Paragraphing Style

There are two types of paragraphing styles used in the book industry and I often see them misused. Now, you may be wondering what is a paragraphing style? Writers organize their books into parts, chapters, sections, and then into paragraphs. Paragraphs have become a standard way for writers to organize their ideas into a book or story. When there is a new paragraph, it breaks the flow and sends an important signal to the reader. This is the author letting the reader know that a new thought or change is happening and by using a new paragraph you’re sending that subtle signal. Readers barely notice this interruption since they’re familiar with the conventions of written language.

These are the two basic ways to signal a new paragraph:

  1. You indent the first line of the paragraph. This indent is typically about .25″ and gives a clear, visual signal that a new paragraph has started.
  2. You add space between each paragraph. The width is typically a line space, which is the same amount of space between one line in the paragraph and the next. With this style, it appears that there is a blank line between each paragraph, which is the signal.

The second method is due to the internet where this is utilized all the time. For instance, I’m utilizing it right now. However, reading on screen is very different than reading a printed book. Having the extra line space on screen makes it a smoother read, however in a printed book it’s more of a disruption and doesn’t aid in continuous reading. Not to mention that there are times writers use a line space or paragraph break to indicate a scene change, point-of-view change, or different theme within the chapter. Therefore, it’s best for the readers if you stick with the “indented paragraph” style.

Examples:

“Indented paragraph” style:
This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This my paragraph.
    This my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph.

“Space between” style:
This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph.

This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph.This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph.

 

Avoid this mistake!
Instead of choosing one or the other, new authors sometimes make the error of choosing to use both. So not only do they add additional space between each paragraph, they also indent each paragraph. Professionals, and even readers, will see this as an error.

Remember, both styles signal to the reader that you’re starting a new paragraph, so there is no reason to signal them twice by using both. Therefore, it’s best to pick one style or the other.

Example:

Newbie mistake: *Hint, don’t do this!
    This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph.

    This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph. This is my paragraph.

Which style should you choose?
A majority of the time, your book is going to call for the standard style, which is the “indented paragraph” style. If your book is a standard fiction novel, or if you’ve written a memoir, or other books that read like a story, then stick with the “indented paragraph” style.

Books that benefit from the “space between” style, would be landscape books, technical books, or books that have very little text that accompany artwork or another element. Pretty much all of the time only nonfiction books can get away with the “space between” style, unless it’s a nonfiction book that reads like a story. When in doubt, ask, or just go with the “indented paragraph” style.

E-BOOKS
Even though e-books are displayed on a screen, it’s still best to use the same style that you used for your print book. Therefore, most fiction novels use the “indented paragraph” style.

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