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Presenting Texts

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Butterfly, Aug 13, 2013.

  1. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

    What is the best way to show written text a character has to read or even comes across?

    I mean things like letters, diary entries, records...

    So far I have them spaced off and justified a little to
    the right and left so as to separate them from the main
    narrative, and italicised so as to set them off.​

    I don't know if that is the right way, or even if there is a better way to do so.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2013
  2. Guru Coyote

    Guru Coyote Archmage

    Personally, I think the best way to set such a thing apart from the main narrative... is the tone of the text. Have it have a very different voice. If a reader could distinguish the two types of text even when just listening to someone read it aloud, that is what I'd strive for.
    I know this is not quite what you were looking for, but I would be my approach.
    Apart from that, what you suggest seems valid to me, setting the different text off by a slightly different indentation and maybe italics sounds ok. One thing you could probaly add is some kind of 'heading:' in the case of a letter, add the formal address, in the case of some legal document, that, too has 'headers.'

    Andrew looked at the letter and started to read:

    Dear Andrew,
    I would like to tell you of all the nice things that have occurred since you left, but I can not.

    Andrew put the letter down and took a deep breath.

    Even without formatting, I think here it is clear what is the written text, and what is the narrative (ok, it's an easy example).

    Hope that helps a bit.
    Butterfly likes this.
  3. advait98

    advait98 Sage

    What I've read, and what I prefer, are the italics. It's a clear distinction from the narration, and, to me, fits the role of records and letters well. Sometimes, I've seen a different font used, but really, I prefer the italics. They're a change, but a small change as compared to a changed font (sometimes it jars me).

    I don't think it's even necessary to space them out or anything; it would be enough with the italics. But that's just me.

    I'd say go ahead with the italics.
    Butterfly likes this.
  4. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    Italics, and possibly the margin adjustment, are the usual method. Font tweaks are possible, but I agree, that's the kind of subtle change that's disorienting.
    Butterfly likes this.
  5. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

    To my mind, italics only. Margin adjustment as in your example could break the immersion of the reader. Keep your pages the same as far as you can, to promote smooth reading.
    Butterfly likes this.
  6. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    I used line breaks and indented the margins. I didn't do italics.
    Butterfly likes this.
  7. Asterisk

    Asterisk Troubadour

    I think italics is most commonly used, and I prefer it. I don't believe indentation is necessary or a different font. If it's italicized, I get the idea. Best of luck!
    Butterfly likes this.
  8. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    There's lots of ways you can handle this. Trying to recall from memory I think the most common that I've seen is to use indentations and italics to set the text apart, similar to what you have above. Often we hear advice against italics. A lot of that advice is centered around the idea that it's distracting for the reader, that it makes them notice the writing, pulling them from the story. In cases like these though, that may not be a bad thing. You certainly want to make sure the reader knows you're not just continuing the same narrative, that it's a break from the normal...a letter, a hand-written note, whatever.

    I think what you have is fine. If it's a letter and it's something you want to include in your story, make it look like a letter.
    Butterfly likes this.
  9. Daichungak

    Daichungak Minstrel

    Italics and indentation are, in my mind, the most easily recognizable way to do this.
  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Blockquotes are indeed standard and I think it's fine. At that point, it's someone else's voice, not the narrator. It's used in academic writing and even in old-fashioned journalism. The rule of thumb is anything over three lines (back when there was only one form factor).

    But it's worth keeping in mind that your book will be read on lots of different devices. Italics can sometimes come across poorly. I certainly would indent only a little. What goes for web design goes here: be sure to look at your words on as many different devices as you can.

    Beyond that, I fully support the advice given by the Coyote who is a Guru. Strive to write the passage as if there was going to be no formatting change at all. The change in tone should be clear instantly. Then, if you want to add formatting, that's fine.
    Guru Coyote likes this.
  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    If it is already being set off as blockquotes, then I wouldn't bother italicizing it on top of that.
  12. Filk

    Filk Troubadour

    I'm with Steerpike on this one. The Copyeditor's Handbook doesn't mention using italics at all, just indenting the extract.

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