There are lots of different ways to break up a text: punctuation is used across all genres to signal pauses, paragraph breaks apply to prose in general, while chapter breaks are relevant only to longer texts; tree structuring and bullet point lists are reserved mostly for non-fiction, while line breaks and stanza breaks are tools specific to poetry.
The writer uses all of these elements as signals and clues for the reader about how he intends his text to be read. But once a text is complete, the writer passes it on to the typesetter, who has a different set of tools he can use that add space and silence and that can help or hinder the reader.
As readers, we tend not to be consciously aware of page design, although we occasionally recognise that there’s something about a particular book, independent of how interesting or compelling the content is, that makes it more – or less – appealing than others.
With more people self-publishing, more and more books are being produced by non-experts, by writers who may have enough knowledge to produce a clear and legible manuscript using their word-processing software, but who don’t have the training and skill of a professional layout artist or typesetter.
Most people involved in writing or publishing are aware of the phrase white space and realise that the visual impact of a text, whether on page or on screen, can have a huge effect on how the reader perceives the content. The problem is that white space isn’t a particularly simple concept and a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
Here we take a brief look at just a few of the different ways in which white space occurs on a page.
At Tantamount we offer a whole range of editorial services for authors, publishers and businesses, so even if you aren’t quite sure of the right terminology, why not tell us about your project and let us work with you to see what needs doing next?