1. Christine Cholette
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    Christine Cholette Member

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    Punctuation Single Word Lines for Emphasis

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Christine Cholette, Apr 9, 2015.

    If I want to really convey a characters shock of something. Say for example they are expecting a blind date to be short, and instead a woman with nice long legs shows up. I'd like to have their reaction be emphasized by the way the words sit on the page. Such as:

    And those legs...
    just
    kept
    on
    going.

    Get it? Anyway, my real question is how do I punctuate this? Should there be '...' before or after each word? Should there be nothing? I know this is unconventional, but I've never been one for conventional writing. I'm the type of person that prefers: "Annnnnnnd?" to "And?" the waitress drawled.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I've seen it done with no punctuation, just as you've shown above. I've also see it done with periods after each word, to emphasize the full stop. I don't think I've seen an ellipsis used after each word.
     
  3. A Fellow Stalker
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    A Fellow Stalker Member

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    I think with punctuation looks neater (punctuation after every word), and it helps, like Steer said, emphasize the suddenness. Ellipses just makes it seem extremely drawn out.
     
  4. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    I've dabbled with things like one word sentence, before, and in the past each time I've done it, I've altered it on the reread/edit, because it seemed unnecessary, and I felt I was being pretentious, regardless of the character's circumstances.

    With regards to "Annnnnd" versus drawling, I prefer the former over the latter, though too many instances risks annoying or distracting the reader. I find it annoying when I read to encounter a piece of dialogue, read it and then find the author meant drawled/yelled/exclaimed/whispered/etc. afterwards. I tend to put the verbs first when I write dialogue.

    Returning to the waitress, if you example was complete, I'd just assume the drawl was part of her accent, but if she walked over, her shoes scuffing the floor, then sighed and took her notepad out of her apron pocket, I'd think she wasn't too enthusiastic about her job and the drawl would (for me) indicate disinterest. So I'd want more than "the waitress drawled." Just a thought.
     
  5. TheWingedFox
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    TheWingedFox Active Member

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    The initial impact was that this worked as it is,so keep it like that,imo.

    I think punctuation can be discarded in these instances. You're making a point to the reader by presenting something in a different way. It's against type. It stands out.
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Unless you're writing poetry, don't use new lines. Instead, put a period after each word like Steerpike suggested, e.g., "Just. Like. This."
     
  7. TheWingedFox
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    TheWingedFox Active Member

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    Is that a literary rule? I always find the format you suggest looks too close together and I miss it(when you read on a kindle mobile app,commas and periods tend to blur at times)

    Would it be wrong to have the separate lines? I'm assuming it would be a one off occasion to make a point?
     
  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I think it's safe to say that most editors wouldn't like seeing words on separate lines. What I suggested is used to emphasize each word (don't have an authoritative source on this at the moment), which I assumed is what you were looking for. If the goal isn't to emphasize each word, then don't place a period after each word (but don't put each word on a new line either). Just think of a way to rephrase it or something along those lines.
     
  9. TheWingedFox
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    TheWingedFox Active Member

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    I thought the point was also to mirror the length of the legs in the length of the words as they looked on the page...I could be wrong...OP?
     
  10. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Formatting-wise, I think this is sound advice. Again, some authors may get away with quirky formatting (see Dave Eggers' Staggering Genius), so it could depend on the editor. I think if you don't use similar "gimmicks" (I'm using the word positively here) elsewhere in the novel, this might just come off jarring to your reader. I get it what you're doing here, I'm thinking of a rather giraffish woman right now, so I do find it effective. But unless you self-publish, it might have to go in your final edit.

    You can leave it as it is for now, of course, or do what @Steerpike suggested and separate the words with a full stop.
     
  11. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    Depending on the tone of the story, I like it just how it is. But to me it's really free and light, like something you might see in Youth in Revolt.
     
  12. Tim3232
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    Tim3232 Active Member

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    I think the short sentence on its own line is enough. Single words don't look right to me. But that's just me. It is good to see some white space to break up text and add emphasis. I've done a similar thing with a series of short sentences, each on a new line. Isn't it a question of style and voice - and this is yours.
     
  13. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've never seen this done on separate lines for every word. As far as I remember it's always been done with periods in the books where I have encountered it. However, I can't seem to find a way to write your sentence, using periods, that looks good and has the same effect as your version. o_O

    If I were to write that sentence myself I'd probably write it as a normal sentence with an exclamation mark.
     
  14. Christine Cholette
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    Christine Cholette Member

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    Thanks for all the comments. I kept it as is. I agree that some editors would have issue with unique formatting, but personally as a reader, I enjoy something different every now and again.
     

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