September 6, 2012

From E-Book, Punctually, to Print

Dashes and ellipsis points are essential considerations when moving manuscripts between print and e-book formats and are best handled, well, punctually.

For ellipsis points, three periods with spaces between and on either side have advantages in print, since in justified text the periods spread out along the line as words do, creating even spacing. But if you use the ellipses character, you have tiny, fixed spacing between the dots and can wind up with uneven spacing.

But using three periods and spaces in an e-book, you run the risk that the periods might split at the end of the line, considering the different software and devices people might reading on, as well as the changing of typeface and font size on e-readers.

And so the ellipsis character can be a better choice for many e-books.

As for dashes, e-books again present the design challenge that readers can change the typeface and font size. Many choices can spread words way out, and an em dash (or an en dash) with no spaces on either side holds two words together while others spread out adding to already-weird word spacing.

A good solution is to put a space on both sides of the dash, as is seen often in British publications (often with en dashes) and also in some American publications.

In print, of course, you have the choice, and you get to see what the reader will see before sending the PDF off to a printer.

In either case, the process is not difficult. First print or preview samples of the text in e-book preview software (or, even better, on target devices such as the iPad, the Kindle Fire or other models of the Kindle, on iPhones, and on Android devices).* Try different solutions and decide what you want.

Once you're satisfied with the look, you can use Find and Replace in your word processor or desktop publishing software to change most instances of a mark or marks. But you still need to check the manuscript, considering what might go wrong as you do so. For example, if you change each instance of an em dash to an em dash with spaces on both sides, you're also putting spaces before em dashes used to show abrupt changes:

I said "I wanted to—" but he interrupted me.
I said "I wanted to —" but he interrupted me.

A space before the dash may be your preference, but it is something to be considered.

Another bigger worry is when using three periods with spaces for ellipsis points and the dote can be split up at the end of a line. A quick fix for this of course is to mark the periods as non-break. But still, a quick inspection of the manuscript dedicated to the right side of the text is recommended.

Remember, the way to make page design and formatting go smoothly is to think first, preview the manuscript in the media readers will see it in, and add what steps are needed to your to-do list, including extra proofing for individual problems. The key to well-edited and quality page design is systematic production.

* In promoting its Kindle e-reader platform, has invested in some very useful preview software that (a) lets you see how an e-book will look on different devices including Kindle and Apple devices and (b) is free. That software, one of many free publishing tools that Amazon offers, can be found here.

It is also worth noting that Amazon’s Kindle reader software, where on a device or on a computer (also a free download), can be excellent for proofreading, since you can add notes to the text, click on words to get dictionary definitions or Web searches, and pull up a list of notes that work like bookmarks.

By John Sailors,
(C) 2012, by Story Crest Press

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