White Space

White space is crucial whether you’re writing an article, a short story, or a novel.

Leaving part of the page empty gives the reader a visual that tells his brain, “This will be easy to read.”

Have you ever picked up a book and page after page there’s nothing but writing filling top to bottom, side to side, margin to margin?

This same book would be the one that also boasts long, dense paragraphs–chunks of words shoved together so that finishing a page or a chapter feels hard.  Whether the writing is actually hard to follow or not doesn’t matter. It’s the illusion that it will be work to get through that’s important.

Call me a little lazy, or maybe a little busy, but this dense, packed-together book is a book I put down–as in return or shelve for later. Only later never happens.

Breaking up your paragraphs and utilizing white space is a psychological “trick” that puts your reader in the mindset that your book, story, or article will be comfortable to read. If you don’t believe me, check it out.

Look at the examples below and tell me which one you’d stick with. This is a small-scale example, but imagine paragraphs two or even ten times as long. I’ve struggled to read books like that. The lack of space hurts my eyes and makes me tired.

Example—clutter (not enough white space). Hard to tell who’s talking and who’s doing what.

Jimmy hated baseball. He never liked to throw the ball around. Too many things to learn. Why couldn’t his dad give him a break? “Let’s throw the ball, Jim,” Dad shouted down the stairs. “Maybe later,” Jimmy took off out the door before Dad could find him. He’d go to Carl’s and play X-box for a while instead. His dog, Joe, followed him down the street. If only Joe could talk, they could be best friends. And then he wouldn’t have to worry if Carl would stay his best friend after Carl moved to New York.

Example—clean (good white space). Easy to tell who’s talking and who’s doing what.

Jimmy hated baseball. He never liked to throw the ball around. Too many things to learn. Why couldn’t his dad give him a break?

“Let’s throw the ball, Jim,” Dad shouted down the stairs.

“Maybe later,” Jimmy took off out the door before Dad could find him. He’d go to Carl’s and play X-box for a while instead.

His dog, Joe, followed him down the street.

If only Joe could talk, they could be best friends. And then he wouldn’t have to worry if Carl would stay his best friend after Carl moved to New York.

For more on this topic, see Paragraphing Just for Fun

6 Comments

  1. You’re absolutely right! Top to bottom text will make a reader stop reading about as quickly as poor writing will.

  2. That example image made me nauseous. Yes. I do require white space.

  3. Lori,

    This is information that writer’s can use. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    Cherrye S. Vasquez,Ph.D.
    http://www.BooksThatSow.com

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