Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Importance of Line Breaks

Here's a tale about a note that came home from school awhile back. It caused me complete confusion. Why? Because of a bad line break.

It was a slip of paper with all the various possible comments that could be applied to the particular project presented in a series of boxes. In word processing terms, think of a table with text in each box. The circled box, and hence comment on my kid's project, read:


rule but needs

more to be


Excuse me? Needs more to be? As in it needs to be clearer? As in: I need more to be speaking English better?

Surely I wasn't seeing things correctly. So I looked again at that little slip of paper. I must have read it 10 times. But then it hit me: the line breaks were making me read each line as a phrase. I was reading those words together, such as in a poem, so that meant I was reading the ungrammatical "more to be" together as some sort of dialect or expression that should have no place in a formal marking scheme.

But if I read it as a whole sentence it's fine, sorta: Undertandable rule but needs more to be clear.

Okay, I got it that way. Needs to add more content to be a clearer rule. Or, broken properly with line breaks:

Understandable rule

but needs more

to be clear.

There. Much clearer. Line breaks do matter. In poems...and apparently in marking schemes.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Oh, you are so right! I am writing a novel in verse and I know that putting the line breaks in the right places is vital! Not just for making the story (or poem) understandable, but for creating tension, changing the mood, etc.