“Hello? Are you still there?
Your best friend is strangely silent and not offering her usual “uh-huhs” in the middle of your ever-so-interesting drama. You only thought you were telling the world’s most interesting story. In reality, you’ve unknowingly spoken into a vacuum for the past five minutes when the cell signal dropped off. You lose your sing-songy voice and look around sheepishly, hoping no one noticed your talking to yourself.
Hang up and try again. This time, you’ll listen for it before you begin speaking. You’ll listen for that comforting background noise that assures you that your story is not falling on deaf ears. It’s that slight hiss as if air is flowing through duct work that we long to hear. White noise is no longer necessary for mobile phones, but has been added by the cell phone companies to keep us talking. How funny is that? Nowadays, even companies are installing white noise devices throughout the office so that employees feel comfortable talking aloud. No one likes an awkward silence.
It turns out that no one likes awkward strings of written words either. We’re done with multi-syllable words and never-ending daisy chains of flowery prepositional phrases. Eyes are more relaxed while reading material with more white space.
We’ve always been taught that a paragraph must contain three sentences and a sentence must have a subject and a verb. Not anymore. See what just happened?
Also, a paragraph doesn’t have to contain three sentences. You are free to indent a paragraph wherever you please to make something stand out, like I just did.
Blogs and ebooks especially make good use of white space for better readability. Bullet points, bold print, and highlighted words differentiate this white space and make the print stand out better as well.
We prefer the short and succinct to relay the message, but for some reason, don’t like all caps. Exclamation points are out of style too. They’re considered almost cheesy as if in a live studio audience with an “APPLAUSE” sign flashing.
We’re supposed to get our point across, but pretend that we’re not trying to do it. Readers recognize when you’re trying too hard. Subtlety works wonders and enhances the white space.
I’m not sure punctuation rules will ever change, but I am sure that the rules will be broken. If it increases readability, then so be it. The next time your written page looks like a word marathon, hang up and try again. Increase the white space.
Can you read me now?
Check out some more encouragement and writing tips in my latest book WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! Available at Amazon ($2.99)