Last week, I encouraged the use of only one space to end a sentence, not two. The old convention of two spaces harkens back to the days of typewriters. Computers ushered in a new standard of only one space. This is what we must follow.
There are other formatting habits that came from typewriters, which must be stopped. While most writers have retrained themselves, I still see the occasional submission that persists in following one of these outdated methods.
With old typewriters—before the invention of tabs—each paragraph was started with five spaces. Though I’m not that old, some of the typewriters in my typing class were. With those machines, I needed to space-space-space-space-space to begin a paragraph. I still see an occasional submission that does this. Make sure yours doesn’t.
When tabs came along, we set a half-inch tab for paragraphs. Then, to start a paragraph, we simply pressed the tab. Now word processors do this for us automatically, so setting a tab just causes us extra work when writing and publishers extra work to remove them when publishing. Don’t use tabs for paragraphs.
On manual typewriters and some electric ones, when our words approached the end of a line, a bell sounded to warn us we were running out of the room. Then we needed to manually move to the next line, by doing a “carriage return.” Although this was necessary on a typewriter, it serves no purpose on word processors—other than cause editors and publishers to use bad language. I still receive some submissions where the writer did this. It is tedious to correct and easy to make an error when doing so, but removing these unneeded carriage returns is essential prior to publication.
When I’m vacillating on whether or not I’ll use a submission, it contains any of these issues, it’s likely I’ll reject the piece. I suspect most publishers and editors will do the same.
If you learned to type on a typewriter and carried these habits over to your word processor, begin to retrain yourself now.
Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.