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Formatting and presentation

Paragraphs

To help the reader understand and enjoy your written work, the explanation or narration is broken down into units of text: the paragraph. They are especially important for readers on small-screen devices, as it makes your story easier to read, and thus enjoy.

A paragraph usually contains a general idea in its first sentence, and a handful (around four to seven) supporting sentences that expand this idea by providing explanation, detail and/or examples to support it. In fiction, each paragraph serves to advance the plot, develop a character, describe a scene or narrate an action – all to entertain the reader. All paragraphs support each other, leading the reader from the first idea to the final resolution of the story.

Start a new paragraph as often as logically possible. As the building blocks of composition, paragraphs help you organize your ideas so that they flow freely from one to the other. At minimum, new paragraphs should be started:

  • At a change of place or time, when advancing the plot.
  • For each idea being presented.
  • When perspective changes (e.g. from a different character's viewpoint).
  • When developing character / describing a scene.
  • When the speaker changes.

Italics, bold, and underlining

Often italics, bold or underlining are used in order to emphasise and set apart certain words or ideas from the main body of the text. These should be used extremely sparingly, and never all together. Over-use of them diminishes their effect.

If any of these features are used too often in a text, they will be removed. A story entirely written in bold or italics will have it stripped from the text before it is verified, or returned to the author in order for it to be done.

Spelling

All work should be spell checked before submitting your story. Most word processors have spell checkers: use them! There is also a spell check feature on the story submission page: it is the ABC icon on the toolbar. American and British spelling is acceptable.

A spell check will catch obvious spelling errors and suggest corrections. It will not pick up everything, so careful proofreading is also essential. In some instances, words are spelled incorrectly in the context for which they are being used, but the misspelling is a word that is recognised by the spell checker. Common mistakes are:

  • is / it / if
  • form / from
  • an / and
  • to / too

Grammar

Standard English grammar rules should be followed:

  • Subject: the person/thing doing something.
  • Verb: what action is being done.
  • Object: the receiver of the action.

They are often connected to other related SVOs using conjunctions such as and, or, but, for, yet and so forth. Specific information on grammar rules are given throughout the guides on this site, but the simplest tool to spot grammatical errors is to employ a grammar checker. Most word processors have them, and you can also install apps or browser extensions such as Grammarly that will check grammar as you type in the Lush editor.

Be warned: grammar checkers can be problematic. They work with a limited number of rules, so they can't identify every error and often make mistakes. They also usually fail to give thorough explanations to help you understand why a sentence should be revised. You may want to use a grammar checker to help you identify potential run-on sentences or too-frequent use of the passive voice, but you need to be able to evaluate the feedback it provides, as it may be wrong!

Preview

To make sure your story or poem looks correct before submitting, use the preview feature and check through the entire length of your work. Sometimes Microsoft Word may put in invisible junk code, which is only viewable once you have pressed the preview button. If there are errors, please correct them and preview again until the story is formatted as it should be.