Got all the gaps worked out of your story? What about the gaps in your text?

I’m justifying this post. By that I mean I’m aligning it to both right and left margins, as opposed to proclaiming a valid reason for its existence. Whether its existence has a valid reason I leave to its readers to decide.

I don’t usually justify posts. It’s an extra button to click, and what blogger has time for that? More to the point, justifying makes the edges of the text look nice, but it can leave the interiors of lines looking like they’ve withstood an artillery barrage. Look closely at the lines of this text and you will probably see some in which there appears to be extra space between words. If it’s just a little extra space, it shouldn’t be a big deal, but congregations of longer, inflexible words do create distracting instances of overabundant space.

Justification?

Incautious justifying can make text feel as cozy as this attractive, war-zone home.

I’m justifying this text to illustrate one of the more tedious parts of self-publishing. For those who have never formatted the layout of a book, it may be enlightening. For those planning to dip their feet into self-publishing, it may be something to consider.

Publishing is not all about telling a great story with proper grammar. Those things will get you off to a good start, but you also want an aesthetically pleasing product. No doubt, the cover should be attractive, but the interior’s visual appeal can’t be ignored.

I’ve never opened a book and thought, “Wow, this interior layout is gorgeous!” But I have seen books where the layout’s ugliness is a distraction. One common distraction is large gaps between words.

I know of three ways to avoid gaps. The first is to not justify the text. I would never do this; blog posts are one thing, but in books I think it looks disorganized. The second is to allow your writing program to auto-hyphenate. This breaks up big words so everything fits better. Some experts suggest this, but I don’t do it. One thing I stunk at in grade school was hyphenating. I don’t trust Word to do it for me, mostly because I doubt my ability to double-check it. It’s merely opening up another Pandora’s box of grammar issues.

The third way, my way, is to endure a round of tedium beyond normal editing. Editing is not fun, and this, if possible, is even less fun. I scan the proof copy for unacceptable gaps. Then I play a little puzzle game with that line and the adjacent ones, rearranging, cutting, or substituting words until the gaps are squeezed out.

It takes time, but it makes me take a closer look at the words I use. It helps me eliminate unnecessary words and say things in a clearer way. The key is to avoid ruining sentences to make them fit better. It wouldn’t be such a vexing game if this were allowed.

This should only be done once all the major editing is completed. New editing could create new gaps.

Gaps in some lines will still be greater than gaps in others, but if the gaps don’t resemble bomb craters it will be easier for the reader to focus on the words instead of the holes.

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2 thoughts on “Got all the gaps worked out of your story? What about the gaps in your text?

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