1. NRG
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    NRG Senior Member

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    Indents

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by NRG, May 31, 2011.

    So, I've never published a novel, in fact, I haven't completed one since I was quite young, but I've finally got myself together, planned everything, and I'm now working on something.
    I've just finished the prologue, and after reading another book, I noticed that I'm missing something... Indents.

    Now, I've never really understood where indents should go. I know it's a new line for a new speaker in regards to dialogue, but I only just noticed that there's an indent for every new speaker as well. As well as this, I noticed some lines that weren't dialogue were indented too, and I was just hoping someone could clear that up for me.

    So, what I'm asking, where do you indent a line?

    Thanks!
     
  2. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some people indent. Others don't. It's up to you, as far as I'm concerned.

    It's also not an indent for new speakers. It's usually that the first line of a paragraph is indented. (for the record, "New line for a new speaker" is pretty much dead. It's "different paragraph for a different speaker" nowadays)

    I indent my paragraphs at the lowest amount that Microsoft Word will allow.
     
  3. NRG
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    NRG Senior Member

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    Alright, thanks for clearing that up for me!
     
  4. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    If you're writing for submission, it's heavily dependent on where you're submitting to. You should always follow the guidelines of the publishing house/agency/magazine you're submitting to.

    But standard manuscript format is (I believe) a half-inch indentation of the first line of a new paragraph (unless that paragraph is the first of a chapter/section, in which case you don't indent the first line).
     
  5. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I used to indent 4 characters but I then just switched to whatever MW has as the standard, which I believe is a .5 inch indent. That way, if I ever need to change it, it's easy to do.
     
  6. Motley
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    Motley Active Member

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    I've seen both .3 and .5 indents required from different publications. Basically you do whatever they tell you to do. If they don't tell you, I choose .5 inch indents. While you're writing, it doesn't matter what you use.

    Regarding dialogue: new paragraph (with indent) for every new speaker or person's action.

    For example:

    "I hate the rain," said Mary. Bob nodded. (That's wrong.)
    ------------------
    "I hate the rain," said Mary.

    Bob nodded. (That's right, though boring. :D )
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Can't you just indent with the tab key?
     
  8. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's easier to set your page to automatically indent beforehand. ;)
     
  9. Deleth
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    Deleth Member

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    You could do that but it would not look right. In Microsoft Word (and open office) there are sets of Rulers on the top and side of the document that have little tabs on them, these little "arrowed" tabs are what control the indent for paragraphs and give you the ability to measure out to a specific line whereas Tab will just give you the pre-measured indent which may be right, and may be wrong.

    Important to note that once you change the indent setting on the ruler it should indent each new paragraph to the same distance every time.
     
  10. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    I don't recall ever reading a published work that didn't indent... so some people may and some may not in manuscripts, but it seems quite odd to me not to indent the first line of paragraphs. Maybe it's a regional thing, or something, and of course some submissions online erase indent formatting, but in a working manuscript or a published work I'd be surprised to not see indents.

    Where to indent, is easy: start of paragraphs, except for the first line of a chapter or scene. When to start a new paragraph is something that plagues writers and causes many heated discussions. My advice would be to study what you read, figure out why and when other writers are doing this so you can be informed in your own decisions as a writer.

    I would argue, hopefully without being rude, that if you didn't know when/where to indent, and then make it sound like you only noticed while reading another book after not having ever noticed this before, then you aren't ready to write your novel. Giving novice a hammer and nails and telling him to build a house will not teach him how to build a house.

    My advice is now that you've got some ideas for a story and have decided you want to be a writer, you spend some extra time reading as a writer. It might sound odd, but the biggest mistake aspiring writers make when they decide to be writers is thinking that starts by actually writing, instead of reading.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    while you do see that done in books, in your mss you should indent every paragraph, whether or not it's the first of a chapter/section...

    all new writers [and any not-so-new who may not know the rules 'n regs well enough] should study these ms format guides provided by the best format guru around: http://www.shunn.net/format/
     

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