Ask Daphne! About Formatting

Paper_Stack - croppedI’m feeling SO GREAT about getting back within my two week response time for queries that I’m answering TWO Ask Daphne questions this week. Wheee! The first comes from Robin, who writes:

I am currently working on my second YA crime novel in which my protagonist is partially deaf. She communicates through texts on her cell phone with her best friend in a number of areas throughout the story. How should I format it in the manuscript? I have entire conversations that take place in cell phone text format. Currently, I have it in the same font as the rest of the manuscript (Courier New 12pt), just indented twice with no special formatting. Your advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks much!

First of all, I’m going to tell you a secret. Very few editors or agent that I know care for Courier New anymore. It used to be the standard when the publishing industry was switching over from typewriters to computers, and copy-editors needed a font that took up about the same amount of space that typewritten words did on a page. Nowadays, most everyone reads or uses Times New Roman or some other True Type font.

Most of us have moved to the modern age, and Times New Roman (or something similar) takes up a lot less space.

But that’s a tangent. To get to the meat of your question, I’m not sure that there is a standard for transcribing text messages — or emails, for that matter. You could do as you’ve done, and just set those conversations off from the rest of the text by indenting, or try using a different font.

Alternatively, you could just start each line that is part of a texting conversation with the phone number (or if an email or IM conversation, with the user name or address), so that if something goes wacky when an agent or editor transfers the manuscript to their e-reader, it’s still recognizably different. Look at Lauren Myracle’s bestseller ttyl, for example. (I linked to Amazon because you can browse inside the book.) The entire book is written in IM, and each line is prefaced by the user name.

Readers, if you have emails, IM conversations, or texts as a major part of your manuscript, how did you handle it? Or do you know of a standard format somewhere out there that’s recommended? To the comments!

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