Paragraph style lacking indents doesn't appear English enough to me.
Thread poster: Neptunia

Neptunia
Local time: 21:54
Italian to English
Feb 2, 2012

I have been asked to look over a pdf of a brochure that has been translated from Italian. The task was primarily to check that the hyphenation of words from one line to the next is correct. I realize what bugs me most is not the occasional word division problem, but that the paragraph breaks are Italian-style. That is, there is no indent and neither are the paragraphs set apart by a space. Seeing that it is late in the layout game, how strongly should I argue that indents be added? In my American reading and writing experience, I can't think of any examples where that kind of paragraph style is used, but perhaps EU/international style based on British English allows for it? I want to simply insist it is not correct and that English cannot be written that way but I want to check my facts first. Any suggestions appreciated!

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:54
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Oh Weird! Feb 2, 2012

Neptunia wrote:
there is no indent and neither are the paragraphs set apart by a space. Seeing that it is late in the layout game, how strongly should I argue that indents be added? In my American reading and writing experience, I can't think of any examples where that kind of paragraph style is used, but perhaps EU/international style based on British English allows for it?


So, if one sentence finishes at the right-hand margin, how is anyone to know that the next sentence forms a new paragraph? Is that really the way it's done in Italian? It certainly isn't like that in British English, as far as I know.

Mind you, although it is perfectly permissable, I see indentation as rather old-fashioned. I don't do it myself, though I would if specifically asked. But the blank line between paragraphs is absolutely essential, in my opinion. I don't think I could start reading a page of text without line breaks - it would be really offputting and would probably go straight in the bin. But then I am a bit lazy when I'm not working.icon_smile.gif

Sheila


 

Neptunia
Local time: 21:54
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Italian paragraph style Feb 2, 2012

Italian paragraphs often seem to be separated by only a "hard-return" at the end of the last line. They all begin flush along the left margin. It is horrible! Sometimes the divisions between paragraphs become imperceptible if it just happens that a sentence ends near or at the end of a line. Thanks, Sheila, for your reaction! I have a visceral reaction against it too and it is definitely harder to read. I can certainly accept the block-paragraph style but it might add more space to the layout in this case. I think I will try to persuade them to add a 2-space indent to all but 1st paragraphs.

 

Irene McClure
Local time: 21:54
Member (2008)
French to English
+ ...
Oxford style Feb 2, 2012

I'm not sure if there is a particular "UK" style or "US" style when it comes to paragraphs but for what it's worth, this is what the Oxford Style Guide (OUP 2003) has to say:

"It is common not to indent the first paragraph in each chapter (...) or the first paragraph following a heading, subheading, or line space. In each case the firest line of any subsequent paragraph is usually indented only 1 em for full measures: further indentation for sub-headings may be designed to be staggered in another 1 em for each level ... Alternatively, a line may be left between paragraphs, which is a common practice in typing and in computer printouts. But this has the disadvantage of failing to show where a paragraph begins at the top of the next page."

Personally, I tend to point clients towards an authoritative style guide such as Oxford as back-up when I want to point something like this out.

Hope this helps

Irene


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 03:54
Chinese to English
Why does it have to be "can't be written this way"? Feb 3, 2012

You're a professional, your opinion counts. You don't necessarily have to rely on the authority of anyone else.

I don't think you'll be able to find any rule that is religiously adhered to in English. But if you're looking at a brochure with English eyes and finding it unattractive or difficult to read, that's very good grounds for telling the client that a change would be helpful. They can take or leave your advice, but there's no particular need to dress it up in "FACTS".


 

Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:54
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Not true Feb 3, 2012

Neptunia wrote:

Italian paragraphs often seem to be separated by only a "hard-return" at the end of the last line. They all begin flush along the left margin.


Not talking about the document you are proofreading, but it simply is not true that Italian paragraphs normally are separated only by a "hard return" ("a capo"), with no indentation or any other way to identify the paragraph division.

from "Il nuovo manuale di stile" by Roberto Lesina:

"L'inizio del paragrafo può essere evidenziato con una rientranza del testo o con altri mezzi grafici [...] anche visivamente, il paragrafo è perciò la minima unità di testo che il lettore può individuare come tale" (Lesina 1994, Page 71)

So, since there is no rule in Italian against separating paragraph in a more visual way (and in fact, it is recommended that they are so separated), the way the Italian text is formatted in your document was probably a deliberate choice.


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:54
German to English
tell them, but only for the sake of next time Feb 3, 2012

Hello,
I would plainly explain the problem, but not expect them to change anything. Even if they only added indentations, it would probably cause enough problems and be expensive enough that they wouldn't want to change anything at the proof stage.

If Riccardo's point is correct, then they probably originally made their (poor) formatting decision in order to squeeze the text into the available space and not because they were unaware of standard English usage.

Sincerely,
Michael


 

Neptunia
Local time: 21:54
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
thanks for your comments Feb 6, 2012

Hi Irene - - I like your suggestion and it is good to know the Oxford style guide is in line with what I was thinking. I'll definitely have to get one of those for these occasions.

Thanks, Phil, for your support. I should be a more assertive professional, but I do feel like I need to double check facts before I take a position. In cases like this, a style guide to refer to or a forum of like-minded sticklers is just the thing.

Hi Riccardo - yes, I didn't mean to say Italians never separate paragraphs. Novels certainly always have indented paragraphs and I have seen the block-style paragraphs in other texts. But for some reason more technical or information that is separated into narrow columns (like exhibition catalogue entries) often have the problem I described. I think it could also simply be the "house style" of a few local publishers. Curiously, the style manual you cite does makes it seem like separating paragraphs is optional. Meanwhile I don't think it is EVER an option in English.

And finally, thanks Michael, I will give it a good shot but won't expect too much. But oh, yes, I do fully expect they are completely unaware of standard English usage but I will try to give them the benefit of the doubt for your sake.icon_smile.gif


 

Laurie Price  Identity Verified
Mexico
Spanish to English
+ ...
a few more cents' worth Feb 6, 2012

Neptunia,

I don't think the paragraphs need indents as much as they need a blank space/line between them.

If this is for a brochure, especially, one would want to keep in mind the way that people actually read and digest information -- not having space to break up the text into bite-sized chunks makes it more difficult for someone reading it to take it in. The message will simply get lost.

I'd suggest asking the client if it's possible to put smaller than usual line breaks in (8 or 9 point font size versus 12 point font size for the type) -- to simply make some kind of visual delineation between paragraphs.


 


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Paragraph style lacking indents doesn't appear English enough to me.

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