Short Story Format, Pg. 6

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An earlier version of this article was reprinted in Writers Write: The Internet Writing Journal, December 1998

                                               Shunn / Format / 6


     If you want to indicate an em dash--the punctuation that

sets off a phrase like this one--use two hyphens to do so.  Do

not place spaces around the hyphens.  (Many word processors are

set by default to convert two hyphens to a real em dash.  You’ll

want to turn that feature off if you’re using a monospaced font,

since the em dash and hyphen characters are easily confused by

the eye.  In proportional fonts, this isn’t so important since

the em dash is noticeably wider than a hyphen.)

     “A lot of people ask me about dialog,” I told an editor

friend of mine recently.  “Do you have any suggestions?”

     “Dialog should be enclosed in quotation marks,” she said.

“Some writers get away with doing it differently, but they’re

rare exceptions.”

     “Isn’t it also the usual practice to start a new paragraph

when the speaker changes?” I asked.

     “Yes, it is.  That helps the reader keep track of who’s

speaking even when speech tags are omitted.”

     If you want a line break to appear in your story, then

rather than leaving a blank line you should center the character

“#” on a line by itself.  Do this for every line break, not just

for ones that fall at the top or bottom of a page.  As you edit

and revise your manuscript prior to submission, those breaks can

move around, and word processors often hide blank lines that come

at the start or end of a page.  You don’t want your scene breaks

rendered invisible to your editor.

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Now go ahead and study a sample excerpt from a novel manuscript.
What similarities do you notice? What differences?

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