White Space

I read a book recently that was good. It would have been better if the writer hadn’t written such long paragraphs.

When I was a copywriter and again as an editor, I learned that there should be a certain amount of white space on every page. A lot of white space for advertising, less for stories, still less for scholarly papers. But the same rule applies in all cases. The more white space there is on a page, the more people will pick up that particular piece of writing and read it. As the amount of white space lessens, fewer and still fewer people will even give it a second look.

The take-home from this odd piece of information is that we writers should look at our short stories and novels. We should look at them without reading them. We should look at them to see how much white space is on the pages.

Break really long paragraphs into two or even three shorter ones. Shorten dialog to fewer words spoken by each character. (Hint: this will improve the dialog because it’ll also eliminate all those unnecessary extra words that we say in real life but that are irksome in print.)

Then look at the pages again. Don’t they look better? Wouldn’t you be more likely to read them than if they were just a lot of words stuffed … or overstuffed … onto a page?

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