1. sunwave
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    sunwave Member

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    Text Structure (terms)

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by sunwave, May 24, 2012.

    First, I'm not sure if this is the subforum to put this, but let's hope so.

    Just now I was commenting on someone's post who told me I meant paragraph instead of alinea. That made me check the definitions online. To my surprise, it was different than I thought it was, and s/he was right.
    But I still can't find a solid definition that really tells me what the words mean. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I always thought of the following text structure:

    Letters => words => lines => alinea's => alinea groups => paragraphs (mini-chapters) => chapters => (higher order)

    In this, alineas are lines that are all connected, and when you start a new line (Press ENTER) you start a new alinea. I thought that you started a new alinea group when you left blank space. I thought that a paragraph was a small chapter-like piece of text with a title and all. At least, that's the dutch version they taught me at university (alinea, alineagroep, paragraaf). Can anyone tell me exactly how it is in english (and if there's a difference between UK and USA?).

    Thanks.
     
  2. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    I'm a native English speaker (but not necessarily an especially literate one) and, for what it's worth, I've never heard the term "alinea" before. Wikipedia seems to think it's the name of a particular character used to denote paragraphs.

    In all usage I've ever heard a paragraph is a group of lines set off from each other by blank space or by an initial indented line. I have to believe this is common usage as HTML uses <p>..</p> to mark paragraphs and all browsers render such constructs as I described. I suppose that could still be English-centric, however.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Alinea is not an English word. Alinéa is a French word.

    Letters combine to form words.
    Words are concatenated, along with punctuation, to comprise sentences.
    Related sentences are concatenated to form paragraphs.
    Sequences of paragraphs may form chapters, but a piece of fiction need not be broken down into chapters.
    Several chapters may be combined into parts, but parts are also optional.

    Short stories are typically not divided into chapters or parts.

    A sequence of paragraphs taking place in one location over a continuous time period is a scene. A scene may extend over a chapter boundary, or a chapter may contain more than one scene. A single scene will never cross a part boundary.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    excellent breakdown, cog... may want to consider making it a sticky...

    only thing i'd suggest as an addition is 'or books' after 'parts' since many authors call the time breaks in their sagas 'books' [which are the same as 'parts']...

    and perhaps use a simpler term than 'concatenated' for those who'd have to look that up in a dictionary... either 'arranged' or 'linked' would be just as accurate and much more easily/universally understood...
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    As a linguist I'd want to add "morphemes" between "letters" and "words", and would want to fit graphemes other than letters and punctuation (in particular typographic ligatures) into the scheme too, but I suppose that's finer detail that is needed for creative writing.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yup!... i'd say follow the 'K.I.S.S.!' principle, to avoid confusion... instruction meant for the masses is not the best place to be showing off one's knowledge of technical terms most laypersons won't ever have heard of...
     

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