Indentation and Centering

How to properly indent and center text and when to do so.

Another instance in which white space comes into play is during indentation and centering of text. In this subchapter, I highlight the very few instances in which additional white space may aid in readability.

Delineate Paragraphs with a Tab or Five Spaces or with a Blank Line but Never Both

Again, I have yet to discuss paragraphs, yet I'm still going to ingrain in your mind at this time that they typically appear on a new line and are delineated in one of two ways:

  1. A five space or tab indent
  2. A blank line

This document is an example of the first style of delineating paragraphs. Notice how this block of sentences is indented.

Now notice how this paragraph is not indented. Instead of indentation, I use a blank line to separate this paragraph from the next.

See how easy this is?

Here are some additional things to note regarding paragraph delineation:

  1. Chapter headings are not indented.
  2. Use Microsoft Word styles to implement paragraph indentation rather than spaces.
  3. Use indentation or a blank line, but never both.
  4. Be consistent in your use of one technique or the other.

That's all there is to identifying paragraphs using additional space. By the end of this document, I'll discuss what a paragraph is to complete the picture.

Indent Quotes and Examples

Quotes and examples should be indented and set off by blank lines. In fact, I quite often utilize quotation marks and italicization (which is probably overkill) to further set off a quote from the rest of my text.

For example:

"Any man can make history. Only a great one can write it."

--Oscar Wilde

Notice how I both quote and italicize the quotation and follow it with an em-dash to identify the source. All set off by blank lines before and after.

Center Asterisks or a Pound Sign as a Scene Separator

Many writers use blank lines to separate the scenes in a story. The problem with a blank line is that it can't be seen if it occurs at the top or bottom of a page. Since eReaders and phones display smaller pages, this problem is even more acute in the electronic age

Instead, to create a scene separator, I use three asterisks (*) separated by spaces. Others use a single pound sign (#). These characters are centered on the page, and in both cases, a blank line precedes and follows the line.

For example:

* * *

Or:

#

Use scene separators to create a major break in your story while avoiding the severity of a full chapter break.

Optionally Center Chapter Headings

You may optionally center chapter headings or only head level 1 headings. Use this technique to produce a more dramatic visual chapter break. For example:

Sample Chapter Heading