Everybody desires to be accepted, not rock the boat and live an uncomplicated life. We call this practice consistent, meaning that we try not to deviate from our standard path because there is a potential for unwanted drama in our lives. But… Boring!
To be noticed, writing must be BOLD, ~!unExpEctEd!~, and creative. Break every mold, rule, or paradigm! That’s how an author achieves a great story, many readers, and tremendous praise. Yet, there is one area in writing that needs to be very consistent. The style and format must remain the same thought the document.
One of my four blog readers might instantly challenge, “But what if style or content is wrong?” No writer is perfect, and mistakes are bound to creep in. To be a good person, we must recognize our flaws and try to correct them. The problem occurs when a writer only corrects some of the often-occurring mistakes. Readers feel this partial effort is far worse than not applying any corrective effort.
Allow me to expound. The word mistress can be misspelled “misstress.” Oops. However, after reading misstress ten times, readers begrudgingly accept the misspelling. Let's consider another example. A few years ago, I read a book where the author “chose not to use quotations” for the dialog. It was annoying, but I was over their poor decision by the third chapter and enjoyed the story. But what if one chapter had “quotation marks” and the rest did not? It would tick me off! “You clearly know what a quotation mark is. Pick a side!”
Why is it so ingrained in a reader’s mind that a document must be consistent? Our minds are quirky. One would think the reaction would be, “Hey, thanks for adding a few quotation marks. I know life is busy for an author, and good dialog takes a lot of effort.” Yeah, no.
I have found the most inconsistency in group documents. Everybody has their own style, resulting in a mix of different formats, grammar, and spelling. Over the years, I have been on the team that developed group documents and spent hours cleaning them up, only to have some bonehead change half of my edits right before they released the document. Very annoying.
Of course, the most common inconsistency is the tab spacing and font selection. This inconsistent effort leaves Readers wondering, “What’ the deal? Who indented one paragraph and not the others?” “Why is the font suddenly blocky?” “Why is this sentence bold?” “Does this mean something?”
Well, why not ignore this issue? We have so much information in our lives. Who cares if we see the legitimately spelled colour appears a few times? The answer is simple. People now expect much more. It only takes me five seconds to scan this entire document to see if I lined the tabs up and if the font is the same. Readers write documents too, which means they expect the best that an author or publisher can produce.
What about consistent themes, settings, and characters? Umm… That’s a complex topic for future blogs.
You’re the best -Bill
November 30, 2022
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