The alt.drwho.creative Formatting FAQ

by Zebee Johnstone

Line length
Lines should be a maximum of 75 characters long, with a hard carraige
return at the end of each line.

This is so that people whose newsreaders do not wrap text can read
it.  Many browsers (netscape for example) do not wrap text either,
so something with long lines is hard to read when browsing the

If your editor doesn't wrap text with hard returns automatically, you
will have to do it yourself.

Paragraph Spacing
Put a blank line between paragraphs.  Some people like to indent
the first word as well.

The extra white space breaks up the mass of words on the page and
makes it much easier to read.  (If you don't believe that, try
copying this post to your editor, and removing the blank lines.)

Short Paragraphs
Short paragraphs make something easier to read, and have more impact
than great long pages do.  (The First Paragraph Patrol would probably
like it known that a short snappy intriguing first paragraph will get
someone reading, whereas a long one will turn them off)

Headings and Footings
Make sure you have your name, the story name and the chapter or part
number at the start of each post.  Makes it easier to find on Deja News,
which is a useful thing for those of us with scrappy newsfeeds who might
not get all the parts of your story showing up.

At the end, have either "The End" or "Continued in storyname part X".
This is to make life easy for the archivist to keep track and file
your stuff where people can find it.

You might also want to put a copyright statement distinguishing your
characters from the BBC's, and your copying policy if any (Freely
distributable as long as the notice is attached, you can put it in
your fanzine if you ask me first, do not distribute etc).

Quotes, apostrophes etc
Don't use fancy quote characters that may be available on your PC or
Mac.  If people are not using the exact same font or character set it
can come out looking mighty weird and distract from the story.  Stick
to plain old " and '.

I thought I might throw in a quick guide to the most common problems
with apostrophes while I'm at it.

It is = It's warm
thing belonging to it = Its arm

Thing belonging to plural things = the boys' jackets
Thing belonging to something ending in s = Jones's jacket

Useful books and guides
I like Sir Ernest Gowers's "The Complete Plain Words" which has a lot
of very good advice on plain writing.  It isn't about fiction but it
is about clarity and choosing words for impact.  It also has sections
on punctuation.  

On the web, look at Cj Cherryh's website .
The library section has some useful hints on writing style.

Zebee Johnstone <24 Jan 97>