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Old 01-20-2009, 09:00 PM
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Default Nit-picky formatting question


Hey all. I've started writing something, and every time I run into this tiny, itty bitty formatting issue I'm not sure which way to do it. How to explain...

"When a character asks a question, or possibly shouts something in exclamation, are there one or two spaces after the quotation
mark?" Henrietta asked. (double space)

"Or is it like this?" She asked, utterly confusing herself. (single space)

I know when there is a period, it is two spaces. And when there is a comma, there is one.

"See," she said smuggly. (single)
"This is right." She was sure of it. Pretty sure. (double)


"It's driving me nuts!" She shouts.
"It's driving me nuts!" She shouts.

Thank you all in advance, for dealing with my OCD format issues...

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Old 01-20-2009, 09:02 PM
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hhmmm...okay. It seems when I posted my question, it all spaces out the same anyway!! Nevermind it. Hopefully someone gets what I'm trying to ask here...
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Old 01-20-2009, 09:24 PM
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I get what you're asking. It's kind of complicated.

It used to be:
one space after comma
two after period, question mark, exclamation point
one after semicolon
two after colon
etc.

BUT -- now there's so many different fonts that are made up to take away the "guess work." They require only one space after any type of punctuation. Times New Roman (or whatever it is) is one of the more common fonts that has this feature. It spaces out the letters, to the extent that no two spaces are needed.

Here's an article that I found online about it:

Use one space after all punctuation, including periods, question marks, exclamation points, and colons. Putting two spaces after these marks of punctuation is a convention that evolved because typewriters were equipped only with monospaced fonts, which made it difficult to see where sentences ended. Professional typographers have always used only one space because they use proportionally spaced fonts, which do not require the extra spaces in order for a series of sentences to be readable. Because most of the fonts in today's word processing software programs are proportional, in other words, we do not need to put an additional space after end punctuation or colons when we use our computers to compose.
Hope this helps!
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Old 01-20-2009, 11:00 PM
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Yep, we used to be told two after full stops, etc... but it's natural, nowadays, to just put one space.
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Old 01-21-2009, 02:00 AM
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I remember the old one space/two space thing, but it does all seem to be just one space these days. So much easier!
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Old 01-21-2009, 02:27 AM
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Seems that things have definitely changed over the years with the advent of computers and word processing programs! It used to be:

"When a character asks a question, or possibly shouts something in exclamation, are there one or two spaces after the quotation
mark?" Henrietta asked. (double space)
One if a dialogue tag follows. Two if a beat follows.

"Is this character asking a question?" she asked. (dialogue tag, one space before "she.")

"No."_She fiddled with the clasp on her jacket. (descriptive beat, two spaces before "she.") "I don't think so."

And if it was in the narrative, then two after the exclamation points and periods, one after the comma and question mark. I won't be able to get used to the other way with only one space! Lol. My fingers automatically type they way I've learned it twenty years ago.
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Old 01-21-2009, 08:52 AM
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Alright. I'm still mildly confused, but I won't worry too much. I usually use Times New Roman so it shouldn't be too big a deal.
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Old 01-21-2009, 10:34 AM
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Bear in mind, though, that many places which accept formal, typed manuscripts (as opposed to the "copy it in an email" guys) ask that you use a monospaced font like Courier. In such cases, the old rules that Firefly mentioned still apply.

There's a really clear explanation in this article by William Shunn. It also covers other aspects of proper manuscript format.
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Old 01-21-2009, 10:44 AM
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So if you are snail mailing, say, a manuscript for a novel, or part of it, would most places rather see a Courier font, or something like Times? (if they don't specify, which would be best?)
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Old 01-21-2009, 10:54 AM
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William Shunn...I'm a fan of his on Facebook, I think

I was annoyed by this issue for the longest time too, though I never bothered to look it up. I just made up my own system, which, oddly enough, corresponds pretty nicely with the one Firefly posted. One space after comma, two after periods is my general rule. Call me a relic, call me what you will. Say I'm old-fashioned say I'm over the hill. Today's punctuation ain't got the same soul...

In response to your Courier vs. Times question, singphantom, a monospaced font like Courier is best when you're formatting a manuscript to send out. Publishers seem to prefer that, probably as it makes correcting easier. Margins of at least an inch, double-spaced, and with the entire first page devoted to contact information and the title. That's a general rundown of good manuscript format, which the ever-handy William Shunn taught me all that time ago
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Old 01-21-2009, 11:06 AM
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Some people have trouble reading proportional fonts, because skinny letters tend to disappear. Monospaced fonts with serifs are easiest on the eyes, I think. The serifs (little lines on top and bottom of pointy bits of letters) help the eye glide from letter to letter.

As for novels, Shunn has a variety of examples. There's more on manuscript format here (no mention of fonts), here (says Courier or Times New Roman), and here (she surveyed her author and publisher friends).
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Old 01-21-2009, 07:36 PM
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Ah, but you see, each publisher is different...

Most don't really specify fonts... though Sans-Serif is really quite plain... Courier too, of course... but most say double spaced, one/two sided pages... it all depends, of course.
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