.

My personal criteria for passing something out of a proof phase is that I read it through twice without finding any errors. Sad experience has shown me that I can overlook an error once through, but the chance I will overlook the same error on another reading is small.  Yes, this is tedious. Yes, it's saved my ass more than once.

Here are some references:

For OpenOffice:

Here are some for MS Word:

I just ordered my second proof copy. The first had both formatting and content issues, ones I didn't spot using the digital proof copy.  I'll be examining this copy carefully, both for formatting and for content. For each, if I can go through it twice without finding any errors, then I'll declare it good to go.
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