A while ago I attended Editors Canada’s webinar on editing comic books. So on Sunday I went to TCAF (because I didn’t even realize TCAF was last weekend until a saw a high school friend’s Instagram post — he had a presentation on Friday) and flipped though some comic books. And what did I find out? Comic books, generally speaking, don’t really follow all the “rules” we were taught. We were told that the “rules” wouldn’t apply to manga. But I didn’t see manga at TCAF. Comics from Europe do it differently. Comics in zines do it differently. Comics that are better described as experimental art do it differently. Even some locally produced ones, made right here in Toronto, do it differently. Some do it in a way that reminded me of how translated manga were typeset when I was small (i.e., they break even the seemingly unbreakable rule that text in English-language comics should look hand-lettered). Maybe half of all the comics I flipped through followed the “rules”; when I first found something that followed them I was actually surprised. And you know what? Being a reader, seeing comic books that didn’t follow the “rules” didn’t bother me a single bit. So what we were taught was a style. Apparently a fairly well-known style if what you’re aiming for is a mainstream North American aesthetic. But it’s still only a style. In the grand scheme of things, we’re talking about non-rules.
A few days ago MR posted an XKCD comic that mentioned that some people put a newline after each sentence. And the way the comic is drawn seems to suggest these people are outliers. I had a lot of problems with that comic. For one, being XKCD, the artist should have known that this style is favoured by many programmers, because to do otherwise would mean havoc when diff’ing. This third group of “outliers” is actually much bigger than the artist believes. In any case, it turns out that putting a newline after each sentence has an unexpected benefit: If the text contains sentences that are too long, they literally stick out and shout at you. If your xterm is 200 columns wide and you’re still seeing tons of line wraps, you know you’ve got a major problem. This got me thinking: We really need to make it easier for people to edit tagged text, and I don’t think the current breed of “programmer’s editors” is cutting it. We need a new paradigm where distracting details can be hidden, so that the benefits of “newline after each sentence” can be exploited.