Manuscript Preparation, Copyediting, and Proofreading
Q. A styling trend lately that is keeping me up at night is a failure to identify new paragraphs by either a line break or an indent.
This new line of text, for example, is the sort of thing I mean. Is this a new paragraph or not? How can one tell? Does it matter?
I first spotted this ambiguous formatting in ad copy (which at the time I presumed to be bulleted points without the bullets), and then in corporate communications. But tragically, yesterday I read a review on the back of a novel that did the same thing: a new line for every sentence without letting me know if it was a new paragraph or not.
I’m already annoyed by the look of this email! Please help!
A. I suspect that this style began to appear unintentionally as a result of inept word processing and has by now become a fad. A styled paragraph indent (instead of a typed tab) can get lost when the electronic file is converted to another application on its way to typesetting. In some display contexts (like book jackets) it might succeed as a hip design tactic, but in text it’s difficult to read. Although I’m not sure the trend qualifies as “tragic,” it’s certainly unhelpful to those of us who need our sleep.